Fans' fury threatens early end to the Allardyce era

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United sent out the message on Saturday night that Sam Allardyce "is not on the brink" but Allardyce may have as little as a fortnight left at St James' Park to convince Newcastle's new owner that he can turn around a situation that appears to be unravelling.

In turn Mike Ashley and his chairman Chris Mort have to assess how the key figure at their football club can recover from the mockery and abuse that Allardyce attracted on Saturday during Newcastle's capitulation to Liverpool.

Chants of "You don't know what you're doing," "Big Sam for England" and ironic applause for a late series of Newcastle passes came from home fans who are unlikely to be won over by Allardyce's post-match reaction regarding his popularity on Tyneside.

"You're not popular when you're not doing well," he said. "If people don't like me, it's up to them. But it doesn't bother me."

Mort stressed after the previous home game, the 4-1 loss to Portsmouth, that there would be no "knee-jerk reaction", and Allardyce has been in charge for just 15 games, but a question is whether Saturday's 3-0 loss was so dramatic that it changed the boundaries of thought inside the St James' boardroom.

When Ryan Babel scored to make it 3-0 the atmosphere inside the stadium was toxic and Allardyce looked shell-shocked as he stood in front of the dugout. He still had some of that air about him afterwards but had regained enough of his characteristic bullishness to say of the Newcastle manager's job: "I'm good enough and big enough for it.

"It's not easy, you don't like it [the criticism], none of us do. It's a fact of life here. I've come here to live with that pressure. I could have sat comfortably where I was, picked up my money and stayed at Bolton. I didn't want to do that. I wanted a bigger challenge and this is one."

That sounds feisty but just one problem with Allardyce's attitude towards personal popularity is that it could have an economic downside. Shifting merchandise, Ashley's speciality, becomes harder and the mood among the 5,000-plus supporters going to Blackburn on Saturday will be, at best, one of apprehension.

Another defeat or poor performance at Ewood Park and the tangible unease may escalate into unrest. Arsenal follow four days later and then Birmingham visit St James' Park. Suddenly that game looks significant.

Perhaps only a statement of long-term commitment to Allardyce from Ashley himself could alter the climate and such an intervention would put the owner at odds with thousands of Newcastle fans.

However, what Ashley would do by saying something of that nature is eradicate the swirl of rumour around the club.

It would also send out a message to Allardyce and his squad that the manager may outlast most of the players on Tyneside. Several of them are jaundiced.

"I spoke to Mike before the game," Allardyce said of Ashley, "I spoke to the chairman as well. We speak all the time. Some people are coming up with disruptive rumours as always, Chinese whispers, and that's bound to be the case and it's not good, is it?

"But we've only just come together and I never said to them that it would be easy. I don't think they thought it would be. We've taken over a club and we have to try to move it forward to where it wants to go."

Shay Given spoke for the dressing room when he said: "I have been here 10 years, but for some of the new players that was a lesson about the expectation levels here. That performance was right down there with the worst of them."