Embattled Alan Pardew has told Newcastle United’s frustrated supporters it would “not be right” to stage a mid-match walkout at St James’ Park today – telling them to “put the club first”.
The United manager has damned mooted plans to walk out in the 60th minute – or 69th minute according to the Newcastle United Supporters Trust – by saying it would be wrong for the fans to “leave the players to it” with half an hour left. He says the team, which has delivered the worst run for decades, “needs them”.
It is an appeal sure to split opinion in a United fanbase which feels too many people associated with the club have taken them for granted this season. This will be the end of a campaign which began with the jarring appointment of Joe Kinnear and ends with supporters training their ire on a manager who has lost momentum generated by a superb start and his own credibility with a string of broken promises and poor performances in 2014.
The match may have little significance for Newcastle’s league position – which is almost certain to be top ten after Stoke and Crystal Palace’s form hit the buffers – but the reaction of the supporters to Pardew and his players as they look to avoid a seventh straight defeat will provide a litmus test of black-and-white opinion.
Pardew knows it is vitally important he is not embarrassed by the kind of mocking chants aimed at him on Monday and has attempted to row back the tide of public opinion this week.
He is desperate for fans to see what he believes is the biggerpicture.
He added: “I just think the club has to come first sometimes and I think that is an occasion where this has to happen.
“The passion of the fans towards the club needs to come out because the team needs them.
“It’s not about the board or me, it’s about 11 players wearing the black-and-white of Newcastle at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.
“You’re going to walk away after an hour and leave them to it? I don’t think that’s right and I really, really hope they don’t do that.”
Pardew is under threat and aware he is on shaky ground as he heads into his end-of-season summit – but no-one at St James’ Park has been given an indication of Mike Ashley’s mood.
Although there have been questions posed at a senior level Ashley can be contrary, and it may be the turning of public opinion strengthens his resolve to support a manager who has, after all, delivered on the top-10 target set before the season.
Other factors – like the devaluing of players and the alarming slide in the calendar year – may make a decision for him.
Ashley is likely to skip today’s game and has been on holiday for three weeks. Pardew admits he has not spoken to him since then.
He said: “I haven’t spoken to him for two or three weeks.
“He owns this club with the confidence to let the manager get on with managing the team.
“That is what he has always said to me, get on with it. That’s what he expects me to do.
“He doesn’t want me to ring him and say, ‘Mike, I’m a little bit perturbed’ He wouldn’t see any sign of strength in that and I wouldn’t do that.
“He hasn’t offered me any reassuring words and I wouldn’t expect him to.
“When I won manager of the month he didn’t ring me up and say well done. I didn’t expect him to, that isn’t his way.”
Pardew continues to defend the players. He said the team has been “strong” in the last two games, defeats to Swansea and Arsenal.
He added: “The most important thing is the group being strong as a team and we have shown in our last two games.
“You can say what you like about the Arsenal game, but I was on the touchline and they dug in deep because they had to because they were a very strong side.
“At Swansea we shot ourselves in the foot in the last minute but the feeling in the dressing room, people don’t see that emotion. We are desperate to win for the fans.”