GRAEME Souness said Newcastle United was only ever a couple of games away from a crisis during his time at St James’s Park.
And Souness should know. He was faced with a few crises in his time at St James’s Park.
A loss to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns tomorrow would put the club – and manager Alan Pardew – in an uncomfortable position.
Pardew faces the media today for the first time since Newcastle’s derby defeat – he hasn’t spoken to journalists this week – and he might be tempted to talk of an “over-reaction” in the Press to the Sunderland game.
That would be unwise. The reaction in print, and on the airwaves, has been measured compared with what’s been said by supporters in the pubs and clubs of Tyneside over the past few days.
They’re hurting, and emotions are still raw. Some fans want Pardew out, others don’t. There are differing opinions.
Pardew and his players – who came so close to qualifying for the Europa League’s semi-finals last week – are hurting too. They’re an honest, committed and talented group.
And the criticism that’s come their way will also have hurt.
But Pardew and his team must take it on the chin.
Supporters don’t want excuses, they want a spirited and intelligent performance against West Bromwich Albion. And they also want a result.
United, unfortunately, have won away just once in the Premier League this season, and that statistic is one reason why the club is fighting relegation.
Injuries, and a lack of squad depth before January, have undoubtedly weakened Pardew’s hand.
However, the United team he fields at The Hawthorns will have pace, power and guile, the qualities which took Newcastle to a fifth-placed finish last season.
That’s campaign is a fading memory, but there’ll be an opportunity to have another crack at the European places next season – if the club can stay up.
Hopefully, the players will do Pardew’s talking on the pitch.
By MILES STARFORTH