Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has brushed off comments from owner Mike Ashley suggesting he will be sacked if his team loses at Stoke on Monday evening.
A report emerged overnight claiming Ashley had told a journalist he would dismiss the 53-year-old if the Magpies emerged from their trip to the Britannia Stadium, where they will once again seek a first Barclays Premier League win of the campaign, empty-handed, quoting him as saying: "Dead. Finished. Over. One more game then that's it." .
The club immediately dismissed the sportswear magnate’s remarks as a joke, a message which was reiterated as the manager carried out his pre-match press conference on Saturday morning.
Pardew said: “I’ve not seen him. (Ashley). I’ve spoken to him this week - he’s obviously very keen for us to get victories, that’s what he’s about. That’s what we’re about, winning.
“I’ve been made aware of his comments in the paper, I’ve been under pressure at this club for a number of weeks now. All I can focus on now is the team and that’s what I’ll do.”
Asked if his future was more than a joke, Pardew replied: “Yeah, but sometimes things are taken out of context. If it was a sit-down interview done in a serious manner, I’d be a lot more concerned than I am today, that’s for sure.”
Ashley indicated earlier this week that Pardew’s position was not in jeopardy despite a difficult start to the season, and the club’s situation has improved somewhat since then.
Last weekend, striker Papiss Cisse came off the bench to score a late double to secure a 2-2 league draw with Hull, and a much-changed side booked a place in the Capital One Cup fourth round with a 3-2 extra time victory at Crystal Palace.
Pardew still has to win over the critics among his own club’s fans - a militant section of them is unlikely to be placated - and Newcastle remain at the foot of the table, but he has enjoyed a much more positive week.
He said: “For anything in your life, you have to be focused on what is the goal. There’s a simple goal for us on Monday night: we want to get a win.
“We showed our spirit on the pitch on Wednesday when we were down to 10 men in extra time to get a winner. That shows we’re fighting.
“We’ve had two morale-boosting displays, the comeback draw against Hull and the win at Palace, and that gives us something to lean on.”
Pardew will hope to be able to call upon Cisse, whose appearance from the substitutes' bench against Hull was his first since he fractured a kneecap in April, after he, keeper Tim Krul and midfielder Yoan Gouffran missed the midweek game through illness.
The Senegal international, who scored 13 times in his first 14 games for the club, was largely becalmed last season, but Pardew is hopeful he can rediscover that blistering form.
He said: “He was very unfortunate last season because I don’t think he had that much opportunity. We started really well and Loic (Remy) was scoring, but in the second half of the season, we didn’t have the creative force of the first half of the season.
“This team will create more chances and if he can capture the form of two or three years ago, it will be a massive bonus. He’s a great character and we hope he can give us goals.”