I was doing some work for a spread betting company on Friday night and I was asked who I fancied in the weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
This is not a great time to put your hand in your pocket, in my experience.
I know how nervy things can get in dressing rooms up and down the country at this time of year so you can expect a few strange results.
Suddenly, sure things aren’t quite so rock solid, as Crystal Palace’s impressive win against Chelsea proved.
There was, however, one game that stood out like a home banker to me: Southampton to beat Newcastle handsomely. It was nailed on.
Newcastle have a horrible look about them at the moment. As soon as they concede one goal they look like they’re going to capitulate. There’s no leadership and there’s no direction on that pitch.
I’m sorry but for me, the problems go right to the top of the club. I mean, what kind of Premier League club or owner would allow a manager to be banned from the stadium and the touchline when the team is playing as badly as Newcastle have been and to keep his job?
Alan Pardew is adamant that it’s not had an effect on the results but look at what has happened since the incident at Hull. A manager does some of his best work in the dressing room just before the game, it’s where he needs to be on a matchday and because of his own actions he has lost that right.
He was back in the stadium on Saturday but it made no difference. More worryingly, the team looked to be in complete disarray at Southampton.
Players were confronting each other on the pitch, they conceded easy goals – it was the kind of thing that you normally see where something’s not right.
For me it boils down to one thing: do the players really want to be there? Who in that squad really, truly wants to be at Newcastle United next season?
It’s a sad question to be asking of Newcastle’s squad because it is one of the biggest clubs in the country, which it should be a privilege to play for. I think the messages coming from the top have changed everything in that dressing room, it has drained the motivation and had an effect.
I would love to strap a lie detector test to every member of that squad and ask them that simple question. I bet the results would shock you: I think that at least 50% of that dressing room would leave if they got the chance.
I look at players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Fabricio Coloccini and they are playing like they want to be elsewhere. Coloccini is the captain but he has already said he wants to leave.
That is not to criticise the mentality or character of some of those lads, who are good guys who you might want in a dressing room. With players like Cheick Tiote and Tim Krul, if we get right to the heart of the matter do they want to be there?
If someone came in for them, I’m almost certain they would listen to an offer.
That is not a criticism of them, it is just a sad reflection on the way Newcastle are going at the moment.
They sold their best player in January and didn’t buy anyone – where is the ambition or the desire to improve from the club? When that becomes the mood music around the club, players become more open to leaving.
Let’s be honest, go right to the top and ask the same question of Mike Ashley. Does he really want to be there? I don’t think he does, so it comes right from the top. It is a shambles at the top of that club right now.
Of course the owner takes a massive amount of the blame but the manager isn’t exempt. Is Alan under pressure? He can’t take many more performances like that, that’s for certain.
It shouldn’t be difficult to motivate players even when there’s nothing to play for. You aim for top four, then top six.
You have to shoot for the stars, not just finishing in the top 10 or getting to 40 points. That should never be Newcastle’s number one ambition.
It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to me if we woke up one morning to headlines about Mike Ashley sacking Alan. To be honest with that owner it is only a matter of time because of the way he operates: he’s unpredictable and I don’t know what he really thinks about that club.
From a personal perspective I think you have to look at these last six games as absolutely massive for the manager. Many other managers wouldn’t have survived this long.
People make all kinds of excuses after a performance like that and I heard Alan’s interview after the game. It was like white noise to me, the reasons he gave for the performance didn’t stack up and to be frank I think he’s not saying what he really wants to say.
So here you go, I will say it for him: what more do you expect when the owner sells my best player?
Why didn’t the board back me when we were in Europe and what am I supposed to do with no money to spend on replacements or to improve on what we had?