Newcastle United find themselves in no-man’s land after their devastating FA Cup defeat to Cardiff.
They’ve gone out in the third round two years running, but this is probably worse than last year because all the signs were the manager fancied a run in the Cup. It wasn’t an easy game by any means, but at home and against a struggling Cardiff team you’d have backed Newcastle to make it through, so it will be a hammer blow for Alan Pardew to go out the way they did.
Now my question is where do they go from here? What have they got left to play for? Without the Cup competitions what can get the supporters excited?
Simply staying in the top ten isn’t enough for a club of Newcastle’s size, whatever they say but what else is there? The Champions League is miles away at the moment because there are six massive clubs chasing those four spots and in my heart of hearts I don’t know whether Newcastle want that Europa League qualification again. It hurt them big time last season.
I can see it from their point of view. The Europa League might be good for the players to play in but for the manager it’s a bit of a nightmare. There’s a lot of finance involved in trying to bring in players, then there’s the travelling and it’s a strain on the squad. Do they really want that? I’m not convinced.
That leaves them in a tricky situation with the supporters because they can’t let this season fizzle out. Now Alan has to find a way to make sure that doesn’t happen – they’ve been on an unbelievable run and they don’t want to waste that. I feel really sorry for the supporters because it’s a massive club – it’s my boyhood club – with a passionate set of fans and they deserve to have something to play for. Saturday was devastating for them and for Alan, who will be hurting this week.
The manager will take a lot of criticism for the manner of the Cup exit and some will argue he should have picked the same team as he did in the Premier League, which would mean two of the club’s best performers this year, Loic Remy and Mike Williamson, being involved from the start. I think managers are in an impossible position. There’s too many games over this period: you play Boxing Day, December 28 and January 1 and it’s ridiculous to go into an FA Cup game straight after that. I don’t think the manager had any choice but to make changes and I looked at his team from the outside and thought: ‘That is a good side.’ Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa are quality players and the team was good enough from one to eleven.
It was a chance for those fringe players to impress. If I was a player on the outside of it at Newcastle I would have made a point of knocking on Alan’s door and saying: ‘If I play well on Saturday I want to play against Manchester City.’ I know Alan, I know the kind of manager he is and he would have loved one of those players to do that.
As a player, you give him a headache by playing well but they didn’t respond and they’ve made his job easier.
He will turn around now and make six changes because the lads who played against Cardiff haven’t been good enough. They’ve got no comeback now.
I played for Alan at West Ham and I know John Carver really well. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s unbelievably good at setting teams up so the way they conceded the goal will have really hurt him. No Newcastle side with that management team will ever accept conceding from set-plays.
I don’t think Alan’s job is under pressure and I hope it isn’t. I think he’s the man to get things going again at Newcastle.
I have to lay my cards on the table and admit that I had a few fall-outs with Alan when I was at West Ham but it was off-the-pitch stuff. I’d just lost my dad and I don’t think he handled it very well, but it was personal stuff.
As a manager I think he’s good. Get his tracksuit on and he’s a very, very, very good coach. He knows his football, he studies his football and he’s a really good coach. His record at West Ham was superb: two play-off finals and a Cup final. And yes he had a dodgy patch last year, but I think that was down to the Europa League.
The Sunderland loss will have hurt him this season, but they’d been on fire since then.
Now he has to find a way to respond and get Newcastle believing again.