Pressure is hurting admits under fire Allardyce

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The Independent Online

Amid ongoing speculation regarding his future at St James' Park, Sam Allardyce acknowledged yesterday that he is "under the cosh" at Newcastle United, that he does "not feel very good", and that he has further injuries as Newcastle prepare to host Arsenal tomorrow night. For the first time, Allardyce also used two words being heard with increasing frequency on Tyneside: "Alan Shearer".

Asked if Shearer's presence as a Geordie legend was hanging over him as, to an extent, it had done over Glenn Roeder and Graeme Souness, Allardyce replied: "I know Alan reasonably well and when that situation comes up he's always said that he's not ready.

"If that's the case, and somebody wants to employ him down the line, if that's after me or whatever, then that's life. I don't particularly see that as a burden because if you lose your job then somebody else is going to take it, whether it's Alan Shearer or whoever.

"If Alan decides to take my job, I hope it'll be when I've decided to leave because I've made the club successful and he'll be taking over a club that I've improved significantly, like what happened with Sammy Lee and Bolton. But if it's the other way, then you have to live with it."

Allardyce's tone was phlegmatic rather than anxious on the topic of pressure and Shearer, but less so when he confirmed that a so-called delegation of senior players who are uneasy with matters varying from the style of play to travel plans at Christmas had come to see him.

"Players are not happy about a lot of the stuff that I do, because they're players and I'm the manager," he said. "I'm the man who knows what's right for them and I know it more than they do. That's why I sit in this chair.

"It's immaterial. When you're having a bad time there are always elements and factors trying to make a big deal of things. Today's politically correct society believes that that's a disruption, but that's an everyday occurrence as a manager. Somebody will have a problem with something or other, whether it's how you go about the week, wanting to play, off the field, there's always something a player doesn't like.

"Some of it sneaks in the papers. Whoever did it might think it's making a point, but it will only make me more resilient and stronger. I just find it disappointing it ends up in the paper, but that's life today."

The overall impression may be of a manager hemmed in and a possible fifth defeat in six to Arsenal would merely intensify questions. But Allardyce also confirmed that he met Newcastle's owner Mike Ashley briefly after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, and while he said no direct discussions have taken place regarding January's transfer window, a meeting is expected soon.

Although the chairman, Chris Mort, was recently less than certain about the need for fresh recruitment, a proposed transfer meeting between Allardyce and Ashley would indicate forward planning.

Performances and results can alter schedules, of course, but Allardyce's future now appears to rest upon the four games after Arsenal. Only one point has been taken from the last 15 but after Arsenal it is Birmingham City at home, followed by Fulham away, Derby County at home and Wigan Athletic away.

Failure to win more than two of those fixtures could be regarded as a slump turning into a crisis and supporter reaction will be interesting. After Allardyce had been heavily abused during Newcastle's 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool nine days ago, on Saturday Newcastle's travelling fans pointedly sung his name. Ashley was among them and mentioned this to Allardyce.

"I saw Mike Ashley after the game on Saturday, shook hands and had a good chat with him," Allardyce said. "I hope that shows the strength of the relationship we've got.

"But there's no point beating about the bush yes, I'm under the cosh and, yes, I've got to get results at this club sooner rather than later and, yes, we're having a bad time in terms of results. But it can be turned around as quick as it's gone bad, because it didn't look like it was going to go so bad, did it?"

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