There were more questions than Newcastle United answers on derby day. After the week the club’s supporters had endured, that was as unacceptable as the team’s lamentable performance.
This newspaper has long been banned from putting questions to the Magpies’ hierarchy.
The Journal, Sunday Sun and Chronicle are not allowed into pre-match press conferences or those after home games.
The ban on manager Alan Pardew answering us at away grounds is only flouted when it suits Newcastle.
On Saturday afternoon, nobody else made much headway either.
In keeping with pretty much every football club’s policy, each Magpies player has a price, and when Paris Saint-Germain met Yohan Cabaye’s a £20m deal was rubber-stamped around 44 hours before Friday’s transfer deadline.
That money is still burning a hole in owner Mike Ashley’s pocket.
Joe Kinnear will have been drawing a generous salary as Newcastle’s director of football for at least a year before his first permanent signing.
Two transfer windows have yielded two loan signings, both targeted long before the former manager’s arrival.
If the club was performing as it should, that could be acceptable, even if the lack of ambition is disappointing.
As it is, we assume Ashley is confident of escaping relegation and frightened of qualifying for Europe.
Two-nil down at half-time in the 150th Tyne-Wear derby, Pardew needed to make changes.
Adam Johnson was running Davide Santon ragged, the midfield had neither control nor creativity and, for all his past record against Sunderland, Shola Ameobi’s present is a goal-free Premier League season.
The one Newcastle player prepared to run at opponents, Ameobi’s younger brother Sammy, was apparently ill.
Alternatives were scarce.
In Paul Dummett, Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa there was no shortage of candidates to replace Santon, but the other end of the field was more pressing.
To provide goals Pardew had Luuk de Jong, loaned on Thursday with none to his name all season, and no run-out longer than 20 minutes, and Adam Armstrong, who has not played professional football.
You never know, there may be perfectly good reasons for the lack of investment. If there are, Ashley’s loyal customers are not being told.
Like many Premier League owners Ashley does not like to talk to the media. That is his right.
Most, though, appoint someone else to communicate on their behalf.
Kinnear’s usual notes were in the programme but printed before the transfer deadline, and not worth the glossy paper they appeared on.
After his initial outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease on taking the job, Newcastle are unlikely to ever let him near a microphone again. Kinnear is a walking public relations disaster.
So it is left to Pardew, the only decision-maker to put his head above the parapet, to field the questions.
Even that was taken away on Saturday.
Premier League post-match interviews are conducted so everyone can have something different to bring to their audience.
Pardew spoke first to those television and radio companies who paid for the privilege. Next, the Sunday newspapers. With the line of questioning almost exclusively about football, it was all perfectly normal.
Then came the Monday press pack.
The full transcript is below, but questions about the transfer policy Pardew is part of formulating were swatted away by the press officer.
Twice inquisitors were told their questions were “unfair”.
When Pardew spoke up, it was to say “no comment” or dance around the semantics of previous attempts to use the media to pressurise his paymasters into writing transfer cheques.
Pardew did not disguise his unhappiness. He said: “If I was in charge, solely, of transfers the answer might be different, but I’m not.”
Eventually he walked off – not stormed off, apparently. Maybe he should do the same to his employers.
If he had more personal pride he already would have.
Pardew described himself as a “professional manager” but he is little more than a professional punchbag, shamelessly defending those hanging him out to dry.
From the players who let Sunderland waltz past them via the stewards unable to pin down pitch invaders to the manager afterwards, Newcastle’s defending was useless all day.
If the hierarchy cannot recruit any reinforcements, it is time one of them fronted up and came to the manager’s aid that way instead.
Full transcript of Alan Pardew's post-derby press conference
Question: It’s a tough question to ask you but is the club, as it stands, capable of making permanent signings?
Pardew: “Well …”
Press officer: “I think that’s an unfair one to ask the manager.”
Question: But it’s two transfer windows without one now and Alan said …”
Pardew: “I’ve got no comment to make on that one.”
Question: You said at the start of last wee week that the club can’t not replace Yohan, but that’s exactly what happened.
Pardew: “I didn’t particularly say in this window though. I said, you know, we’ve got to get players of that class, there’s no doubt about that. So don’t try and angle that for this window because I think that’s unfair on me.”
Question: You said ‘we need to bring someone in, for sure. We can’t lose someone of his quality and not replace him. That would leave us vulnerable’. Do you stand by that?
Pardew: “Well, I’ve said it, ain’t I? But I’m meaning in the long-term as well as the short-term, that it’s the quality we need. And, you know, today has been a tough day for us and I don’t really want to add any more to it, to be honest.”
Question: Part of the problem you’ve got is that if you don’t speak out against not getting a replacement it makes it look as though you’re going along with the decisions the board is making and therefore you get criticism heaped on your shoulders and take the blame for that.
Pardew: “Yeah, I’m a professional manager. You know, if I was in charge, solely, of transfers, the answer might be different, but I’m not.”
Question: It does feel sometimes that you’re being asked to manage with your hands tied behind your back.
Press officer: “These are all quite unfair questions.”
Question: Unfortunately the manager is the only person who will speak for the club. Silence.
Question: Alan, is there a collective blame for today, from the top of the club, right down to on the pitch?
Pardew: “The only way I can answer what has happened today is that it’s a disappointing day for the club.”
Question: What do you say to Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear when you’re having those discussions on Friday and it’s clear you’re not going to get a replacement (for Cabaye)? Do you make your opinions clear on that?
Pardew: “I think I’ve made my opinion very clear this week and all the rest of it is confidentiality.”
Question: How do you lift yourself?
Pardew: “I’ll be alright.” Walks off.