ALAN Pardew has three games to save Newcastle United’s Premier League status – and his job.
There have been calls from fans for Pardew to be sacked after Saturday’s 6-0 defeat to Liverpool, the club’s heaviest defeat at St James’s Park in 88 years.
And bookmakers have installed Pardew as odds-on favourite to be the next top-flight manager to lose his job in the wake of the embarrassing loss, which left 16th-placed United deeper in relegation trouble.
But Newcastle’s hierarchy will stick with their under-fire manager ahead of a summer inquest into a dismal domestic season.
Rafa Benitez, Chelsea’s interim manager, has been linked with the post.
Owner Mike Ashley – who was not at the Liverpool game – was understood to be unhappy at United’s Premier League campaign well before the 3-0 Tyne-Wear derby defeat earlier this month.
Ashley watched the the Sunderland game, and his face told its own story.
A source close to the board said: “One thing thing Mike hates is being embarrassed. There was always going to be a review at the end of season.”
The financial implications of relegation are greater than ever before given the new £5bn-plus TV deal which kicks in next season.
And the future of Pardew – who signed a new eight-year contract early this season – now seems in the balance, whether the club stays up or not.
The feeling on Tyneside is that the team’s poor league form isn’t just down to a lack of investment last summer, a wretched run of injuries and the demands of the Europa League.
Pardew, last year’s Premier League Manager of the Season, had hoped that his team would again be challenging for a Champions League after last season’s fifth-placed finish.
However, with 270 minutes of football left to be played, he “fears” relegation – and its consequences for the club.
“Do I fear it? Of course, because this is a big club,” Pardew said.
“That’s last thing we’ve had in our mind, but we’ve got ourselves into a sticky situation now and we can’t bury our head in the stand or think everything will be all right or we’ll be good enough.”
Pardew’s side now have back-to-back away games against West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers – whose own relegation was yesterday confirmed – ahead of the last game of the season against Arsenal at St James’s Park.
“We have to really fight,” said Pardew.
“We’ve got two tough away games, and we need to get a win in one of those. Then we have Arsenal at home. Hopefully, we’ll have enough by then.
“If not, we’ll have to do it on the last night.”