Pardew seeks calm heads as Newcastle cast adrift
Goodwill can disappear remarkably quickly in football, and in an isolated city like Newcastle, momentum is key.
Newcastle, the team, like the city, are leaking confidence. Alan Pardew, for perhaps the first time, has to stabilise and take control but the news late on Saturday night, that Yohan Cabaye could be missing for the rest of this year, will fall like another hammerblow on a campaign that is turning into one of consolidation.
It is an ideology, at least in a supporter's mind, that does not follow a fifth-placed finish, and after Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Swansea, Pardew has little room to manoeuvre.
The Europa League has stretched his squad but of more significance has been the debilitating cost of injury and suspension. Key players have been missed – Chieck Tiote, Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini are hugely influential and the team has suffered in their absence.
The decision not to strengthen the squad in the summer, save the signing of Vurnon Anita, was misguided and naive.
Without players such as Coloccini, Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez and Papiss Cissé, as Newcastle were on Saturday, the squad looks light. Against West Ham last week, Pardew said his team were weak. Against Swansea they were outpassed. Two defeats in a week, at home, provokes serious soul-searching in these parts.
Pardew was asked if the message was not to panic. "It is important we keep the ethic in the group we showed today and if you work hard enough, you get a result," he said. "It is obvious we need a result in the Premier League so we are trying to keep a calm head here. We have two tough away games [against Southampton and Stoke], but there is no reason we can't win them.
"We are having a second opinion on whether he [Cabaye] needs an operation on his groin, so that could be bad news, possibly six weeks.
"We are as stretched as we have ever been since I have been here. I just said to the doctor I hope we have a clean bill of health and thankfully we have. We need our best players back. I am not going to fault the development of these young players or criticise them in any way. It is a learning curve."
A steep one. Mike Williamson, the Newcastle central defender spoke of a team meeting last week. "Everyone put their thoughts across and it's just about continuing to work hard and carrying on and sticking together as a group," he said.
"Everyone will go through tough periods in a season and this one is ours. It's time to dig deep, you know, show our character, work hard on the training ground."
Saturday will not have helped, when Newcastle were second best in most areas of the pitch. Swansea were slick, quick on the break, and by the finish, overflowing with confidence. Pablo Hernandez was excellent, as was Michu, and in midfield, Leon Britton dictated the game's pace. Michu scored the first, Jonathan de Guzman the second. Demba Ba scored what was a scant consolation late on.
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