ALL Alan Pardew now needs is the dreaded vote of confidence.
Certainly, Pardew has seemingly lost the confidence of the overwhelming majority of Newcastle United fans.
And long before Southampton’s fourth and final goal went in, there was a sense that this would prove to be a defining afternoon for Pardew, whose position now looks untenable.
It was really that bad.
There was no hope at the St Mary’s Stadium, nothing to cling on to.
Time for a change? It’s hard to make a case for the status quo.
This 4-0 defeat was every bit as bad as the one which had preceded it at the same stadium in late March. Progress?
Teams have difficult afternoons and trying games, but the club’s record since the turn of the year is abysmal.
It’s relegation form, and the hope among supporters on Tyneside is that owner Mike Ashley, fearing for the club’s Premier League status, will act decisively and end Pardew’s four-year tenure.
Newcastle have taken 18 points from a possible 69 and won just one of their last top-flight games.
United looked ill-prepared and ill-equipped on Saturday to face a team which had lost three of its most talented players in the summer.
There was no discernible organisation at the back - defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson had a forgettable afternoon - and certainly no imagination in the opposition’s half.
Of course, the players must take some responsibility, not least captain Coloccini.
The team needs leadership - and quickly.
At least Coloccini’s defensive colleague Daryl Janmaat had the decency to lead some of the team towards the away end to applaud the travelling fans at the final whistle. Coloccini had already headed for the tunnel.
Remarkably, they were applauded by many supporters.
The players quietly left the stadium with their heads down. They didn’t even attempt to explain away what had happened.
There were no positives to be drawn from an another abject 90 minutes on the south coast.
Pardew - who had been tetchy in his pre-match Press conference late last week - chose not to speak to written journalists after the match, so the club’s 2,500 fans were denied a full explanation.
The decision to shirk the Press call didn’t reflect well on Pardew, however strained his relationship with the media has become in recent weeks.
However, the 53-year-old did speak to fee-paying TV and radio reporters.
When asked about his future, he seemed to acknowledge the feeling that he is on borrowed time.
“I haven’t asked for any assurances about my job, and I haven’t been given any,” said Pardew, whose side never recovered from an awful start at the stadium which he had once called home.
Ronald Koeman’s energetic and enterprising Southampton side tore into Newcastle from the first whistle.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul was sold short by a poor backpass from Coloccini, and his attempted clearance was charged down by Shane Long. The ball bounced inches wide of Krul’s goal.
Seconds later Krul had to race off his line to intervene after Long was set free.
Something had to give. And it did in the sixth minute.
A simple move from a throw-in undid United. Coloccini inexplicably lost Graziano Pelle, and he was able to head Ryan Bertrand’s cross past a helpless Krul.
Pelle made it 2-0 in the 19th minute. This time Williamson was culpable.
Newcastle settled into the game, but the team lacked ideas and inspiration with the ball, and Southampton extended their advantage early in the second-half.
Williamson was caught napping by Jack Cork, who made it 3-0. Too easy. Again.
Emmanuel Riviere and Jack Colback contrived to miss a 78th-minute opportunity, and Morgan Schneiderlin, given too much time and space, capped a miserable and depressing afternoon with a late strike.
Southampton’s victory was convincing and comprehensive.
And the case for a change of manager is compelling.
Then there’s John Carver, who got himself involved in a heated - and ill-advised - confrontation with supporters holding up an anti-Pardew banner before the game.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of holding up a banner before a ball is kicked, it was not the behaviour befitting of a club employee.
Carver - a passionate man who proudly stood by Sir Bobby Robson’s side during his memorable tenure at Newcastle - will surely have regretted his actions in the cold light of day.
Pardew chose not to call his players in for training yesterday.
Not all managers would have been so generous after such an atrocious performance.
So the debrief took place today ahead of Saturday’s home game against Hull City, whose manager, Steve Bruce, has been suggested as a possible successor to Pardew.
Ironically, it was Bruce who took Hatem Ben Arfa off Pardew’s hands.
Ben Arfa - who had fallen out with a number of his team-mates as well as his manager before his departure a fortnight ago - isn’t the answer to United’s problems.
But there are few on Tyneside who now believe Pardew himself has the answers to the questions that are being asked of him and his team.
It’s surely time to go, Alan.