Alan Pardew believes he is fighting “mass hysteria” in the North-east as he bids to save his job as Newcastle United manager ahead of a huge orchestrated protest for his removal to be mounted during Saturday’s game at St James’ Park against Hull City.
The 53-year-old said he had spoken to owner Mike Ashley after last Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at Southampton, but “we didn’t have a conversation regarding my position”. However, tensions are simmering and two of Pardew’s staff, John Carver and Andy Woodman, on Friday apologised for their actions towards United supporters before and after the Southampton game. Carver was seen in an ugly confrontation with fans holding “Pardew out” banners at the match, while Woodman has been engaged in a heated Twitter row with fans.
Tensions are set to escalate again on Saturday, however. Before kick-off a group of supporters will distribute 30,000 A4 cards and 100 banners calling for Pardew’s dismissal around the city and the stadium to be held up by fans five minutes into the game to highlight what the campaign calls “Pardew’s unacceptable” record of just five wins in 2014. The logo on the cards and banners says “Pardew out” in the same design as the logo of Ashley’s company Sports Direct,
The groundswell of feeling against Pardew is such that he claimed 98 per cent of supporters polled by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, said his near-four-year reign should end.
However, Pardew is worried that the anger being prepared for him on Saturday could affect the team’s performance.
Who could replace Alan Pardew as Newcastle manager?
Who could replace Alan Pardew as Newcastle manager?
1/7 Steve Bruce
Having got Hull City promoted back to the Premier League and then taking them to the FA Cup final last May, Bruce is steadily adding to his reputation as a manager. His previous role at Sunderland was always fraught due to his Geordie roots - but that certainly wouldn't be a problem at St James' Park. The former Manchester United defender didn't disgrace himself during spells in charge of Wigan and Birmingham either.
2/7 Neil Lennon
The former Leicester player was highly successful during his time at Celtic - his only managerial position to date. He won three league titles and caused a few upsets in the Champions League. Has been linked with Premier League roles for some time and is currently a free agent having stepped down at the end of the last season after four years in charge.
3/7 Steve McClaren
McClaren's career is difficult to judge. Performed a few miracles at Middlebrough then came the England job. Won the Eredivisie title with FC Twente, then had strange spells with Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest. It seems the 53-year-old could be back on the way up judging by Derby's solid start to the season and owing to his North East roots, could be a good option for Newcastle.
4/7 Michael Laudrup
A more glamorous appointment that could appease the fans would be that of Laudrup. During his time at Swansea he did brilliantly, bringing in rough gems that he polished into a League Cup winning side. The style of play he instilled was impossible not to admire. The former Barcelona midfielder is currently in charge of Qatari side Lekhwiya.
5/7 Joe Kinnear
Surely Mike Ashley wouldn't - would he? Kinnear was unpopular during his previous spell in charge of Newcastle before it came to an end due to health issues. He was then made Director of Football but a few embarrassing episodes, from getting players' names wrong to failing to visibly do anything soured his standing amongst the fans further.
6/7 Paolo Di Canio
The controversial Italian is just the type of character that would ensure a continuation of the Newcastle United soap opera. And that's why he shouldn't be discounted. Actually did quite well in charge of Swindon and managed to keep Sunderland afloat after being parachuted in. His controversial knee-sliding celebrations when the Black Cats won at St James' Park won't have done him any favours though, and neither will the reports of complete discontent by the end of his reign at the Stadium of Light.
7/7 Roberto Di Matteo
Seemingly linked with every job going, remarkably Di Matteo is still yet to dip his toe back into the choppy management waters since taking Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2012. His feat with the Blues whilst caretaker manager has ensured he is a popular choice whenever vacancies come up, whilst his spells at MK Dons and West Brom weren't too shabby either.
“This situation at the moment is almost like mass hysteria, to a degree,” he said. “It’s really gone to a level which makes it really difficult for players to perform in. I am hoping we can turn that around. It’s important the issue regarding me has to take a back seat in terms of the team. It’s going to be a difficult environment if we have the atmosphere we had for Southampton for long periods.
“There’s nothing I can do to stop them protesting and I don’t intend to, but all I do hope is that they give the team the chance to win the game and that the protest comes quickly and goes as quickly and hopefully we take the lead and we can see the game out.
“I think I’m kind of resolved to how the stadium is going to be and I think I’ve prepared the players for that. I’m hoping that myself and the team can handle it. I think the worst scenario would be still protesting when we’re winning – that would be unwelcome.
“It has been suggested that I don’t care about this position, and that I’ve got this long contract [until 2020] and that I’m going through the motions. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love this club.
“I was absolutely sick after the game on Saturday. The performance we put in is just not worthy of this football club. I’ve been accused of not taking responsibility for the defeat. I think it’s important that you try and give a logical explanation as to why, and that’s what I’ve always done and what I will try and do on Saturday if we get beat. I’m hoping that’s not the case.
“Yes, I have been hurt this week. For me, it really is about, what can I do then? Well, I’m under contract at this football club and therefore I have to make sure I do the best possible job I can do. I didn’t have so much of a steely resolve on Monday, if I’m being honest. Our resolve was definitely half-empty on Monday, but by Tuesday it wasn’t.
“I’ve tried to prepare the players for the scenarios ahead, because I know that will be a difficult environment to play in on Saturday.”
Of his meeting with Ashley, Pardew said: “He was upset with the performance [at Southampton] and he has every right to be. I told him some things which I think should be sorted out and some things that can help me. At the end of the day, Mike and myself do not want Newcastle to lose. We want to have the best possible team and want to win. At the moment we haven’t got that. So how are we going to achieve it? I think it was about how he could help me this week and support me and I appreciate that.”
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