NEWCASTLE UNITED assistant manager John Carver insists Alan Pardew’s absence had nothing to do with the Magpies sub-standard performance against Fulham.
The Tynesiders went down 1-0 to the Cottagers, who remain bottom of the Premier League table despite claiming their first win since New Year’s Day.
Ashkan Dejagah’s 68th minute strike was enough to keep the points in southwest London, with Newcastle producing a disappointing display without their manager.
Pardew served the first of his seven-match suspension for headbutting David Meyler two weeks ago and although he watched from the team hotel and communicated with the bench via telephone, the Magpies boss couldn’t prevent this lowly defeat.
Questions have been raised as to how much of an impact Pardew’s absence would have on performances, but Carver, who stood in for the Magpies boss on the touchline, insists that didn’t affect the outcome.
“I have to say the build up to the week was normal, as it was for every game, but it was strange getting on the bus without the manager,” Carver said.
“He is the manager, he’s our leader and rightly so. Not having him on the bus was a little bit strange but once you get to the stadium and the work kicks in it was just like any other game.
“We had a couple of conversations on the telephone but it’s a bit strange when your boss isn’t here.
“I don’t think it worked against us. Like he said through the week he’s got a lot of faith in his staff. We’ve got a lot of experience in the technical area so the fact that he only contacted us twice meant he was happy with us.
“That was pleasing to know but I knew that anyway because I know what he thinks of us. We have got very good staff. I don’t think it was detrimental to the way we played.”
Newcastle could have taken the lead in London seconds before Dejagah’s winner when Papiss Cisse went through one on one with David Stockdale. The former Darlington keeper had produced a wonder save to deny the Senegal striker in the first half and that appeared to give him a physiological edge when he got a hand to the striker’s effort.
It was a chance all 2,900 travelling fans would have put their houses on Loic Remy scoring, but with him missing through injury Cisse missed his chance to gain some much-needed confidence in front of goal.
The Senegal striker hasn’t scored since the beginning of January, but Carver is confident he will take the next opportunity.
He said: “He’s just got to get his head down and continue to work at it. It’s the easiest thing to say but he’s actually doing it.
“We haven’t got a magic wand but he’s prepared to work at it. As long as he keeps getting in those positions, one of them is going to fly in the net. He’s going to take the net off. He’s got to keep believing in himself and it’s up to us the staff to make sure he doesn’t lose his confidence and has a bit of that feel good factor.
“Sometimes we might need to play little games with him to make him feel good. I have to tell you he’s worked extremely hard. I’ve been delighted with the way he wants to do extra, sometimes we’ve had to drag him in.
“He’s got a smile on his face and that’s important. As soon as he stops enjoying what he’s doing it will affect him even more. We know Loic’s out for two to three weeks and it’s an opportunity.
“We don’t have too many strikers in the club - just Luuk, Loic, Shola and young Adam (Armstrong). We’ve got to stay with it and try and build him up for the next home game.”
Carver handed Armstrong his senior debut in the 86th minute and having played Sunday morning football with his dad, the assistant boss revealed the 17-year-old has a great pedigree.
“It’s a massive moment for Adam. I actually played Sunday morning football with his dad when I finished playing and let me tell you his dad used to make tackles like Hangeland did on Luuk de Jong all the time!
“We played for the Windyke in the morning. The Denton Hotel and the Westerhope. He was a ferocious full-back who would kick his own granny!
“He was quite a fearsome guy. I know what he’s like and he’ll be so proud. He’s a west end (of Newcastle) lad, similar to me and the family will be so proud. He was here today and it was good to give this young lad a chance.
“We didn’t put him on for the sake of putting him on. He’s got a bright future in front of him. He’s only just turned 17 but I have to say he’s got a level head and he has to because of his family background.
“He’s still got a lot of work to do but it’s a good taste for him. It’s a good situation to come on in a Premier League game when you’re 17.
“You know in the North East, we love our strikers. He’s a natural goal scorer. He got in on the right hand side and I thought ‘There’s a chance to be a hero here’. He actually put it into the stand, which is unlike him because his record at youth team level and reserve team level is very good. He’s the one guy who does come alive when he gets the ball.”