LOCKED in a five-way battle to avoid a one-way trip into black- and- white infamy, these are understandably anxious days for Alan Pardew.
Long ones, too, judging by the Newcastle United’s managers account of what happened to him after last weekend’s 6-0 reverse by a rampant Liverpool team.
Sleepless nights have been commonplace this season.
For all the barbs thrown at him, the one which particularly angers Pardew is the accusation he might not be working hard enough to try and find solutions to the problems staring him in the face.
Right now, he is questioning everything.
The micro-management goes right down to the minutiae of what captain Yohan Cabaye – the subject of a fair bit of speculation – adds to his morning cuppa.
“When you have a day like that, you just embrace your family,” he said, in response to a query about the impact the result had on him personally.
“They try and offer you words of comfort and support which unfortunately don’t work too well.
“Then you don’t sleep well, you get up, you think about it a bit more.
“If you think a football manager after the season we’ve had or a defeat like that is not worried about every aspect of his team and his staff then you’re sadly mistaken.
“I worry about how many sugars Cabaye has in his tea, for goodness sake!
“That’s the level you want to try and go to to put it right.”
It has been one of those weeks on Tyneside.
Twitter crackled with talk of discontent and allegations of a rift in the camp – furiously denied by the club – and it has sometimes felt to Pardew a black and white Armageddon is approaching.
They have taken exception to a few things and the unfortunate banning of one reporter is hugely regrettable.
On other issues, Pardew has been prepared to take them on the chin and get on with the job of saving the club.
He added: “No-one will break my spirit in terms of trying to put it right.
“I have a strong philosophy of how I think the game should be played and we’ll try and fit in that motive for the next three games.
“We need to play a brand of football which threatens the goal a little bit more because if you say to me what is my biggest concern I would say ‘goals’.
“I have just conceded six but sometimes if you are threatening the goal a little bit more you don’t need to defend as often and you can defend with a little more confidence.
“We need to offer a little bit more threat going forward – that’s the key for the next few games.”
Pardew’s complaint about his team is not its make-up or character, but rather than it lacks experience.
Some of this week might have been good for them, then. He said: “In terms of dealing with outside influences – which we’ve had a lot of this week – we’ve gained from that. We’ve gained a lot of experience from that.
“I’ve had my fair share of it from clubs I’ve been at.
“ I understand you get all sorts of accusations thrown at you.
“There’s not much you can do. You can deny them but it might add fuel to the flames. Sometimes you don’t know whether to fight some issues or just let them ride.
“Some of them we think have been completely left-field and we have decided to fight in some areas and not fight in other areas.
“The bottom line is when you get beaten 6-0 you are going to get criticism.
“I have not been part of anyone or any media source being banned or anything like that. For me, you have to get on with it.”
It will no doubt satisfy some of United’s critics their Gallic legion like to drink tea.
The way it has been presented at times this week, you’d think character and soul were strictly British traits and anyone from across the Channel conforms to the sort of stereotype last seen in Britcoms like ‘Allo Allo’.
Pardew is right to point out nationality doesn’t matter when it comes to character, but it would remiss not to acknowledge it does have an effect.
Pardew knows that, when it comes to communication and getting the message across, he has sometimes feared something has been lost in translation.
He added: “I have to be honest, I would like to have levels of communicationto be greater than they are in terms of ‘Is our message and the message of my staff getting through 100 per cent’?
“ We hope it is and hopefully at West Ham it will.
“We’ve used different forms and will continue to change it if we feel it’s necessary.
“Yohan Cabaye made a point to me this week.
“He said when he arrived we didn’t have an interpreter and therefore he learned English that bit quicker and we’ve used an interpreter because we have so many new guys who don’t understand the language.
“It’s like trying to get that balance right of forcing them to learn the language – but we do need to understand what their problem is. So there’s a balance to get right.”
The balance must be right on Saturday, when Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan lie in wait.
They will need to play much, much better than they did against Liverpool.
Pardew said: “I have seen a reaction, of course. I think it’s important. Monday was a blood-letting day in a lot of ways.
“The press were having a field day and making everyone uncomfortable.
“Your family and friends are all Newcastle fans – when you buy into a club everyone buys in. Everyone was hurting from that defeat and the manner of that defeat.
“You have to go through that and that took us into Tuesday – and since then everyone has been strong. We have a group which is going to try and get the results we need.”