Newcastle between rock and hard place
Brighton 2 Newcastle utd 0
Despite the droll protestations of Alex Ferguson, Alan Pardew is not the easiest fellow to dislike.
And, in contrast to Ferguson, who chooses when and to whom in the media he will speak, Pardew is not selective in meeting his duty to answer for his decisions.
He did not duck one microphone on Saturday in circumstances that would have seen Fergie halfway back to Manchester an hour after the game with lips zipped.
But that will not spare Pardew the rod on Tyneside, where dissent is growing after the failure of Newcastle United to raise a candle against Championship opposition in the FA Cup.
Poor Brighton, a positive tale buried beneath the news values that attach to the Premier League club. Never mind, they have the plum consolation of a fourth-round home tie against Arsenal or Swansea.
Pardew made much of his deepening injury list and inexperience of the replacements to explain away defeat, none of which the fans accepted.
They have a point. And this was it: We are either Newcastle United or we are not, a folk institution central to the identity of our region or we are not.
The minimum requirement is pride in the shirt and a responsibility to it reflected in commitment and effort in battle.
There was no battle at the Amex Stadium, no desire, no one prepared or able to take the team by the cojones and lead.
The warriors all wore blue and white stripes, led by skipper Gordon Greer, reconstituted left-back Wayne Bridge, the indefatigable Craig Mackail-Smith and the best player on the park by a street, Liam Bridcutt.
Pardew takes his embattled squad to Norwich next Saturday in what has become a visceral struggle not to trade places with Brighton on the way down.
"We need to keep a steady head, myself and my staff," Pardew said. "We are frustrated and we are working around the clock to get players in and get them back.
"There is no doubt about it, the form that we are in and the momentum, we are fighting to stay in the Premiership. We are short. I think the board understand that. I think we need to do something about it.
"The fans have been brilliant. I thank them for that. But we have to try to get results quickly now. I have a united dressing room and the spirit is strong. We need to get more big-game players who can handle the responsibility of wearing the Newcastle jersey.
"I never thought we would be in the position we were in today, and we have to hold our hands up and say we should have bought more players. We're not too big to go down and we've got to fight in every game now to get all the points we can."
Pardew has France right-back Mathieu Debuchy, signed the same day Demba Ba joined Chelsea, available at Norwich. "He might have to play in two positions," he said.
Skipper Fabricio Coloccini and striker Papiss Cisse are also likely to return.
What he needs more than both is a heart that beats in black and white, or as he said so eloquently himself, players capable of "carrying the shirt".
A red card for captain Shola Ameobi exemplified the shambolic nature of Newcastle's work.
Goals in each half from Andrea Orlandi and Will Hoskins were insufficient evidence of Brighton's superiority. Both had merit, particularly the balletic left-foot adjustment effected by Orlandi to shape the ball past Rob Elliott for the opener.
"I wouldn't say it was genius, but it was great to see the goal go in. We played well, controlled most of the game, which against a Premier League team is not easy," Orlandi said.
While Orlandi and Hoskins delivered the goals for Brighton, it was the industry and combativeness of Bridcutt that manager Gus Poyet chose to highlight.
"Yes, I am worried by Liam's performance. Other clubs can ask about him because it's part of the game," the Seagulls manager said.
"If I was coach of Real I would take him because he deserves to go to the highest level." (© Independent News Service)