THIS can’t end well, can it?
Alan Pardew remains in charge of Newcastle United. But for how long?
It’s difficult to see a way back for Pardew, whose position now looks far from certain in the wake of Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Southampton, which was played out in against the backdrop of antipathy from the away end.
Owner Mike Ashley, however, doesn’t seem to think so – yet.
Ashley was at the St Mary’s Stadium, where a section of the club’s 2,500 travelling fans made their views clear.
They want Pardew out.
But Pardew will be in the dugout for Saturday’s home game against Hull City, when he could face further hostility from a support which has seen Newcastle lose 15 of their 23 Premier League games this year.
Unfortunately, it will take more than one result for that hostility to go away.
And the team, for the moment, will have to play in a stiflingly poisonous atmosphere at a time when they need every break to go their way. That won’t be easy.
Pardew, it seems, won’t walk away from a long-term contract and lose a payout.
For all the talk about doing the right thing, that’s understandable.
So the call is Ashley’s, and the billionaire, we know, is a stubborn man. He does things his way and he isn’t easily swayed or influenced, not least by the fans that are the fabric of the club he owns.
Many supporters are disillusioned and disheartened.
They’ve seen enough and they’ve heard enough.
Pardew chose not to speak to the written press after the Southampton game.
Had he addressed the media, he couldn’t have offered too many excuses. He’s backed himself into a corner – he has few, if any, excuses to call upon.
In the build-up to the game, Pardew insisted publicly he was confident his new-look team had enough goals in it, despite the failure to sign a replacement for Loic Remy, who spent last season on loan at St James’s Park.
Despite Pardew’s protestations, his team looks short of a goalscorer who can get into double figures.
Last month, the 53-year-old, the league’s second-longest serving manager, also praised the depth of his squad after nine summer arrivals.
“I’ve nothing to moan about now in terms of what’s happened this summer,” said Pardew. “We’ve got a strong squad, perhaps the biggest and best I’ve ever had in terms of options, so we’re in a great position.”
It’s admittedly early in the season, but United aren’t in a great position.
Already, injuries are limiting his “options”.
Pardew’s side are propping up the Premier League, and the longer the club stays there, the more chance Ashley will act to protect his investment.
Unable to blame a lack of squad depth given his previous pronouncements, Pardew has frequently cited the media, and especially local media, as a having a malign influence over supporters and consequently his team.
But here’s the thing.
It’s become apparent that Newcastle, with it’s website, Twitter account and “digital channels”, feel that they no longer need newspapers, or certainly less than they used to in the days before the internet.
Access to Pardew and his players has been cut back – though not for Sky and the BBC – and a number of local and national titles have been banned.
You don’t have to be a public relations expert to spot the paradox.
So there’s a certain irony to Pardew’s complaints about the media given the club’s actions in banning newspapers and it’s broader standpoint on the press.
Some firms pay a lot of money to have good PR.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ashley would rather just have the money in his pocket.
And that brings us back to Pardew. Ashley only will act if – or when – he feels Pardew is no longer the man to keep Newcastle in the cash-rich Premier League.