Ba humbug – festive party cancelled for Demba & Co

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The Independent Online

Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager, has cancelled the club's planned Christmas party because of their poor form this season.

Newcastle have won just one of their last 11 games, a run that has left them 15th in the Premier League table, sitting just two points above the relegation zone.

Last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester City was a third loss in their last four league games at St James' Park. Their leading scorer Demba Ba, right, has been one of the few bright sparks in a season marred by injuries to key players and form poor enough to cause Pardew genuine concern.

To show supporters that the club are unhappy with their position, following the highs of last season, when they finished fifth, Pardew has cancelled the Christmas gathering for the players and staff at the club.

"It's out of respect to our fans, and what we've served them this year," he said. "There's no party for us, and the same for the staff. That's how it should be. Trust me, there have been horrible things said about our group and our staff, but we're together and we're fighting and trying to put it right.

"The fans have to realise this isn't just a game to us, it's our livelihoods and our profession. It pays our bills.

"Not only that, we have to have a certain pressure of entertaining our fans who pay good money. Looking at all those factors, we've not done enough this year. That's why I think it's right we called it off."

Meanwhile, police are trying to identify those responsible for setting off flares inside the stadium during the match against City on Saturday.

Two flares were set off in the section containing the away fans, and one was thrown towards the home fans. Northumbria Police said: "No one was injured and it was quickly extinguished. Officers at the scene carried out extensive enquiries, including checking CCTV and speaking with available witnesses. However, the person or people responsible are yet to be identified."

Police stated that the investigation will continue, saying "We take incidents such as this extremely seriously and enquiries are still ongoing."