ONSIDE: Newcastle United’s tough task at the real Stadium of Light

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SO let me get this straight.

The owner of a North-East football club parts company with his fourth manager in less than five years in charge.

That’s on top of a chief executive and a popular chairman who have also been dustbinned during his supposedly harmonious reign.

Then his vice chairman, whose exact duties left most people baffled, quits in protest at the new boss’s fascist links.

Sprinkle in minor ingredients such as a relegation battle and a £27m annual loss and that North-East football club must surely be Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United.

Er, well, no.

The comical capers at Sunderland over the weekend have somewhat masked Newcastle United’s own shortcomings.

Saturday’s pitiful 4-0 surrender at Manchester City leaves the Tynesiders just three points from the Championship themselves.

You sense that Alan Pardew maybe looked at the club’s gruelling fortnight ahead and decided that the trip to the Ethiad Stadium was a damage-limitation exercise.

Hence why three or more absentees are expected back for the Europa League tie at Benfica on Thursday night.

Some might look upon such tactics as sensible with four more games in just 10 days looming large.

But try telling that to the near 2,000 fans who shelled out £49 for the dubious pleasure of wincing at the Magpies’ annual defeat.

While Newcastle at least have a good record at the imitation Stadium of Light, even a stronger side than that which wilted at City will find it tough going at the real thing.

A narrow reverse is perhaps the best they can hope for so that the quarter-final is still alive come the second leg at St James’s Park a week on Thursday.

Going back to Paolo Di Canio saga for a minute, something must have happened either just before or after the Manchester United defeat for Ellis Short to axe Martin O’Neill.

Otherwise the ultimatum appears to have been: “Right, Martin son, beat the runaway champions elect or you are out.”

Surely any sane club – said with tongue firmly in cheek – in Sunderland’s position would have booted O’Neill into touch after the tepid draw with 10-man Norwich City at the start of the international fortnight?

Then they could have bagged the then unattached Nigel Adkins, who was starting to find his Premier League feet before he was cruelly sacked by Southampton, and given him a fortnight to bed in before hammering Manchester United.

That surely would have been a far more sensible approach than appointing an untried loon who is inevitably going to fall out with players, managers, owners, referees and grey suits alike?

Hopefully.

– GAVIN LEDWITH

@GLedwithHMail