Pardew backed to take Toon forward
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has been handed the task of dragging the club back into the top half of the Barclays Premier League after holding talks with owner Mike Ashley.
The 51-year-old met the sportswear magnate with managing director Derek Llambias on Wednesday to review a desperately disappointing season and discuss the way forward, but Press Association Sport understands that Pardew's position as manager was never on the agenda amid fevered speculation that he could lose his job.
That said, Pardew will be expected to improve significantly on last season's 16th-place finish if he is to justify the faith placed in him when he was handed an eight-year contract in September last year, and Llambias said: "Everyone connected with the club was disappointed to finish where we did last season, particularly on the back of such a fantastic year prior to that."
He added: "Our discussions on Wednesday were very constructive and we pinpointed a number of factors that contributed to a season which fell below expectations.
"We are now looking forward and are entirely focused on the forthcoming campaign, with the expectation of at least a top-10 finish in the Premier League. There has been a great deal of speculation in recent weeks but our desire, as we announced back in September, is to bring long-term stability to this club.
"It's up to us all now to work closely as a team to ensure next season sees us competing in the top half of the table again.
"We would all like to thank the fans for their continued support and assure them we remain committed to providing affordable football at St James' Park."
Llambias' comments may not satisfy Pardew's critics, who grew in both number and volume as Newcastle found themselves plunged into a fight for top-flight survival. However, the indications have been all along that his job was not under threat after a series of factors, many of them out of his control, contributed to a dreadful campaign.
There is an acceptance by all parties that the squad with which the club went into battle at the start of the season was inadequate for purpose with the demands of the Europa League - something with which they will not have to contend this time around - and injuries cruelly exposing its lack of depth.
It will be depleted further at the end of the next month when veteran keeper Steve Harper and full-back Danny Simpson leave the club when their contracts expire, and while Pardew is desperate to retain the services of skipper Fabricio Coloccini, his continued presence is by no means certain four months after he asked to be allowed to return to his native Argentina for personal reasons.