"I had James as a youth player at West Ham, so I know his personality," said Pardew.
"He was just breaking into the squad there and I took him to the FA Cup final in 2006 for the experience.
"He's very level-headed, and then he had all he attributes but no experience. He's gained that experience, and at 27 years old I think he has around 300 Premier League games.
"I think, if I'm honest, we got a bit of a bargain. His strengths are his passing quality, he's very calm in possession, and I think the modern centre-back needs to have that.
"He is powerful enough in the air to cope with the demands of Premier League and he's a winner.
"That winning mentality is something we must not lose here. The winning mentality or the never-say-die attitude that we have here, makes up for a lot of technical deficiencies, so when you're playing the top teams you have got to have that in your players.
"So when I'm bringing players to the club, I have to make sure that is high up on their criteria."