Ashley's loyalty faces test as rumours swirl of Allardyce's demise

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Newcastle United yesterday declined to comment on fresh reports that Sam Allardyce's future as manager is in jeopardy. It is believed in certain quarters that Allardyce may have only Wednesday night's game against Arsenal at St James' Park to convince the new Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, that he is capable of turning round Newcastle's slump in form.

But that has to be balanced against the evidence of Ashley's jocular public meeting with Allardyce after Saturday's game at Blackburn Rovers.

As he did against Sunderland, Ashley spent the 90 minutes in the away end with Newcastle's 6,000 travelling fans who were supportive of Allardyce and after the 3-1 defeat Ashley then made his way to the foyer at Ewood Park where he was seen shaking hands with Allardyce, smiling and was even overheard to be inviting the under-pressure manager out for a drink.

That scene in itself does not guarantee Allardyce will remain in his position and there is still a significant portion of the Tyneside audience to be won over. Newcastle were better at Blackburn than in their four previous matches and another spirited performance against Arsenal would enhance Allardyce's standing among the public.

But after Arsenal there is a home game against Birmingham City on Saturday and failure to win that match would provide a test of loyalty for Ashley.