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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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England

Newcastle United Crisis Leaves Fans Split On Way Forward


 


John Welsh


For most of 2014, the year can certainly be described as 'Annus Horribilis' for Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew, especially in recent months when a campaign by a section of local supporters has demanded his removal from the Magpies hot seat. With no Premier League victories recorded in the current 2014/15 campaign, the need for a swift turnaround in fortunes is becoming paramount as a series of difficult fixtures loom on the horizon. 


Throughout his tenure at St. James' Park, Pardew has presided over spells of form which could be described as extreme by any standard. After replacing the popular Chris Hughton at Newcastle, the former Southampton boss soon lost the services of crowd favourite Andy Carroll in a multi-million pound transfer to Liverpool and then triggered a second half revival from his players in an epic 4-4 match against Arsenal. 

Pardew then guided Newcastle to fifth position in the Premier League during the following season and the return of Europa League football to Tyneside. However, since those successful early days, the inconsistency of the team has drawn a mixed response from the Geordie faithful. Relegation was narrowly avoided coupled with the achievement of a quarter-final berth in the Europa League, and then the previous campaign could most certainly be described as a season of two halves when the promise of a further venture into Europe diminished with the sale of midfield talisman Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain. 


Cabaye wanted to leave, but that particular sale angered many Newcastle supporters, especially with no replacement arriving by the close of the January window as both French targets Clement Grenier of Lyon and Remy Cabella, then with Montpellier, opted to stay in France until the end of the season. For the remainder of the campaign, Newcastle were in a downward spiral with owner Mike Ashley being accused of a lack of ambition and a second successive 3-0 home defeat by Sunderland adding to fan anger. A confrontation and alleged head-butt with Hull's David Meyler did not help Pardew's personal standing in a rare win for the side. 

Newcastle have won only five Premier League games during 2014 amid a series of performances best described by some hardened fans as mediocre, with a paucity of goals cited as a prime reason for the general lack of success on the pitch. Reinforcements have arrived during the summer, including Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, but they have yet to adjust to the more physical nature of English football while Siem de Jong has succumbed to a thigh injury and will be absent until early 2015. Pardew had pinned much hope on the Dutchman being one of the more creative outlets in the team. 

 



Much of the blame for the current demise in fortunes has been directed at owner Mike Ashley, but Pardew has been especially targeted with a group of fans instigating a sackpardew.com campaign which has attracted a level of support and the subsequent distribution of relevant leaflets and banners. It was their display at the Southampton away match, as the players were executing warm-up drills, which angered assistant manager John Carver and which provoked an angry response from the coaching staff. 

It was not a pleasant afternoon for Pardew and his staff as they were barracked amid a demoralising 4-0 defeat and it appeared that his days as manager of Newcastle were extremely numbered.

Yet the timing of that demonstration and subsequent attempts at a more organised protest during the following home match against Hull City also drew an aggrieved response from other Magpies supporters, some being accustomed to even more barren times on Tyneside when second tier football was sometimes prevalent during the later 20th century years. 

As some supporters tried to distribute leaflets before the Hull City game, they were met with some approval but cynicism from others who questioned their attitude towards real-life matters. There were also jeers inside St. James' Park when a few sackpardew.com leaflets were unfurled as the majority of fans preferred to encourage the team rather than resort to such measures.

 



To his credit, Pardew chose to stand on the touchline throughout these gestures and when he replaced Riviere with Papiss Cisse as Hull scored a second goal, chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' reverberated around sections of the ground.  Replacing one striker with another was not considered the best of moves with the team 2-0 adrift, but Cisse scored twice to level the scoreline and justify Pardew's substitution.

Since that match, Newcastle have still to win a game but there have been overtures of support from the owner despite an attempt by one national newspaper to claim that the opposite actions were forthcoming following a brief light-hearted conversation in a busy London pub. Indeed the same newspaper had asserted that the club had endured a 'catastrophic last few years' under Ashley, which is most certainly untrue and has resulted in many fans questioning whether a media campaign is stoking the anti-Pardew sentiment.

The local evening newspaper on Tyneside was also responsible for some extensive coverage of a small pre-match demonstration against the club prior to a game last season, which drew criticism from Newcastle officials. That same newspaper has since been banned from St. James' Park, alongside other media outlets, but it has since encouraged protests against the current regime and devised a poll asking whether Pardew is the "most unpopular ever" Newcastle manager. The attitude of both parties has provoked much argument although preventing the media from reporting on club affairs may not have been the wisest of moves. 

Such actions have divided fans with some still arguing for the removal of Ashley and Pardew while others have offered their support for the embattled pair despite their reservations about club policy and team tactics. What is the alternative is one question being asked, with the hostile abuse directed at Pardew also being deemed unwarranted by many season ticket holders. 

 



Ashley may not be the most forthcoming of football club owners with his motives and ambitions constantly challenged, but the prospect of an unpredictable non-British owner is regarded with more trepidation by some Tyneside folk. The limitations imposed by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play also bring about restrictions of the amount of money which can be allocated to team investment for those clubs without access to Champions League revenues. Whereas Pardew may not be regarded by many as the ideal candidate to lead Newcastle back to the adventurous days under Kevin Keegan and Bobby Robson, there appear to be few alternative choices as manager given those scenarios.       

There are suggestions that Ashley may eventually sell Newcastle once a full acquisition of Glasgow Rangers becomes a more lucrative alternative but until those days materialise, many Newcastle supporters would be content with remaining a decent Premier League team, assuming their form for this season shows some significant improvement. 

A proper cup run would also help as a cup final win at Wembley would ensure Pardew is regarded as a saint on Tyneside rather than the target of divided local opinion, with his award of the Premier League Manager of the Month accolade as recently as November 2013 seemingly a distant memory.

With six years remaining of his eight-year contact, Pardew may yet survive this current spell of unease, but unless the team display more encouraging signs by winning football matches and precious points, even his most diehard fans will decide his tenure as Newcastle boss needs to be severed.

 

 


Published: Friday, 10th Oct 2014