Pardew: We've a lot to worry about
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew admits he is a worried man as he approaches a key game in his reign at St James' Park.
The 52-year-old will send his side into Saturday's Barclays Premier League battle against relegation-threatened Cardiff on Tyneside under intense pressure from outside the club, if not necessarily from inside.
Fans once again called for his head during and after Monday night's tame 3-0 surrender at Arsenal, their sixth successive league defeat.
Owner Mike Ashley will deliver his verdict when the pair meet at the end of the season for their usual debrief, but Pardew's critics in the stands are growing in both number and volume, and anything but a victory this weekend would simply add fuel to the fire.
The manager admitted: "It's a massive game for us.
"If Cardiff fans think, 'Newcastle are in the top 10 - what have they got to worry about?' - well, we have got a lot to worry about after the recent run.
"It's as big a game for us as it is for them."
Pardew has been in charge at St James' Park since December 2010, fulfilling his initial mission to keep the newly-promoted club in the Premier League following Chris Hughton's untimely departure and then guiding them to a fifth-placed finish and Europe just 12 months later.
The reward for him and his staff was a series of bumper eight-year contracts, although the club's fortunes have dipped somewhat since.
Last year's unseemly scramble for safety did little to placate supporters dismayed at a summer transfer window during which only one senior player was signed.
A January spending spree which addressed that failing was not built upon at the end of the campaign, when the club did not make a single permanent acquisition despite the appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football.
However, that disquiet was a distant memory as the Magpies banked 33 points by Boxing Day last year and looked poised for an assault on the top four, at least until Ashley decided to accept Paris St Germain's offer for key midfielder Yohan Cabaye, and then not to re-invest any of the proceeds in a replacement.
As the club's only readily available figurehead, Pardew has had to bear the brunt of the criticism which has followed, although any sympathy was diluted by his head-butt on Hull midfielder David Meyler.
Ashley chose not to sack him for that misdemeanour and there is no suggestion that he is ready to wield the axe now despite the club's current on-field plight.
However, even a win over Cardiff this weekend could prove insufficient to stem the tide of popular revolt, with fans groups having mooted a planned walk-out during the game.
Meanwhile, Newcastle will head for New Zealand as part of their preparations for the new season when they, West Ham, Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC take part in the Football United Tour tournament in July.
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.