ALAN Pardew is confident Newcastle United are back on an even keel, but admits the club's recent struggles have exposed failings in his own management and the attitude of the board.
The Magpies take on Fulham at Craven Cottage tonight hoping to build on last week's much-needed win over Wigan and haul themselves closer to the top half of the table.
Last Monday's 3-0 win over the Latics ended a run of four straight Premier League defeats, a sequence that represented the club's worst run in the league for more than four years.
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In the whole of November, Newcastle picked up just one point from five matches, and Pardew concedes he felt compelled to hold a root-and-branch assessment of his training and tactics.
A number of changes have ensued, with the club's board also asking some soul-searching questions of their own performance since the end of last season.
This summer's failure to recruit the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Douglas is now widely interpreted as an error, and Pardew is clearly hoping he will be given the green light to address his squad's chronic lack of depth when the transfer window reopens next month.
“This spell certainly made me question a few things that we have done,” said the Newcastle boss, who is hoping to welcome Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez back into his starting line-up tonight. “Whenever you get a blip like that, it makes you get on your mettle and change a few things.
“That is what we have done. To be honest, we have changed quite a few things actually. We have had a look at things, and I think it is also time for the board to have a little look at things as well, about what has gone on.
“They have done that as well. So all of us have had to readjust a little bit. From that perspective, it has been valuable, but I certainly wouldn't say I have enjoyed the bad spell because I do not enjoy losing. I have been miserable.”
This evening's game offers the chance for more positive progress, and also provides Pardew with a chance to eradicate the memory of two of his most difficult days as Newcastle manager.
Two seasons ago, the Magpies travelled to Craven Cottage two days after Andy Carroll had been sold to Liverpool without a replacement, and watched one of their few remaining strikers, Shola Ameobi, sustain a serious injury in a tame 1-0 defeat.
This January, things were even worse as Newcastle suffered a defensive implosion as they crashed to a 5-2 defeat that saw concede all five goals in the space of 37 minutes.
“The first game was a miserable game and a miserable dressing room before we even started,” said Pardew. “The loss of Andy Carroll a few days earlier and the fact no one came in definitely hit us hard. We could not get away from that and never really managed to get out of that mode for the whole of the game.
“Last year was possibly the best we had played since I had been here in the first half. But in the second half, it just all went wrong. I have to say we learnt a lot from both games. I am hoping I learn a lot from the next one, but on a more positive note.”
The impending return of Ben Arfa and Gutierrez should help, with the former earmarked for a more central role following the loss of Yohan Cabaye.
Cabaye will be sidelined until February after undergoing groin surgery, and with Cheik Tiote also set to be missing for most of next month as he represents Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations, Ben Arfa is likely to be a pivotal performer in the hole behind the Newcastle attack.
“That is a definite possibility for me,” said Pardew. “I was very disappointed to lose him in the Maritimo game (when he played in the hold but suffered an early hamstring injury) because I wanted to see a full 90 minutes of him performing that role.
“He is going to put the ball at risk there, but on the plus side, he's also going to really increase the flair in and around the central areas. I am sure there will be games where I think it is right to put him there or even start with him there.”