To some, Alan Pardew is right now sitting on a powder keg with only his own spit to put out any flames.
And those critics have a box of matches in their hand.
All they are looking for, waiting for, is one more dreadful run of results. For many, one bad performance would do it for them.
There are Newcastle United supporters, however, who are willing to give the manager another chance to prove himself worthy of managing their football club.
A lot has gone right under Pardew. The problem is that too much has gone wrong. It’s the bad days that are easier to recall because somehow they seem to have mattered more.
But this is a brand new season. A new team, even. So can the same old manager win over those who believe this club would do better with someone else at the helm?
Ah, but that is the big question and one far more difficult to answer than whether they can beat Manchester City at St James’ Park on Sunday.
A prospect, incidentally, which is far more likely than some of the doomsayers would have it. Booed at the last home league game last season, Pardew knows there are bridges to be built. That will only happen by his team playing attractive, attacking football that will win them some games.
Only then will the relationship between manager and support soften. For the sake of Newcastle United, that day can’t come soon enough.
Pardew said: “I’ve been here long enough so as not to have to play politics with the fans. I think they know I’m an honest person. I think they know that I work hard, because I do, to try and achieve success at this club. I’m going to try to bring that honesty onto the pitch.
I have to make tough decisions at this club. I’ll make the ones I think are right to take this club as close as we can to winning something or to getting us as close as we can to the Champions League or even into the Champions League at some stage.
“I need to grow the team and build it as I go. At the back end of last season, I felt the team was nowhere near that. We had to improve it and we have. Now I’ve got to make sure that’s replicated in results.”
By the end of last season, when one win in eight was the final run of matches, Pardew looked a man under pressure. That cockiness left him, no matter what he tried to say. He wasn’t enjoying himself and it showed.
Although he insisted yesterday at his first proper press conference since the final day of the season at Anfield, that he never thought about chucking it.
To be fair to the man, that’s not his style and he does actually love being manager of Newcastle. Pardew said: “I wasn’t demotivated last year. If anything I was more motivated after the Cardiff game than before because it’s just natural, I think, that you want to prove you’re better than people are perceiving. That’s what drives me on and I’ll never lose that drive.
“We’ve had two really good first halves to the season in the past two years, but in the back end of those seasons we’ve not been too great. We’ve lost players so hopefully we can get to February with a similar quality (of results) and if we can do that we can have a really successful season.”
It’s clear that Pardew is delighted with how his squad is going into this match against the champions.
Even with a few players out, he has good players to turn to. Pardew said: “Whenever I speak to fans of Newcastle, they tell me they can accept defeat and this club needs to accept defeat on occasion. Unfortunately we’re not a Manchester Untied and we can’t compete at that level to win the league.
“What the fans want to see is an honesty in the group. From what I’ve seen on the training ground this is an honest a group as I have ever had at any level. They really are pulling altogether and I think that bodes well for the season.”
And they, he, need to make a good start for all sorts of reasons. Pardew admitted: “I don’t think it ever changes at this club. From the day I walked in, the Liverpool game, I was under massive pressure to win that match. I was fortunate enough to get the position after Chris (Hughton) had done a good job so I’ve always had to face pressure here.
“I have to live with it constantly because I live in the city. I’m surrounded by fans and they remind me, never mind the press and social media so it never goes away. I have to shield myself a little bit and almost put myself in a bubble, of trying to do the job to the best of my ability.
“We had a Premier League manager’s meeting the other day. I am no different to Arsene Wenger, Paul Lambert or anyone else. Football management is a difficult job, very difficult. As soon as you lose, the criticism comes in thick and fast. If you can’t deal with that then you shouldn’t be in the Premier League.” And speaking of the league, Pardew will come up against the manager who managed to win it last time, in his first year in England as well.
Not bad for an old person. Not that Pardew said ‘person’ when he had that ridiculous touchline tiff with Manuel Pellegrini last October.
Pardew said: “Do I have regrets? Of course, absolutely. Will I shake his hand? Absolutely. He’s absolutely invited for a glass of wine afterwards, but the time is so slim now with the number of jobs we have to do after the game with the media. Managers rarely see each other now. The staff have a drink.”