NEWCASTLE UNITED owner Mike Ashley is determined not to let angry fans force him to sack Alan Pardew and could even give the beleaguered manager until Christmas to sort out the mess the team are in.
Although Ashley was dismayed by the dreadful performance in the 4-0 defeat at Southampton, as well as a run of just one win in 16 Premier League games since the start of the year, his stubborn streak has once again emerged under pressure.
As a result, the billionaire has indicated to those close to him he does not want to be forced into making a decision on Pardew by supporters and is tempted to give him more time to turn things around.
Ashley is the sole decision maker at St James' Park, but he is notoriously difficult to second guess and sources at the club are adamant they have not been told the manager's job is safe or under threat.
Steve Bruce, the Hull City manager, would be interested in the job if it became available and, as a Geordie with an excellent track record in management, he would be a popular choice, although the former Manchester United captain has said that it is "disrespectful" for people to link him with Newcastle while Pardew remains in charge.
"It isn't nice, it's a horrible Sunday morning for him and I find it very, very disrespectful that I'm linked with somebody else's job when he's still in a job," Bruce said.
"It's a hard enough job we've all got. We all know what it's like now in football management. That part of the game will never change, but for me at the moment I'm just concentrating on the game against West Ham and leaving all that aside."
It is understood that Ashley does like Bruce, but he is a big admirer of Steve McClaren, the Derby County manager, and the club have approached David Moyes in the past about becoming their manager.
Moyes is out of work after he was sacked by Manchester United in April and may see Newcastle as a good club with which to return to the Premier League.
McClaren is seen as the best coach of the three, while Ashley is conscious of the fact that both Bruce and Moyes would like control of transfer policy, something Pardew has never been given on Tyneside.
Newcastle tumbled to the foot of the Premier League table after their meek surrender at Southampton, but Ashley has never been one to panic during his seven years at St James' Park. It is only if he feels the club is in serious danger of relegation that he will act and it is very early in the season for that.
Pardew still has six years left on the eight-year contract he signed in October 2012 and although it is understood Ashley will not have to pay him the full compensation for that period, it does strengthen the manager's position, even while he sinks to a new low in the eyes of supporters.
The calls for Pardew's head have become increasingly intense on Tyneside and are not just a volatile reaction to a poor start to the season.
Newcastle were almost relegated under Pardew 18 months ago when they finished fifth from bottom and although they started last season well, they once again displayed relegation form over the second half of the campaign.
Supporters have had enough of both Ashley and Pardew. The lack of ambition in the boardroom, and the feeling that Ashley is interested in the club only as a means to promote his other business interests, has opened old wounds which date back to Kevin Keegan's resignation in 2008 in protest at boardroom interference in transfers.
Ashley had been open to the idea of selling Newcastle, but responded to various newspaper reports by saying he would not sell until the end of next season as he was worried about the team being destabilised by a public takeover.
Regardless of the owner's intentions, Pardew is clinging on to his job.
Although he has repeatedly said in public how happy he is with the nine players signed over the summer, members of his coaching staff have privately complained about the standard of the recruits selected by Graham Carr, the Newcastle chief scout.
In particular, the three strikers brought in - Emmanuel Riviere, Ayoze Perez and Facundo Ferreyra - are not perceived to be good enough replacements for Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi, who left St James' Park at the end of last season.
John Carver, Newcastle's assistant manager, was involved in an angry confrontation with fans before the Southampton game when he saw them hold a 'Sack Pardew' banner. (©Daily Telegraph, London)