Newcastle's season still full of drama
The outsider looking in might look at Newcastle United's penultimate home of the season with Swansea and think it looks like a dull end of season game with little to play for.
True, Swansea may be fending off the threat of relegation as far as the Welsh side are concerned. But the Magpies find themselves in a Top 10 position, a Premier League slot that most teams would love to be in.
Only it hasn't been that type of season for United. The first half of the campaign was excellent for Alan Pardew, who managed to calm down speculation about his own future. Indeed, the start of the campaign left many wondering how long he would last after Joe Kinnear was placed above his head in the director of football role that has often led to many managers soon making way for their superior.
A derby defeat against Sunderland also didn't help Pardew's stock rise with the fans. Somehow he came through it, though, and a great run in the winter resulted in the Magpies heading into the festive period in a top six spot. There was even talk of another crack at European competition.
Yet things started to decline when Yohan Cabaye quit Newcastle in January and made the switch to Paris St-Germain. This move was compounded when Kinnear told the world that nobody would be leaving the club in the winter window.
Kinnear's failure to replace Cabaye coincided with his departure, a welcome move for fans but not one that was ever likely to address the slide of disappointing results.
Fast forward to mid-April and Newcastle have tasted defeat in 11 of the last 16 games. For some fans their patience was pushed to the limit in the last game, a 1-0 defeat away to Stoke City, when fans began chanting for the head of Pardew.
Discussions on the manager's future have continued this week among the fans, which means the home clash with Swansea has turned into what Pardew was pretty much forced to accept is a "must win" fixture.
He did underline it was only a "must win" for the "well-being" of his players. But nevertheless, it's difficult to imagine that anywhere else this game would be considered so important. Newcastle should hold on to their top 10 spot, but it's their tactics and performances in recent weeks that have resulted in fans getting on Pardew's back.
Even though his head-butt on David Meyler was backed by some sections of Toon fans, everything else has seemed desperate at times. As such, some fans feel that it's time for a change. Quite what Pardew could do if backed in the transfer market by his owner and board, however, is a completely different story.
Going into the home encounter with Swansea, he knows he needs a win. If he gets a victory it would calm everybody down, in his own words. It would also potentially move Newcastle up to eighth place in the Premier League and if they could finish the season in that spot, it would make them the best of the rest after the big spenders and Manchester United.
That isn't a bad season on paper but the problem for Newcastle fans is that there has been a real lack of ambition. They don't want to see the team splutter to a top 10 finish every year, they want to see a tilt for Europe, a run in the cups and a few signings that will get them excited.
This season has been far from exciting. Eventful, maybe. But exciting?
Not really, but United now at least have the chance to end on a stronger note against the Swans. Victory would indeed ease the tension but fans will expect to see major changes in the summer. Defeat, meanwhile, would intensify the pressure on Pardew.
It's unlikely that he'd walk away given the huge contract he signed only last season but whether the board buckle to public pressure remains to be seen. A poor end to the season and failure to shift season tickets seems to be the only thing that would change the minds of the powers that be.
Pardew though will be looking to end any talk of that -- for a short time at least -- with a win over Garry Monk's Swans. See, Newcastle can't even do a dull, end-of-season game without a bit of edge to it!