Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew feeling pain after season to forget
On a Wednesday afternoon in the directors' suite at Newcastle, Alan Pardew's phone beeped. It was official, Pardew was the Premier League manager of the season. He had already won the League Managers' Association award. It was May 2012. Newcastle were fifth. Pardew could do no wrong.
Earlier this week, he was in his car. A young fan wearing a "Pardew out" sticker stood next to him and got his pal to take a picture.
What did you do, Alan? "I waved," he said. He looked exasperated. Pardew has been Newcastle manager for nearly three and a half years. It takes a toll.
"It's a club which brings a lot of pressure," he said. "I've got to ask 11 players to stand up to it. My relationship with the fans has suffered and I want that to change."
Newcastle are ninth in the table, two points behind Southampton, who are perceived to have had an excellent season. Newcastle have won one more game than Southampton.And yet...
Last week at Stoke City was the penultimate match of Pardew's seven-game ban. It was the first time there will have been relief at the suspension as he was spared walking past 2,900 of his club's fans after a 1-0 defeat.
The more determined of Pardew's critics at the Britannia Stadium arrived prepared, brandishing banners calling for the manager's head.
That did not go unnoticed by their target, but simply increased his determination to get it right.
Pardew said: "I felt disappointed, of course. I don't want to see those type of banners from my own fans.
"I have been here three years and there have been some really, really good days and there have been some tough days too.
"At this moment in time, it's tough and I have got to be strong, and I am strong in my mentality to take this club forward."
Today, Newcastle face Swansea at St James' Park. United have lost their last four games without scoring, and been defeated in 12 of their last 17 matches. In 2014, they have won four games and failed to score in 12.
"I suspect more than half the fans on Saturday want me out. It hurts. But not so much as I want to walk away," he adds.
Pardew's fight with Hatem Ben Arfa has not helped. Ben Arfa is the maverick who can no longer fit into the manager's system. The pair have rowed after the last two games.
Following the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United, Ben Arfa was physically thrown out of the dressing room. You would not be surprised if he has played his last game for Newcastle. It is one less problem for the manager to face. There will be no calls for his introduction today.
If Loic Remy is fit, Pardew will put his faith in the loan signing Newcastle failed to sign for real in the 2013 January transfer window. It was a huge mistake. There are many for Pardew to carry. It is beginning to show.