Full-time: Newcastle United 0 Sunderland 3
ANOTHER harrowing derby; another day from a black-and-white perspective where the absentees at St James' Park were more relevant than those attending.
No Yohan Cabaye, sold to the highest bidder despite still having more than two years of his contract to run. No replacement for the Frenchman either, with piecemeal attempts to sign Lyon's Clement Grenier having been aborted long before the transfer window closed on Friday.
And most significantly of all, no Mike Ashley or Joe Kinnear to witness the latest shaming of a club that once again finds itself riven with recrimination and strife.
Like an absentee landlord unconcerned at his property going to wrack and ruin, Ashley was nowhere to be seen as Newcastle suffered a third successive derby defeat for the first time since the 1920s. Kinnear, his right-hand man, was not at St James' either, but then it's impossible to know where he has been or what he has been doing in the eight months since he was appointed as the world's only transfer supremo who doesn't complete transfers.
Disinterested, disengaged or dissuaded from attending because their presence might have proved disruptive? Either way, their absence meant the focus once again fell on Alan Pardew as Newcastle crashed to a thoroughly deserved defeat that renders their eighth-placed position irrelevant when it comes to assessing the state of things on Tyneside.
It was Pardew who had to watch his players collapse in the most heartless of fashions, Pardew who had to witness supporters running on to the field in an attempt to fling their season tickets in his face and Pardew who had to confront the media after the game in order to account for the events of the last seven days.
There are two interpretations of Pardew's role at Newcastle. The first is that he is a decent bloke doing his best in exceptionally difficult circumstances, effectively managing with one hand tied behind his back. He has to make the most of the cards he is dealt by those above him, and they generally amount to a pretty bad hand.
The second is that he knew what he was getting into when he took on the job and is therefore complicit in everything that Ashley, Kinnear and the rest of the so-called 'Cockney Mafia' are doing to damage the club. His powerlessness is therefore part of the problem rather than a symptom of failures that are outside his remit.
On which side of the coin do you fall? Well here's a transcript of Saturday's post-match briefing with the daily press in which an attempt was made to address the issue head on:
Q: It’s a tough question to ask you but is the club, as it stands, capable of making permanent signings?
Pardew: “Well …”
Press officer: “I think that’s an unfair one to ask the manager.”
Q: But it’s two transfer windows without one now and Alan said …
Pardew: “I’ve got no comment to make on that one.”
Q: You said at the start of last week that the club can’t not replace Yohan, but that’s exactly what happened.
Pardew: “I didn’t particularly say in this window though. I said, you know, we’ve got to get players of that class, there’s no doubt about that. So don’t try and angle that for this window because I think that’s unfair on me.”
Q: You said ‘We need to bring someone in, for sure. We can’t lose someone of his quality and not replace him. That would leave us vulnerable’. Do you stand by that?
Pardew: “Well, I’ve said it, ain’t I? But I’m meaning in the long-term as well as the short-term, that it’s the quality we need. And, you know, today has been a tough day for us and I don’t really want to add any more to it, to be honest.
Q: Part of the problem you’ve got is that if you don’t speak out against not getting a replacement it makes it look as though you’re going along with the decisions the board is making and therefore you get criticism heaped on your shoulders and take the blame for that.
Pardew: “Yeah, I’m a professional manager. You know, if I was in charge, solely, of transfers, the answer might be different, but I’m not.”
Q: It does feel sometimes that you’re being asked to manage with your hands tied behind your back.
Press officer: “These are all quite unfair questions.”
Q: Unfortunately the manager is the only person who will speak for the club.
Q: Alan, is there a collective blame for today, from the top of the club, right down to on the pitch.
Pardew: “The only way I can answer what has happened today is that it’s a disappointing day for the club.”
Q: What do you say to Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear when you’re having those discussions on Friday and it’s clear you’re not going to get a replacement (for Cabaye)? Do you make your opinions clear on that?
Pardew: “I think I’ve made my opinion very clear this week and all the rest of it is confidentiality.”
Any clearer? Possibly not, although Pardew's acceptance that 'if he was solely in charge of transfers the answer might be different, but he's not' is the closest he has come to an admission that his ability to influence Ashley and Kinnear over issues of recruitment is practically non existent.
One thing the exchange displays is the extent of the political minefield that Pardew has to negotiate, and whatever you think of the rights or wrongs of the 52-year-old's conduct, it cannot be healthy to have an environment where the manager of a football club holds such little power when those above him are either incapable or unwilling to adequately execute their roles.
If Newcastle had a functioning director of football model, Pardew could get on with being a head coach safe in the knowledge that others were working diligently to ensure the recruitment process was operating smoothly.
They don't though, so you're left with an autocracy where Ashley's power is absolute and his refusal to adequately invest is damaging the club and bringing about days such as Saturday.
In the last five years, a comparison of Newcastle's transfer fees paid against the sums they have received for selling players reveals a surplus of £25m. Only two other clubs (Arsenal and Everton) also have surpluses, while the figure for Sunderland reveals a net spend of £46.9m.
If Pardew was replaced by another manager, that would not change, because if an alternative boss attempted to stand up to Ashley or confront him publicly via an exchange with the press, they would be out on their ear. From personal experience, Kevin Keegan can explain how that works.
Everything comes back to Ashley, and his primary concern is cash in the bank. So with that as your modus operandi, should a third successive derby defeat really be so much of a surprise?