Newcastle United 3 Cardiff City 0: Mark Douglas' match analysis

New players will arrive in the summer but a new direction is needed at Newcastle United after making enemies of their own fans

Newcastle's Cheick Tiote (C) in action with Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson (L) and Peter Whittingham
Newcastle's Cheick Tiote (C) in action with Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson (L) and Peter Whittingham

This was a day when Alan Pardew won the match but lost St James’ Park.

On a remarkable and significant afternoon in the history of Newcastle United, three points and a top-10 finish could not protect him from the ill will hurled from the stands every time he stepped out of the dug out.

By the end he cut a desperate and diminished figure as John Carver doled out instructions to Newcastle’s players on his behalf and it must have cut this proud manager deep to end a season that once promised so much like this.

No reasonable person could have taken pleasure in seeing Pardew suffer like this, just as the thousand or so who walked out must have agonised over leaving the stadium on 60 and 69 minutes. But after months of feeling disenfranchised, patronised and divorced from those who run their club, they felt like a stand had to be taken and they have the sympathy of this correspondent. The agenda, for the first time in a long time, has been set by the supporters. You are powerless no more.

Pardew is sharp enough to have absorbed the message conveyed by the walk-outs, the chants and the derision. He lost this snap referendum and with it, surely the mandate to carry the Magpies into the next phase of the uncertain Mike Ashley era.

 

The manager promised to “take stock” afterwards. He will not quit and has no idea what Ashley has in store for him when the pair meet later this month. In truth, no-one does – not even the players who trudged around St James’ Park for the lap of honour that was not supposed to happen.

Pardew will hope that Ashley’s famously brass neck is not for turning but it says it all that a Joe Kinnear-style curve ball would be a blessed relief for a boss who has been badly bruised after being hung out to dry by his owner in the January transfer window.

His defence will be that a top ten finish in the most incredible of circumstances represents a triumph and in a way, it does. Without any reinforcements in either the summer or the January window, working under the shadow of the incompetent Kinnear, having sold the most creative midfielder the club has had since Kevin Keegan’s first stint in charge, his team have never looked in danger of going down.

He deserves credit for that. There have been significant mistakes though, and a failure to stamp his mark on this squad or carve out a discernible playing style over the recent months might count against him when Ashley considers whether he is the man to be entrusted with such an important rebuilding job.

On Saturday, the themes of this inconsistent season were condensed into 90 minutes. Newcastle started well and scored when Shola Ameobi nodded his second in successive home games past David Marshall.

They wobbled badly in the middle and as the toxic clouds of discontent started to loom Pardew dispensed with ideology and pragmatically stuck Steven Taylor into a five-man defence to repel Cardiff. Goals from Loic Remy and Taylor finished the job, by which time many had left.

It was a much-needed win. It was needed even more in January, though, when the same visitors came to town in an FA Cup match which began the second half of the season spiral. Newcastle and Pardew were never the same after the third-round defeat which effectively ended their season.

The protests will take top billing. Hundreds left on the hour mark, hundreds more on 69 minutes – although most of the 50,000-odd stayed in their seats. This was not a united action, but it was not the damp squib that some had presumed and hoped for. Along with the rest of the songs and chants it made a statement.

It was not, as some have tried to portray it, a stand against United’s failure to challenge for the Premier League title or European qualification. It was not a protest at a ninth-place finish or a lack of transfer window sparkle either.

It was a concerted show of discontent at the cynicism and duplicity that has pock-marked this campaign from the moment Kinnear was allowed to peddle lies about the football club on national radio while picking up a Newcastle United wage. On Saturday, after what has seemed like death by a thousand cuts this season, breaking point arrived and it made for a poisonous and unpleasant atmosphere.

Ashley remains locked in this unhappy marriage, largely by accident rather than design.

His ability to ride out the storm last summer and in January means there is a transfer kitty to be spent this close season and he is minded to do just that to protect his investment. That means there will be plenty of new faces the next time the squad convenes for a Premier League match on Tyneside.

The talk is of exciting targets and a substantial upgrade on the team that reversed six defeats in a row. They will be ruthless: Ameobi is one of those on his way.

What is really needed, though, is a new direction and new approach: a constructive, positive and engaging one that has learned the lessons from this season, when United have made too many enemies. They cannot afford not to plot a new path.

On Saturday, it felt like they had succeeded in making enemies of their own fans – and that is simply untenable.

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