Alan Pardew talks of his Newcastle United side absorbing "blow after blow" and the latest hefty punch of an injury-hit season came their way on Thursday when it emerged that hamstring trouble will almost certainly rule Hatem Ben Arfa out of Saturday's home game with Manchester City.
After sitting out four matches with a hamstring strain Ben Arfa returned to Pardew's team for Monday night's 2-1 defeat at Fulham, scoring Newcastle's goal, but subsequent scans have caused concern. "It's an unusual situation," said Pardew. "Hatem isn't feeling any symptoms but the scan shows that his hamstring's not very well."
The loss of his most creative player is the last thing Newcastle's manager needs at a time when his 14th-placed side have won only one of their last nine games. "We look weak with the injuries we've sustained and we may need to bring in a player or two next month," said Pardew. "We're in the market, as I'm sure a few other clubs will be too. I think there'll be movement in this window."
For the moment, though, he is demanding more from his existing personnel. "We're a good side that's under-performing," he said. "There are reasons for that but we can't accept them."
At least he continues to be backed by Mike Ashley, Newcastle's owner. "I want to look Mike in the eye with great results under my belt but at the minute I can't. I'm looking at him in the eye and I've got tricky results," said Pardew.
"But he understands why. Mike has been very supportive and now we look to the window. He's put me under no pressure in this period, other than to say: 'Can I help you?' The only pressures are external pressures from our fans and the media."
Some supporters are questioning whether the recent signing of eight-year contracts has bred complacency among Pardew and his staff. "The fans are getting a little bit of a misconception about us because there have been suggestions that we're not working as hard as before, which is absolutely ridiculous," he said. "It's not about money, it's not about security for me and my staff. It's about winning. We want to win.
"It's a difficult time; a lot of our players have only experienced good times at this club and some of them are finding this spell difficult to deal with."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © StartAgain