Pardew admits Newcastle fans deserve better
Last night’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal continues Newcastle’s miserable run of form
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew watches his team during their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
A beleaguered Alan Pardew admitted his players had underperformed since the turn of the year and let down the club’s support as the Newcastle United manager was subjected to angry calls for his dismissal from the travelling fans.
Banners were unfurled among the 2,000 away supporters calling for Pardew to be sacked, with Newcastle fans chanting “It’s six in a row” after the hour mark as the club sank to a sixth successive loss. The manager has overseen 14 defeats in 19 matches in all competitions since Arsenal won at St James’ Park in late December, with his return to the touchline after a seven-game ban for head-butting Hull City’s David Meyler having no discernible effect on his players.
Pardew, who had chosen to omit Hatem Ben Arfa from the travelling party despite the player being fit, had been subjected to abuse in the recent defeat at Stoke and, when asked about the latest round of disaffection in the stands, said: “They’re frustrated. We had 2,000 here tonight making this long, long trip. Although we’re playing a good team, they still expect us to win.
“They’ve seen us lose again and they’re not happy, and I have to respect that. But all I can do is do this job to the best of my ability. We’ve been top 10 all year. We should have performed better in this run, I know, and we’ve got to finish in the top 10. If Cardiff think it’s important for them on Saturday, it’s important for us to finish in the top 10, too, believe me.
“All I can do is get my team in the best possible place. We could have copped harm tonight when we were 2-0 but we came out with our dignity still there. We have to take that into Saturday. Our stadium have to give us the atmosphere on Saturday. We’ve got the best fans in the world, and they don’t deserve the run we’ve given them, but we’ll need their support. [The abuse] puts pressure on the team and myself. I have to do my best to protect the team and the performance.”
A sixth successive defeat represented Newcastle’s worst run in the top flight since January 1987, with the side having scored only 10 goals in 2014, the fewest of any Premier League side. “But if we win on Saturday it’ll guarantee us top 10, I’m pretty sure of that,” added Pardew. “From there we can reflect, and we know we have to be stronger than we’ve been in the second half of the season.
“Perhaps we excelled to a degree or exceeded ourselves over the first half of the season, and gave good value for money for this club in that half. Since Christmas we haven’t. At 2-0 it was difficult for us tonight. We showed tremendous character second half. It’s a difficult scenario, five defeats in a row and being 2-0 down at this place. At least we showed that second half.”
Arsenal can secure their top-four finish if Manchester City overcome Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday or by beating West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, though England’s Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will not feature for the club again this season. Wilshere is back in training after a foot injury, while Oxlade-Chamberlain is resting a groin problem, with both players’ fitness of interest to the England coaching staff.
“Jack is training already,” said Arsène Wenger, Arsenal’s manager. “When will he be ready? Honestly I cannot tell you exactly. Next week or the week after . . . at the moment the progress he’s making is good. I hope he can play at Norwich [on the final afternoon]. Alex has an inflammation of his groin. He couldn’t practise. We played him when he was needed but it came to a point where it wasn’t progressing so we decided to give him a complete rest for two weeks. Will he be involved with me? I think he has a chance. But will he be ready for England? I think so.”