AS the pressure mounts on Alan Pardew, the under-fire boss last night admitted that Newcastle United’s fans have been left short-changed during an alarming sequence of results which has already heightened concerns for next season.
A 14th defeat from 19 games was suffered at Arsenal on Monday night when strong sections of the Magpies' 2,000 travelling support directed their anger towards the boss for the second away day in a row.
Criticism of Pardew has grown during the club's worst losing streak since the 1986-87 season following a series of lacklustre performances which would have seen Newcastle lie 19th in the Premier League on 2014 form.
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There is even understood to be some fans considering a walk-out of St James’ Park on the hour of this Saturday’s final home game when relegation threatened Cardiff City pay a visit to Tyneside to protest.
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has so far chosen to ignore calls to sack Pardew and it is understood a meeting is not planned until the end of the season, when the manager will attempt to outline what is required to avoid a repeat of the slump.
A much-publicised rift with the squad's most creative, and volatile, player, Hatem Ben Arfa, has not helped the situation either and that has been used against Pardew.
Dutch midfielder Vurnon Anita, so often the man willing to discuss the team's good or bad performances, is well aware of the focus on Pardew. He thinks the remaining two games with Cardiff and Liverpool could save the season.
Asked if Pardew can lift the squad after the latest defeat, Anita said: “Yes, yes. I think at Arsenal we started well. Then they got a set-play and scored from it. We must keep on going and try to smile.
“Yes, we heard (what the fans were chanting about the manager). We must try to focus on doing our job and do our best. If we can do that then that would also be good for the manager.
“We know the fans are not happy, of course. We must keep going and stay positive. We have to work hard and try to enjoy it when we go out on to the pitch and deliver in games.”
A failure to win in either of the next two games could actually see Newcastle drop out of the Premier League's top ten; the target spelled out by Ashley at the start of the campaign.
The prospect of falling in to the bottom half never looked likely after a promising opening few months which even threatened to end in a battle for a Europe berth.
Then Yohan Cabaye was sold to Paris St Germain and leading scorer Loic Remy - due to return to QPR at the end of his loan next month - was missing for a large chunk of games and Newcastle's form dipped significantly.
“On the training ground we work very hard to do everything better,” said Anita. “In the games we have seen plenty of stages where we are playing well, but still the opposition score more than us.
“Losing at Arsenal is another set-back, this run has been a big set-back, but we have to keep going and to bring enjoyment back to our football - and try to win.
“We know about the top ten target, indeed. Still we want to win most of the games we play. That has not been the case. The target has been top ten and we must work hard in the last two games to achieve that.
“It's not just about finishing in the top ten, it's about the players going in to the summer with good feelings. We need to try to end it well. For the fans as well it is important they go on vacation with similar feelings from a couple of wins.”
Given the extent of the slump suffered by Newcastle, it will be difficult for Pardew to win back the fans critical of him before the final whistle blows at Liverpool on May 11.
The Newcastle boss, named manager of the year after guiding Newcastle to fifth only two seasons ago, is well aware the last few months have completely undone the fine work achieved earlier this season.
He said: “If we finish top ten, we have to reflect on the second half of the season and make sure we don't get ourselves in that position again.
“We have to make sure we are stronger in the second half of the season because maybe we over stepped the mark a bit in that first half.
“I think we gave good value for money in the first half. In the second half we haven't. We have to make sure we give full value in the investment we have for the full 38 games during a season.”
NEWCASTLE’S WOEFUL FORM
SINCE hammering Stoke City 5-1 at St James’ Park on Boxing Day, Newcastle’s season has nose dived. The Magpies have lost 14 of their last 19 matches, increasing the pressure on manager Alan Pardew.
December 29 – Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1
January 1 – West Brom 1 Newcastle 0
January 4 – Newcastle 1 Cardiff City 2 (FA Cup)
January 12 – Newcastle 0 Manchester City 2
January 18 - West Ham 1 Newcastle 3
January 28 - Norwich 0 Newcastle 0
February 1 – Newcastle 0 Sunderland 3
February 8 – Chelsea 3 Newcastle 0
February 12 – Newcastle 0 Tottenham 4
February 23 – Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 0
March 1 – Hull City 1 Newcastle 4
March 15 – Fulham 1 Newcastle 0
March 22 – Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
March 25 – Newcastle 0 Everton 3
March 29 – Southampton 4 Newcastle 0
April 5 - Newcastle 0 Manchester United 4
April 12 - Stoke 1 Newcastle 0
April 19 – Newcastle 1 Swansea 2
April 28 – Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0
TOTAL: P19 W4 D1 L14 F13 A36