• Premier League

Pardew protests planned with Newcastle future in doubt

John Brewin | ESPNFC
September 17, 2014
Fans' frustration with Alan Pardew's management at Newcastle is close to fever pitch © Getty Images

It's hardly a good sign when a club's assistant manager is rowing with fans even before the team manages to humiliatingly lose 4-0 at Southampton. John Carver, a proud Geordie usually seen as a fan on the coaching staff, was defending Alan Pardew, but the Newcastle manager is fast running out of other admirers.

Carver's outburst against supporters waving a bed-sheet emblazoned with "Pardew Out" was highly telling evidence of a club fraying at its very edges. A common outsiders' view is that Newcastle are never more than a couple of defeats away from implosion, but the truth is that the Pardew schism has deep foundations that were augmented last season, a second successive dismal campaign.

"It's coming to a head even earlier than we thought it was going to," Mark Douglas, Newcastle United editor for local newspapers Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun, tells ESPN. "Though it was only a matter of time before it all kicked off again."

Newcastle assistant manager John Carver was seen rowing with fans © Getty Images

Pardew's presence as lone public frontman for Mike Ashley makes him hugely unpopular in a city suspicious of the reclusive owner's motives. "We are together and this win is for Mike Ashley and all Newcastle fans, because believe it or not, he is a fan," said the manager last November after Chelsea had been defeated 2-0 at St James' Park. Aligning Ashley with the common fan was a deeply unpopular choice of words.

United's inability to get results - 16 defeats from 24 Premier League matches in 2014 - make Pardew a sitting target. Fans are making their feelings clear. "Sack Pardew" is the name of the website that "documents his failures as a manager and will continue to highlight them until there is a change." Its "Excuses" section, includes such gems as "we couldn't move the game to Sunday because of the Notting Hill Carnival," has become a social media hit.

"Pride. Passion. Belief," it declares. "Three fundamental elements that all supporters require to unite behind their team. The fans will always bring passion, but the club and the manager must enable them to be proud and to believe through their actions and words."

A summer of reasonable transfer business - at least compared to the previous year, when only Loic Remy on loan arrived - had generated a modicum of optimism. As well as Dutch duo Siem de Jong and Daryl Janmaat plus fellow Frenchman Emmanuel Riviere, Remy Cabella was signposted as the player who could replace Yohan Cabaye, the playmaker whose January sale to PSG precipitated a slide from challenging for a Champions League place to 10th, with just 12 points collected from the last 15 matches.

Pardew's alliance with Ashley may be what damns him in the eyes of most supporters, but it is also his strongest line of defence

Resolute relegation form, then, which has continued into 2014-15 as Cabella has so far failed to impose himself. An embryonic league table sees Newcastle bottom. Saturday's home match with Hull City, for which a fans' protest is being planned, has the capability of turning nasty for Pardew, especially as Steve Bruce, his opposite number, is one of the names linked with succeeding him. Tony Pulis, David Moyes and Tim Sherwood are three other candidates seen as viable replacements.

Another potential nemesis lies in wait. Hatem Ben Arfa was sold to Hull on a deadline day, a move Douglas describes as "political suicide." For all the Frenchman's frequent unreliability, the Toon Army adored him for his capability of unleashing occasional brilliance. Another accusation laid against Pardew is his failure to get the best from Ben Arfa, and make him a centrepiece once Cabaye had gone.

Pardew's alliance with Ashley may be what damns him in the eyes of most supporters, but it is also his strongest line of defence. Widespread reports this week suggest that Ashley, present at the Southampton debacle, is prepared to wait far longer than four matches for signs of improvement. The Daily Telegraph became the latest publication to be banned from St James' Park and club media briefings after last week claiming that Pardew had just two matches to save his job.

Newcastle's results have made Alan Pardew a sitting target © Getty Images

That followed a series of whispers that Ashley had redirected attention towards Rangers - the Scottish giant making its way back up the divisions after bankruptcy in June 2012 - and in which he already holds a 4.5% share. Yet, last week, in a rare public utterance, Ashley dampened speculation, by pulling out of a fund-raising share issue. "I will not be participating in the open offer which closes at 11 a.m. today," Ashley said in a one-line statement.

"The truth is Mike Ashley remains committed to Newcastle United," said a follow-up club missive. "For the avoidance of doubt, this means that for the remainder of this season and AT LEAST until the end of next season Mike Ashley will not, under any circumstances, sell Newcastle United at any price. The club cannot be stronger in stating its position on this matter."

This was a rare revealing of intent but suspicions continue. That summer 2016 date coincides with Rangers' possible entry into the Champions League, should they return to Scotland's top division and win the league at the first go. Such summations are strictly guesswork, since in his eight years in control of Newcastle, Ashley has surprised at almost every turn.

It was he who brought club legend Kevin Keegan back to manage the team in January 2008, only for the arrival of Dennis Wise as director of football to depth-charge Keegan's powerbase and force his eventual resignation.

Ashley twice brought Joe Kinnear to Newcastle, a man out of time and whose sole purpose often appeared to be that of provocateur of both media and fans. The ending of Kinnear's eight-month presence as director of football in February, after not a single permanent transfer signing, actually removed a significant vein of excuse for Pardew to mine.

Taking such perversity in mind, it would present little surprise if Ashley allows Pardew to survive for some time yet, even if any bond the manager might have enjoyed with Newcastle supporters is shattered beyond repair.

Hull's Hatem Ben Arfa was a fans' favourite at Newcastle and could return to haunt Alan Pardew on Saturday © Getty Images

Based in London, from where he covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC, John Brewin also reported from the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and was formerly a senior editor of ESPNsoccernet.

This article originally appeared on ESPNFC.com

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