Talk about Hatem Ben Arfa. Talk about why social class has prevented your Academy from producing a first team player since Andy Carroll. Throw your own absence from the dressing room into the mix.
Repeat the one about Yohan Cabaye leaving the club in January, blend it with the number of injuries, suspensions and the pressure of social media. Finally, when your team’s form is so putrid and the players’ performances so wretched and unmotivated that the supporters finally make vocal their discontent, train your guns on the local media.
Just never, ever engage in a debate about whether you’ve done anything that might have caused a football club beloved by its city into this slow stroll into a vat of poison. Because that, as Alan Pardew tacitly acknowledged with his ridiculous Britannia Stadium debrief, is an argument that you can’t win.
The Sunday Sun’s brilliant, pithy back page was shared thousands of times on Twitter. Only this morning Jeremy Vine posted it to his thousands of followers, quite a few of whom would have no idea who Pardew was, never mind why he accused our journalists of whipping up feeling against him.
It has become the dominant narrative after the Stoke defeat: how pathetic Pardew looked by once again deflecting the blame when his team had once again failed to score, win or even construct a performance that earned them the merest of credit. His talk of a his personal “agenda” was absurd. He’s had credit and criticism and it always relates to his performance in the job.
And that brings us to the real point here: his lame lament at Stoke means that few are addressing the real reasons why supporters waved anti-Pardew banners and chanted for his removal as manager. That is because his team have collapsed, his tactics have been exposed and it feels very much like he can’t motivate them any more.
If he can’t see that the team’s performances since his own moment of madness have brought him to this point then he lacks the capacity to analyse that is essential for any football manager. They have lost 1-0, 4-0, 4-0 and 3-0 in the last four. You all know the rest of the stats, and the performances in those games have deserved the hammerings.
It is not the local press who ‘turned’ the supporters, it is the run of heavy defeats. It is the horribly unmotivated players who aren’t performing for him. It is the system, the direct football, the lack of flair, the functional, safety-first approach in too mant games and the players being shunted out-of-position or dropped for no reason.
It is also the things that he has said: the justification of Joe Kinnear, Mike Ashley and the promises he has made that have been smashed into so many pieces. Finally there are his own actions, berating Manuel Pellegrini in shocking terms and then clashing with David Meyler to disrupt momentum after a fine win at Hull. We didn’t create any of that. We reflected it. Many which we had been tougher, judging by social media.
Newcastle United need a manager prepared to lead, not deflect. It is a sizeable club and a sizeable challenge. Both the club and the managerial position have been sullied this year and that is not an agenda, it is just a reflection of what I have seen.
Blaming others takes the conversation away from Pardew, just as Lee Charnley did with his blithe opening statement on getting the Managing Director job at St James’ Park. But Pardew is at the centre of it. This is Ashley’s club and Ashley’s mess, but with this squad Pardew has underperformed since the turn of the year.
Stoke are reeling them in. The Cups were surrendered before January. Europe was never a realistic target for a man who has taken every opportunity to run down the Europa League. When things were going for him, he dedicated wins to Ashley. Why is he surprised that supporters have turned? Does he think a few newspaper articles did that?
It has become apparent over recent weeks that his race is run. Behind closed doors, Pardew talks of rebuilding in the summer. He wants a fair few of these players out of the door: has written off Hatem Ben Arfa and was criticised by the player in a furious scene in the dressing room last week.
He believes there is a sizeable transfer kitty and sees an opportunity for redemption. He thinks strikers and midfielders will be signed: believes money from Ben Arfa’s sale and others will be re-invested.
But is he the right man to lead this? Ashley has been unconvinced at various points but he sticks with him. After Meyler in particular, he has Pardew exactly where he needs him. He will never address the real problems at the club, just the ones that buy him time.
So it is no surprise supporters are beginning to get vocal about his own job security. He seems affronted by the suggestion: he certainly hasn’t confronted it head-on. If he imagines that this end of the season will be quickly forgotten, he is mistaken. Cynicism is seeping into the DNA at St James’ Park. They will start on the back foot next season partly because of him.
“He has to gain the trust of the players,” Pardew said about Ben Arfa the other week. Maybe he does, but does Pardew not think the same applies to the manager?