It is barely four games into the new season but already there’s something of a crisis unfolding at St James’ Park. With just two points from four games and a goal difference already of -6, Newcastle United sit bottom of the Premier League.
Fans are already up in arms with signs wanting manager Alan Pardew ousted from the club, a remnant from last season’s dismal finish to the season which saw protests from large sections of spectators, still prevalent at games.
Assistant manager John Carver remonstrated with a number of Newcastle supporters who unfurled a large “Pardew Out” banner at their recent away trip to Southampton. Hardly ideal preparation before a game and that 4-0 thumping away to Southampton hardly helped change the view of many Newcastle fans that Pardew is simply owner Mike Ashley’s puppet and that the club not only need a change at manager, but perhaps a change in owner.
Add into this the fact that the club has invested heavily in new players over the summer with precious little to show for it (one win from five games and that a 1-0 away win in the Capital One Cup to Gillingham) and that for many the club’s best player, Hatem Ben Arfa, is now out on loan at rivals Hull City and you have a club that is rife with discontent. St James’ Park cannot be a happy place to play or watch games at present.
Of course, while supporters direct their ire at manager Alan Pardew for the run which has seen them lose 16 of their last 24 league games, there is also a feeling of unease with the owner. Mike Ashley made his vast personal fortune from Sports Direct and when the local boy made good took over his hometown club, it looked like a marriage made in heaven.
It certainly hasn’t turned out that way with Ashley seemingly intent on running the club his way, regardless of the feelings of the supporters. Results on the field, bar one season, have not been good enough. The Joe Kinnear situation rankled with fans who felt he brought nothing but outdated ideas to the club and didn’t even seem to know which players were in the team.
In November 2013 Kinnear reportedly remarked (although he denies it) that he went to watch a lower division match involving Birmingham City and was impressed by a player called Shane Ferguson who he felt the club should buy. The only problem for Kinnear being that Ferguson was already a Newcastle United player and was on loan at Birmingham City.
Pardew’s appointment and subsequent seven-contract may have been designed to bring stability to the club. Indeed, Newcastle did well in the 2011-2012 season, qualifying for the Champions League and the future, with Papiss Cisse looking like the striker the club so desperately needed, looked rosy.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as hoped. Since then Newcastle have faded and have spent most of the season in mid-table anonymity or fighting the drop. Even a bright start last season gave way to a miserable finish to the season which saw the club lose 14 of their last 20 Premier League matches.
At most Premier League clubs, a manager who undergoes such a run of form is almost a certainty to get the sack. That would be the case at almost every club, but as yet, Ashley shows absolutely no interest in removing Alan Pardew from his post.
Pardew meanwhile battles on but it is an invidious task for the ex-Crystal Palace midfielder. His team are making basic mistakes defensively, they look erratic at best going forward and are seemingly devoid of the creativity and flair needed to score goals regularly at this level. Of all his summer signings, only Remy Cabella looks to have the class Newcastle would need to improve on last season so far.
Pardew and his team’s task is not made any easier by the lack of support for the manager. Indeed, their is almost a case of twisted Schadenfreude every time Newcastle fans witness a defeat as although it means another loss and another miserable weekend, it must surely be one game close to Pardew’s exit.
But is it?
As we have seen in the past, Mike Ashley is not a man to be persuaded by the typical football fan. The larger than life chairman has ignored threats to him and his family and refuses to be bowed by public pressure to sack Pardew.
Some have speculated that Ashley wants out of the club and that he is looking to sell Newcastle United as soon as he can. A report in the Daily Telegraph in September 2014 stated that Ashley wanted to sell Newcastle and buy Glasgow Rangers.
However in response to that Newcastle United banned the Daily Telegraph’s journalists from St James’ Park and issued a forceful denial of the story, calling it “wholly inaccurate” and stating that at least until the end of the 2015-2016 season, “Mike Ashley will not, under any circumstances, sell Newcastle United at any price.”
The crux of the matter is that it is impossible to run a successful football club under such a climate. Even if the chairman and the fans cannot agree, there needs to be a common ground- a shared vision and collective goal. At present, there is a distinct lack of it and it threatens the Premier League future of the club.
Alan Pardew is, I believe, a decent manager but it is impossible to defend a run of results and some of the performances his teams have put in. While many Newcastle fans may want him sack, some of his players have played like they wanted precisely the same thing at times.
For that reason alone, Mike Ashely needs to sack Alan Pardew. His position is untenable. Everyone can see it.
Bar the one person who can do something about it.
Until something gives here, Newcastle will be stuck in a downward spiral and unless proactive action is taken sooner rather than later, either by the chairman or the manager in improving performances radically, then there is only one place that leads to – The Championship.
That would be a great shame as a Newcastle united should be challenging at least in the top half, every season.
A Newcastle divided however, is only likely to head in the opposite direction.