Is Alan Pardew a dead man walking, or is life at Newcastle United just deadly dull?

Alan Pardew is a manager under pressure, but the biggest problem with Newcastle United right now is that everything is so boring, argues Stuart Rayner

Gareth Copley/Getty Images Alan Pardew manager of Newcastle United
Alan Pardew manager of Newcastle United

The heat is on Alan Pardew.

Such is the apathy of match-going supporters worn down by years of false dawns and false promises, you might not easily recognise it from within St James’s Park - but the tide is definitely moving away from Newcastle United’s manager.

An internet poll taken by The Journal’s sister newspaper the Chronicle this week showed 86% wanted Pardew sacked.

Such polls should always carry a health warning. They always attract a disproportionate number of malcontents and the figures will be higher if – like this one – they are conducted in the immediate aftermath of a thumping, let alone a third straight thumping.

Perhaps the Londoner’s Nick Clegg-style approval rating should be taken with a pinch of salt. Let us be generous and knock 20% off under the circumstances.

It still leaves the majority wanting change.

“You know – I don’t know,” says Pardew when asked if he is, as some think and others hope, a ‘dead man walking’.

“You are beaten by Everton, Southampton and Manchester United and do a poll, it’s going to be pretty obvious what’s coming out. I have to accept that. I think the point of being the manager of this club and a player at this club, more importantly, is you do need to have a resilience about you.

“You do need to be able to accept criticism, take it, come back and produce your best. We’re not Chelsea or Manchester City where you win every week. We’re a big club, we don’t win every week, so there’s huge pressure on us and it builds. With two or three defeats, it builds very, very quickly.

“When we beat Crystal Palace I don’t think those noises would have been there, but these three defeats have put pressure on me and the team and we need to come out fighting.”

It has not escaped him either his critics seem more willing to voice their discontent from behind a keyboard than a stadium seat.

Pardew added: “Maybe there’s more of a kind of momentum gathering because of Twitter and social networking.

“I think that’s a problem not just for me but for most Premier League managers.”

Chris Hughton’s Sunday sacking by Norwich City ensured the bottom seven have all changed managers this season. Of the 13 clubs above them, only Tottenham Hotspur have.

Pardew argues, with plenty of justification: “I think it’s difficult for all managers. We’re safe in the Premier League but I’m under huge pressure and you have said ‘dead man walking’.

“It doesn’t go away in the Premier League. You really are living one six-game period to the next.”

Keeping safe, though, is not what excites Newcastle United fans.

It was not just the Chronicle’s poll which put the boot into Pardew.

Dredging up Mike Ashley’s predecessor at the helm, Freddie Shepherd, was a reminder mismanagement is nothing new at St James’s Park.

The difference is, while Shepherd nearly bankrupted the club by reaching for the stars, Ashley has been reluctant to overstretch.

Life under Shepherd was a whirlwind of Geordie Galacticos and, while too few delivered on their lucrative wages, the club did at least enjoy some Champions League football.

Ashley appears to be running scared of the Europa League. Under Shepherd it was seat-of-your-pants stuff. This is just dull. There have been lots of goals in the last three games – 11. The trouble is, they have all been in Newcastle’s net.

Pardew added: “Arsenal have had big defeats. There have been a lot of big defeats.

“There’s getting to be a bigger gulf between the top teams and the teams just under.

“I think that’s a cause for concern and I think they’re going to get stronger and that’s something ourselves, Everton, Aston Villa, Southampton are having to be clever about to try and stay with them.”

Ah, but it was Everton, Southampton and an under-performingManchester United, not Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, who embarrassed Newcastle.

“I do think we’re at one of our lowest ebbs,” Pardew says of his club’s relationship with its fans.

“I can think of the (January FA) Cup defeat to Cardiff when it was a similar kind of feeling to this week, where people were saying we weren’t bothered about the Cup and now they’re saying we’re not bothered about the league!

“You get those spells in seasons, unfortunately, and I want this spell to end because up until this last period the season has been pretty strong. I wouldn’t say we’ve been at our maximum, but not far from it for long periods. In this bit, we’ve been way under it.”

It is Pardew’s luck that the run has come when he has been sat among the fans, serving a touchline ban for his altercation with Hull’s David Meyler.

He said: “It is what it is and I know there were reports I got stick, but it was acceptable to me.

“I’ve been in volatile stands in my time, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with because I want our fans to be cheering me and wishing me well as I walk up and down the stairs.

“At the minute, they’re angry – they want to see better displays on the pitch and a result more than anything.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer