Under-pressure Alan Pardew faces a battle to repair his reputation among Newcastle fans after a third straight derby defeat left him searching for answers.
Pardew is not bullet-proof at St James’ Park. He was admonished in the aftermath of comments following the Cardiff game on TV last year – but Ashley is unlikely to act with the club in eighth and seemingly guarnateed a top-ten finish in the Premier League. However, there are clear tensions in the way the club are run, with Joe Kinnear’s communications with Pardew fitful during January.
The Newcastle boss is understood to have been pressing for British-based reinforcements since the summer, having pin-pointed Darren Bent, Tom Huddlestone and Tottenham’s Gylfi Sigurdsson as possible recruits.
As it is, the club have not been able to make any permanent signings.
Pardew refused to condemn the regime but it was telling that, when asked about the transfer policy, he said: “You know, if I was in charge solely of transfers, the answer might be different, but I’m not.”
It was a testing afternoon and Pardew’s post-match press conference was terse. Vurnon Anita was more effusive, admitting the game had turned into a “disaster.”
“It’s so disappointing and of course it hurts.
“I do not have enough words to describe the feelings in my heart and everybody at the club will feel the same. We must forget this game as quickly as we can and move on.
“It’s strange because we have been playing really well lately but not here.
“We wanted it so badly and it turned into a disaster for us. What can the manager say?
“Everyone knows what this game means for all the fans and the players as well. The dressing room is a horrible place to be right now.”
Anita suggested Newcastle might have tried “too hard” and it affected them.
He added: “I don’t know why this happened because we have given everyone a good game this season and beaten some of the top teams.
“I cannot answer why Sunderland have beaten us again. Maybe we are trying too hard, I don’t know.
“Maybe we wanted it too much and that affected us, but it is a derby game and we let everyone down.
“Now we need to show all those fans that we are still up for the challenge. It is so important we do not let the season fade away.
“We have to stay focussed and although we are going to get a lot of criticism we just have to deal with it.”