Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is feeling the pressure as Newcastle sit 3 points out of the relegation places with two matches left in what was intended to be a fantastic season on the occasion of the club's return to the European stage. Nothing has gone as planned this season, and a combination of injuries, poor personnel decisions and injuries have derailed anything positive gained from last year's Premier League season. None of this is news, really. It has all fed into the #PardewIn/#PardewOut debate that has largely occupied Toon fans over the last several weeks (longer in some corners) ... but until now, there had been little by way of confirmation that Alan Pardew's position was anything but solid in the eyes of Sports Direct Supreme Potentate Mike Ashley. The first signs that his position may be on slightly less than solid footing may have appeared thanks to our friends at The Telegraph, The Chronicle and others - out of the mouth of Alan Scott Pardew, Esq. himself.
While it's not at all surprising that talk would eventually turn this direction with Newcastle United's Premier League future still in doubt, many of the quotes in Luke Edwards' most recent episode of "Luke Saves The Toon" simultaneously surprise and fill in gaps in what we know about this season on Tyneside (or at least what we thought we knew).
"We know we’ve got an uncomfortable conversation regarding the form this year, the underachievement that’s been mentioned and everything else.
"It’ll be uncomfortable for us both, because we’ve both underachieved. Him as an owner and me as a manager.
That's right- not only has Alan Pardew explicitly admitted that he has not performed up to standards this season, but he feels strongly enough that he is wiling to take a (deserved) shot at his drinking buddy. Surely this is largely tied to the lack of reinforcement to the squad ahead of what promised to be a taxing schedule even had they strengthened over the summer. Although without sourcing and no link to any previous Telegraph article verifying the information (of course), Edwards states that Pardew agreed to give the Academy grown talent a chance to break into and contribute to the first team early in the season. While this is an easy jump to make based on the roles given to players such as Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson, Mehdi Abeid and Haris Vuçkiç, it seems a dangerous decision to have been reached with the stakes being what they were this season - particularly on the heels of the Great Academy Purge of 2012 last January. It would, however, explain a great deal about the "Kids Aren't Alright Tour" in the final Europa League group stage tie with Bordeaux. At the time the squad selection seemed like a middle finger aimed squarely at the upper management of the club, and if it was not completely Alan Pardew's idea to buy in on the youth instead of reinforcing over the summer, it would most assuredly seem that it was.
Oddly, if Alan Pardew is to keep his job, it may be that decision (assuming he was not fully complicit with it) that could be one of the determining factors. If it was his position that the youth weren't ready (as they clearly were not) and he was forced into trusting them as the business model dictates - AND the complete and utter tactical failings of this season are ignored - he may just have a leg to stand on in these "clear the air talks".
Also - we must absolutely thank Luke Edwards for saving Newcastle United - because he says so:
That had led to some players moaning about Pardew and his tactics behind the scenes, which was in danger of leading to a damaging split in the squad, until it was exposed by The Daily Telegraph last week. The players have since rallied together and insist they are a fully united dressing room, but Ashley will not have been impressed.
--Luke Saves The Toon, Part II