Another week in Premiership, another week of "a win will surely see Newcastle through" talk from the pundits, and another listless Newcastle performance on Saturday leaves much in the air for this season, as well as next.
Manager Alan Pardew says he wants three more points so he can "put an eye towards next year." He said this before the derby. He repeated it before the West Brom match, and the same refrain was heard before Newcastle returned home to face Liverpool. And yet, at times, it seems as if Pardew and his players already have an eye for the summer. Make no mistake, the lads are hurting and are eager to get to the off-season to heal up from a brutal campaign that saw European obligations. But, if Newcastle can't find their legs for a good solid 90 minutes, they may very well find themselves in the Championship, with nearly no hope of returning to the European stage quickly.
Alan Pardew himself is a major question mark. The Daily Telegraph was eager to shout that Pardew is "fighting for his job" It is the Telegraph, so take it with a grain of salt (indeed, there is nothing in the article to suggest the club is considering a change, under than maybe the underlying current of losing a combined 9-0 in your last two home matches might mean changes are in order), but within the fan base, the tide has turned undoubtedly against the embattled manager. Even after Sunderland, when the whispers of "PardewOut" grew louder, there was still a contingent that advocated staying the course. Those seeking change grew in numbers after a terrible second half at West Brom, and Pardew has nary a supporter on the terraces now after a historically humiliating defeat. To his credit, Pardew said the fans had every right to boo him and Newcastle after Saturday's match.
That still leaves the questions of who will be donning the black-and-white stripes next season. Hatem Ben Arfa has repeatedly said that he'll stay Tyneside, though considering he has been linked to Liverpool, it isn't hard to imagine yesterday as one 90-minute recruiting pitch. It is likely that Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini will be gone. Coloccini's absence has been a huge blow to the club, and one wonders how much his presence may have aided Newcastle's back line in recent weeks. For what it's worth, Captain Colo may return at West Ham next weekend.
But, the biggest question of them all is where will Newcastle play this season. After three weeks of needing one win to put aside relegation fears, Newcastle have yet to put that question to bed. Though the sight of West Ham (who have just four wins from their last 11 matches) and QPR (who are all but officially relegated) may give some hope, those matches come on the road. Newcastle have only won once away from St. James' Park this season. The season ends when Arsenal come to the Northeast. The prospect of beating a top four club to save our season doesn't sound very appealing, and as much as the road has been bad to Newcastle, St. James' Park has not been the fortress, let alone friendly confines, we'd like it to be.
While time is running out for Pardew and the club to find their answers for this season, it should be noted that a pair of good results next weekend should see Newcastle home safely. A Newcastle win and a loss by either Wigan or Aston Villa would do a lot to put relegation fears to rest. It will take some inspiration though for Newcastle to hold up their end, and inspiration has been somewhat lacking on Tyneside as of late.