Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) issued a statement yesterday in which they described today’s game as the “perfect opportunity to send a clear message to Mike Ashley that fans, whether they are going to renew their season tickets or not, are United in their concerns for the direction the owner is taking the club in”.
Various groups have joined together on social media to suggest a combined walk-out at either the 60 or 69-minute mark (marking the 1969 Fairs Cup win), regardless of what is happening on the field.
It remains to be seen whether their urgings have an effect, as previous attempts at a united show of dissent have tended to fall flat, but with his side having lost their last six matches in succession, Pardew is hoping fans channel their energies into supporting his players rather than turning against the club.
“I just think, the club has to come first sometimes and I think that this is an occasion where this has to happen,” said the Newcastle boss. “The passion of the fans towards the club needs to come out because the team needs them.
“It’s not about the board or me - it’s about 11 players wearing the black and white of Newcastle at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.
“You’re going to walk away after an hour and leave them to it? I don’t think that’s right, and I really, really hope they don’t do that.”
It was noticeable that while recent protests at Stoke and Everton have focused on Pardew’s position as manager, yesterday’s statement from NUST expressed much wider-ranging concerns about Newcastle’s future under Ashley’s continued control.
The supporters’ group call for “sweeping changes”, although similar pleadings towards Ashley in recent seasons have fallen on deaf ears. The sportswear magnate continues to enjoy sole ownership of the club, and with no suggestion of an outside party being prepared to come up with the money that would be required to enact a takeover, the status quo is likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
Whether that status quo continues to feature Pardew in his current managerial position remains to be seen, with an end-of-season debrief between owner and boss set to determine whether the 52-year-old is given the chance to rebuild his reputation next season.
Despite the mounting pressure, Pardew has not sought out any assurances from Ashley, with the pair not having spoken for almost a month.
“I haven’t spoken to him for two or three weeks,” confirmed the Magpies manager. “He owns this club with the confidence to let the manager get on with managing the team.
“That is what he has always said to me, ‘Get on with it’. That’s what he expects me to do. He doesn’t want me to ring him and say, ‘Mike, I’m a little bit perturbed’. He wouldn’t see any sign of strength in that, and I wouldn’t do it.
“He hasn’t offered me any reassuring words and I wouldn’t expect him to. When I won Manager of the Month (in December), he didn’t ring me up and say, ‘Well done’. I didn’t expect him to - that isn’t his way.”
Prior to the start of the season, a large proportion of Newcastle’s staff were signed up to a bonus scheme that offers a cash incentive for finishing in the top half of the table.
That had looked all-but-certain for the majority of the campaign, but the Magpies head into their final two games of the season knowing another two defeats could easily see them drop into the bottom half of the table.
Both Stoke City and Crystal Palace can still overtake them, and while Pardew insists a top-half finish was never meant to be a pre-season target that was set in stone, it has assumed great political capital as Newcastle’s winless run has worsened.
In truth, it matters little as the second half of the season will still have been a disaster, even if the Magpies cling on to ninth position, and as a result, there will be no lap of honour in the wake of today’s final home game.
“No, we’ve talked about that,” said Pardew. “The one thing we will do is go to the centre circle and clap them (the fans).
“We’ve done that since I come here. A lap of honour is a step too far unless you’ve actually won something.”