Alan Pardew is facing the sharpest scrutiny from Mike Ashley since he became Newcastle United manager but he has pledged to fight to retain “one of the biggest jobs in football”.
Tomorrow is a pivotal day for the manager, who is trying to convince supporters not to train their anger on him and the team at St James’ Park after a sapping run of six straight defeats.
Although the club are prepared to refresh the squad to ensure no repeat of this string of losses, the manager cuts an increasingly embattled figure. He is fighting on several fronts: attempting to justify the run to frustrated fans and also win round some of his dressing room.
He desperately needs a performance of more substance than in recent weeks from his players. He has had no reassurances and is far from bullet-proof – with all eyes now on the club’s owner.
The Journal understands that Ashley does not plan to attend the Cardiff fixture, which will probably have little bearing on Newcastle’s final league position but will be notable for how the supporters respond to the manager.
In a passionate defence of his right to continue to do his job, Pardew has pledged to show he is “strong enough” to emerge from this severe bout of turbulence.
Asked whether he thought he could survive, he said: “Yes, I do. The personality you need to be a manager is you need to be very strong-willed.
“You have to show a resolve to your wife and your daughter that you are strong enough to deal with it, let alone fans and players. Whatever manager you are you are going to have some bad times, some really bad times.
“If you’re going to walk away, then in my view you do not have the make-up to be a manager or a leader of men. If you’re in the middle of a field, surrounded by armies, left right and centre, you can’t just say I’ve had enough now, sorry. It doesn’t work like that. You start your career and you realise the difficulity of managing a football team, of running a coaching session with professional footballers, but then you get a job and you look at the other jobs in the country and I consider this to be one of the biggest jobs.
“To get the opportunity to be this manager is not something I’m going to give up. I will fight for it with all I can. Newcastle fans have seen me this position before. It might be a little bit more stronger this time the feeling for me to go, but it was the same last year and I didn’t walk away.
“I didn’t suddenly become weak and start hiding and I’m not going to do that on Saturday. If I take some criticism and ridicule, whatever comes my way, I have to show the players that I’m strong enough to cope with that. They ultimately have to cope with the pressure on the pitch. My love for the job gives me the strength to come through this.”
Pardew would not be drawn on a front-page in our sister title The Chronicle which which exclaimed ‘P45 due’ alongside a damning set of statistics about the awful run.
“I haven’t bought the paper. In fact I haven’t bought it all year. It is what it is. There’s not much more I can say, but it’s not something I want is it,” he said.
“At the start of the season, 14 wins with a good cup run, I think most of our fans would have looked at that and though ‘ok’. Since Christmas, it’s not been ok. The second half of the season we’ve not been strong enough.
“We’ve got to make sure we are right next season. The first half of the season, as we did two years ago, we showed we are European football standard. Second half we weren’t strong enough to cope with that pressure and that quality.”
Pardew ended with a plea for fans to “stay with me” tomorrow. He said: “I hope that what fans have seen from me in the three years is that I have done an honest and respectful job here.
“I’ve done nothing but try to win games for Newcastle to the best of my ability. The pleasure of winning at this football club matches nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I hope the fans stay with me on Saturday, I really do.”
Pardew also confirmed Hatem Ben Arfa is training with the reserves. The Journal understands the out-of-favour midfielder will not play any part against Cardiff.