"If they are going to fire someone as good as Chris [Hughton], they have to then bring in a big name, someone who has won trophies. And that doesn't even mean he will necessarily be better. If they just bring in someone similar, it's a joke." Such were the words of Jose Enqrique on the eve of the appointment of Alan Pardew. Fortunately for the left-back, the club heeded his advice. Pardew wasn't just any manager. He was a man who had helmed Southampton to a Johnstone's Paint Trophy win.
Aptly enough for a man recruited in a casino, Newcastle were taking a huge gamble in appointing Pardew, and while it initially appeared to work, the Silver Fox would now surely be sharing the relegation places with Roberto Mancini and Team QPR were a league table of managers constructed on their performances relative to their teams. Yet for such a supposedly trigger-happy chairman, his job appears to remain secure.
What exactly is keeping Pardew from the axe His previous record as a great manager That largely consists of his excellent last season, since when Newcastle's team has not gotten any worse and their squad has gotten far better. Fair enough, the injury problems were considerable, but they were not so much that they would cause a Champions League-chasing team to suffer relegation.
Besides, those players have now returned, and Newcastle are no better - if anything, they're even worse. A horrific derby defeat against Sunderland - a club who did sack their manager - was followed by the worst performance of the season from any team, an utterly shambolic thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, the sort of display where the only thing standing between them and humiliation was the hope of a sense of pity from their opponents.
Newcastle's previous unexpected relegation, in 2009, was preceded by a 'Phew, that all looked a bit rum for a minute!' victory where they appeared to do just enough to stave off self-implosion before truly displaying their remarkable talent at doing the seemingly-impossible. Their recent victory against Fulham has the same sort of look about it now, with the club descending into a frantic cluster of a relegation battle in which they are the only team to be in desperately poor form. If they can't pick themselves up, only Wigan Athletic's failure to drag themselves out of trouble - something they do every single year - will save them.
In short, it's not good enough. Newcastle are a big club getting relegated, which is remarkable enough, but they are more than that - they are a very good team. If they do go down, they will be the best squad in a very, very long time to do so, and there can only be one man held responsible. There are simply no excuses for what has happened under Pardew's watch, even leaving out the obvious and baffling decisions he has made this year (Papiss Cisse at right wing, anyone?)
There are, however, two key differences from 2009. That was a result of an insane policy of recruitment with both players and managers, culminating in the desperate appointment of Alan Shearer to guide a fleet of stars into the abyss, whereas their attitude this year to their manager has been the reverse - too loyal, too trusting, and too forgiving by far. The second is their recruitment policy - that former collection of the past-it, overpaid and overhyped (and frequently all three) biting the dust could be painted as a good thing, allowing a desperately-needed reformation. This team, however, was the result of a far wiser and more astute policy, and its loss to the Championship would be a disaster.