Pardew feels heat as fans demand axe
Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 0
The words on the banner read "No more lies or excuses – Pardew out," but the writing could soon be on the wall for Alan Pardew.
Newcastle's problems are greater than just a terrible run of form, which is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Sunderland have scored more goals at St James' Park than Pardew's side in 2014. Another banner, "Pardew is a muppet", and a chorus of hostile chants revealed that the discontent that was first directed at Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is now extending to the manager.
Newcastle have lost 12 of their last 17 games, failing to score in 12 of those. They were knocked out of the FA Cup, at home, by Cardiff City in the third round and have done all this while Pardew has repeatedly blamed the poor run on injuries, key players more worried about being fit for the World Cup, bad luck and the sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain in January.
Next weekend's home game against Swansea could well prove a watershed and should there be a further display of disenchantment at St James' Park, then Ashley might be persuaded to act.
After Erik Pieters' fluke earned Stoke victory on Saturday, Pardew would not answer questions posed by journalists from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, claiming that "media in the North East had not helped in recent weeks."
Despite having one of the longest contracts in European football, he admitted: "I never feel safe as a manager. We have five to six Premier League games as we go, in terms of the pressure building from the media. I think they whipped it up. I know one or two of them are banned from the stadium and they probably used that as a bit of an agenda."
Pardew also refused to answer questions from anyone about Hatem Ben Arfa, only introduced as a substitute here following suggestions of a bust-up in the aftermath of a 4-0 loss at home to Manchester United. "Ben Arfa – do you want to talk about him?" he was asked. "Not today," came the terse response, and with that he rushed off down the corridor.
Shola Ameobi gave a noteworthy line in understatement, saying he feared Newcastle's season might "fizzle out." It was good of Ameobi to speak, especially now, when so few at Newcastle do.
He was right to recognise Newcastle's misfortune in not being awarded a penalty when they should have been for Geoff Cameron's foul on Papiss Cisse with the scoreline goalless.
He believed Newcastle "battled" but "lacked confidence". Then there was the "frustration" of the fans, which he can relate to having lived in the city since he was five years old.
For Pieters, it was the end of a six-year goal drought and it came against his friend Tim Krul, with whom he played in the Netherlands U-17 team. "I told him I meant it," joked Pieters. "Everybody knows he's my best friend in football. I've known him since I was 17. It was really good to score my first goal, and a great goal as well, against him.
"We talk to each other a lot, about our personal lives as well. We support each other always and we have a good relationship. I'll keep texting him, for sure." (©Daily Telegraph, London)