ALAN PARDEW insists he will never walk away from his position as Newcastle United boss – no matter how much criticism is hurled in his direction by the club’s frustrated fans.
Having been the focus of some sustained supporters’ protests in the recent away games at Arsenal and Stoke, Pardew is expected to face more abuse when Newcastle entertain Cardiff City in their final home game of the season tomorrow.
There is a mounting campaign on social media for Magpies supporters to express their displeasure by walking out of St James’ Park at the 60-minute mark, while Pardew, who has overseen a run of six successive defeats, is also expected to receive criticism for his continued refusal to play Hatem Ben Arfa, who has been training with the club’s junior players this week.
With an end-of-season summit with owner Mike Ashley looming, Pardew could be forgiven for considering his position. However, the 52-year-old is adamant he will not be throwing in the towel, and remains confident he will guide Newcastle to a finishing position in the top half of the table.
“To get the opportunity to be manager of this club is not something I’m going to give up,” said Pardew. “I will fight for it with all I can.
“Newcastle fans have seen me in this position before. It might be a little bit stronger this time - the feeling for me to go - but it was the same last year and I didn’t walk away.
“I didn’t suddenly become weak and start hiding, and I’m not going to do that on Saturday. If I take some criticism and ridicule, whatever comes my way, I have to show the players that I’m strong enough to cope with that.
“Whatever manager you are, you are going to have some bad times, some really bad times. If you’re going to walk away, then in my view you do not have the make up to be a manager or a leader of men.
“If you’re in the middle of a field, surrounded by armies, left right and centre, you can’t just say, ‘I’ve had enough now, sorry’. It doesn’t work like that.”
Nevertheless, with discontent mounting, Pardew accepts that he can ill afford to preside over two more defeats before the season comes to an end.
One way to take the sting out of any weekend protests would be to restore Ben Arfa to the starting line-up, but that is extremely unlikely to happen, with the Frenchman potentially having played his final game for the Magpies.
Ben Arfa trained with Newcastle’s development squad yesterday, with the club’s hierarchy having taken a dim view of an unauthorised interview he conducted with sections of the French media on Wednesday evening.
OUT OF FAVOUR: Hatem Ben Arfa
During the interview, which emerged yesterday, Ben Arfa admitted he rowed with Pardew in the wake of last month’s defeat to Manchester United, but denied he had fallen out with his team-mates and reiterated his desire to make a success of his time on Tyneside.
“We had an exchange of words (after the Man United game), but that is it,” said Ben Arfa. “It is common at any team where players and the manager want to win.
“He told me I had to score more goals and get more assists for everybody’s confidence – the supporters, the players and him. I said, ‘Okay – but I have to play’.
“I have to have confidence to show everybody. If the manager doesn’t play me, he has his opinion. I respect that, but every player needs confidence.
“If the manager doesn’t pick me, he doesn’t pick me. I don’t have any problems with team-mates. All I know is that I want to train and I want to play, and that’s it.”
While Ben Arfa has become something of a cause celebre among the Newcastle fans, Pardew regards the winger’s exile as a necessary step to maintain team unity. The Frenchman is in the provisional squad for tomorrow’s game, but is not expected to feature in the starting line-up.
“Hatem trained with a different group to the group I trained with,” confirmed the Newcastle boss, who has restored Luuk de Jong to the squad after the Dutchman shook off a minor knock. “I’ve not picked the squad for Cardiff yet. He’s in our squad in terms of our rota, but I’ve not picked the team or the subs yet.
“The only thing I’d say to the fans is that I hope the team comes first. It’s not about me or Hatem – it’s about the club, which is much bigger than any of us as individuals.”
While Pardew insists he was never given a formal pre-season target of finishing in the top ten, a number of staff bonuses are reliant on Newcastle being in the top half of the table at the end of the campaign.
A win over Cardiff would all-but-guarantee a top-half slot, and Pardew is hoping the club’s fans look at the bigger picture of what he has achieved on Tyneside, rather than focusing on the recent run of defeats.
“I hope that what fans have seen from me in the three years is that I have done an honest and respectful job here,” he said. “I’ve done nothing but try to win games for Newcastle to the best of my ability.
“Nothing will stop me from doing that. The pleasure of winning at this football club matches nothing I’ve ever experienced before. But if you’re going to get those ultimate highs, you’re going to get the ultimate lows too.”