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Conte culpable in uneven season

By ESPN Staff

Allardyce retains backing of Magpies chiefs

Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce continues to enjoy the full backing of owner Mike Ashley despite his team's alarming slump in form.

Chairman Chris Mort today moved to ease the pressure on the 53-year-old, who found himself the main target of the fans' fury both during and after Saturday's 3-0 Premier League humiliation by Liverpool at St James' Park.

The game saw the Magpies lose back-to-back home games by a three-goal margin for the first time in more than 77 years and sparked chants of 'You don't know what you're doing', 'Big Sam for England' and 'We've only had one shot'.

Allardyce hauled his under-achieving players in for an unscheduled training session yesterday after a dressing-room inquest immediately after the latest debacle - during which his pleas for an explanation apparently met with stunned silence.

With a trip to Blackburn to come next weekend before Arsenal head for Tyneside, a Newcastle side which has taken just one point from the last 12 on offer faces a crucial period with uncertainty once again enveloping the club.

Mort's backing will at least give Allardyce some comfort as he attempts to halt the downward spiral.

Asked if the manager still enjoys Ashley's support, he replied: 'Yes, absolutely. Sam is a very experienced manager, and I am sure he will work hard with his coaching team to turn the team around.

'He is working hard to get his best team, and how they can work together in the best way.

'Hopefully, we will see that come together over the weeks to come.'

Ashley heard for himself the abuse aimed at his manager and the players from the directors' box at St James' as the horror of the 4-1 defeat there by Portsmouth three weeks earlier was repeated in excruciating fashion.

Mort said: 'It certainly does not surprise me to have supporters voicing their concern.

'You pay decent money to watch a Premier League game these days and if someone has paid their money to watch a game, then they are entitled to voice their concern if it is not going right.

'The fact that the fans voiced their concerns does not surprise me - it was a disappointing display and a disappointing result. But we need to get the team together and move on.

'All games in the Premier League are clearly going to be tough games. It 's the toughest league in the world, and the next two games are going to be particularly tough.

'We have to gather the troops together, move on and go into Blackburn away and do the best we can there.'

Allardyce took the opportunity last Thursday to rule himself out of the race to succeed Steve McClaren as England boss, and although League Managers' Association chief executive John Barnwell has hinted he could be persuaded otherwise, his stock has fallen since he came so close to being appointed last time around.

However, the former Bolton boss remains characteristically unbowed as he considers the task ahead of him.

He said: 'I've got to take the good with the bad and try to get this club to go forward and realise some of the success they have been chasing for 40 or 50 years.

'You have got to take the rough with the smooth, and it is pretty rough at the minute. You have just got to ride it out.

'A manager losing like that is always under pressure, whether you are here, there or anywhere in the Premier League.

'Results are the biggest and most important thing for any manager.

'The pressure mounts as always and the speculation starts as always, but you have got to keep the belief and stop listening to Chinese whispers.

'I always feel hurt when I lose a football match. At the end of the day, I am hurting more than anybody else when we lose a football match, even though other people don't think you are.'