Mounting discontent changes the complexion of Pardew's position at Newcastle

The Advertiser Series: HEADS FIRST: Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross, top, and Newcastle United's Shola Ameobi battle for the ball HEADS FIRST: Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross, top, and Newcastle United's Shola Ameobi battle for the ball

Full-time: Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 0

IN his 14-year career as a Newcastle United player, Shola Ameobi has seen more than his fair share of crises.

The trauma of relegation, the dramatic departures of Sir Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan and Chris Hughton, the equally divisive appointments of Joe Kinnear and Alan Pardew, not to mention the myriad of Mike Ashley-led controversies such as the St James' Park name change or the tie-up with Wonga – life is rarely quiet on the banks of the Tyne.

So as he prepares to enter what will almost certainly be his final month as a Magpie, how does Ameobi view the latest crisis engulfing the club he is proud to call his own?

“I've been at Newcastle for long enough now to know that things can go from very bad to very good in a short space of time,” said the 32-year-old. “It's not the first time we've had a tough situation at Newcastle - and I'm sure it won't be the last.”

A sense of perspective borne of experience, or an attempt, from within the inner sanctum of the dressing room, to play down the significance of what could come to be remembered as a watershed afternoon? Time will tell.

Ameobi is right to point out that we have been here before, with supporters protesting against key figures at the club and threats of season tickets not being renewed, and he is equally right to highlight the fact that the fury eventually abates as what passes for normality at Newcastle is gradually restored.

But as the chants of “We want Pardew out” rang around the away end at the Britannia Stadium in the wake of yet another defeat without a goal being registered – that's 12 now in the last 16 league games – it was hard not to wonder if there is any way back for the current manager, not to mention the rest of the boardroom regime.

Every time something goes wrong from this point onwards, will the fans be on Pardew's back? And whereas the manager had previously been able to stand separate from Ashley and his acolytes, will he now forever be regarded as complicit in what is perceived to be the degradation of a once-proud club?

As another bitterly divisive season draws to an end, it is hard to identify anything that feels right or worthy of being cherished at Newcastle. Ashley has been unloved for quite a while, with his limited ambition sucking the lifeblood out of a support that appears to be experiencing anger and apathy in equal measure.

The players have underperformed spectacularly in the second half of the season, and for the second away game in succession, they were on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from the visiting fans as they trudged from the field.

And now the manager is lumped in with the whole sorry mess too, perceived by the supporters to be culpable for the worst run in the Premier League since the turn of the year.

“The fans are obviously frustrated, and that's understandable,” said Ameobi. “When you lose four in a row, it's going to be very frustrating and no one's enjoying the position we're in.”

Had Freddie Shepherd still been chairman, Pardew would have been sacked by now. Ashley's predecessor was constantly acquiescing to the supporters' views, and the revolving door to the manager's office that was apparent throughout the 2000s reflected a regime obsessed with being popular.

Ashley couldn't care less what the supporters think, and hence Saturday's protests will have changed nothing when it comes to the long-term direction being plotted by the new-look board. If nothing else, however, they have set up the potential for a difficult afternoon when Swansea visit St James' Park on Saturday.

A win in that game would at least temper some of the more vitriolic criticism currently being hurled in Pardew's direction, and the embattled Magpies boss must now decide whether to stick with the 3-5-2 formation he employed in an attempt to make his side more solid at the Britannia Stadium.

The irony, given the extent of the subsequent fall out, is that for the vast majority of the game, the ploy worked. Newcastle were nowhere near as open as they had been against Southampton or Manchester United, and save for a fluke Erik Pieters goal that settled things, the match would probably have ended in a tame goalless draw.

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Stoke's Geoff Cameron, right, Newcastle's Yoan Gouffran battle for the ball

With Steven Taylor recalled alongside Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson, Newcastle almost conceded early on when Peter Crouch headed Marko Arnautovic's cross against the post.

After that, however, they were largely untroubled until Pieters mis-hit a cross from the left-hand side, and his friend and international compatriot, Tim Krul, allowed the ball to drift over his head and go in. The trajectory of the ball might have been difficult to predict, but it was still an extremely poor goalkeeping error.

“Tim's a really good friend of mine and we had a few words after the game,” said Pieters, who was one of Newcastle's long-term defensive targets before moving to Stoke.

Newcastle wasted a decent opportunity of their own before falling behind, with Dan Gosling swivelling in the area before volleying on to the roof of the net, but Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was only called into action once all game, and that was to claim a routine long-range effort from Cheik Tiote.

Vurnon Anita headed wide at the back post late on, but in the continued absence of Loic Remy, Newcastle are clearly a side lacking in firepower and creativity.

“When you're not winning games, it's very hard to get yourself out of that kind of run,” conceded Ameobi. “It can sort of spiral and, as players, we're probably a bit short of confidence at the moment because of the lack of wins.

“We find ourselves in a tough situation at the moment and it's no use disguising that. But it's not for a lack of trying.”

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