Speculation surrounding the position of Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been turned up a notch after it was revealed the boss was due to have crunch talks about the club's future with Mike Ashley today.
After a desperately disappointing domestic campaign that saw them finish 18th in the Barclay’s Premier League standings – 13 places below last season – the pair, alongside managing director Derek Llambias, agreed to sit down and discuss a route forward for the club that will see them back challenging at the upper reaches of the division.
Pardew is determined to be a part of this task after signing an eight-year contract in September last year but disgruntled fans will demand something changes after a season that saw them embroiled in a top-flight relegation dogfight, with safety only secured following a 2-1 victory over bottom club QPR a fortnight before the season end.
A rebuild is needed over the summer months if the Magpies are to halt their faltering form and, while the 51-year-old realises the extent of the job ahead, he remains optimistic.
Pardew said: "The most important thing is that we react and respond to this season as a club, and I hope we can do that and then have a rest because trust me, it has been tough on a number of levels.
"But I have learned a lot and I will be better for it."
It all started to go wrong for Newcastle following their quarter-final exit from the Europa League to eventual finalists Benfica – a loss that proved to be the catalyst for a downward spiral that saw them lose 3-0 at home to arch-rivals Sunderland before shipping six unanswered goals to Liverpool at St James’ Park.
However, while Pardew’s critics rose in number and volume, he did receive the backing from the board, who partially accepted blame for Newcastle’s failure after admitting that not investing heavily over the summer was a major factor in what followed.
Whether or not they learn from their mistakes and dip into their pockets over the coming months is yet to be seen but Pardew has made no secret of the fact he is looking to strengthen his squad in terms of both quality and experience.
The success or otherwise of that mission could largely depend on what is said today and to what extent Ashley is prepared to continue to back his manager.