Newcastle United have been thrown into turmoil with the resignation of their managing director, Derek Llambias, on Wednesday morning , leaving a void at the top of the club.
Apart from acting as the effective chairman and running the club on a day-to-day basis, Llambias – whose departure appears a key consequence of the contentious decision of the owner, Mike Ashley, to appoint Joe Kinnear as director of football – was a close ally and champion of Alan Pardew.
With Llambias no longer around to fight his corner in front of Ashley, Pardew's position has never looked less secure but, for the moment at least, Newcastle's manager is resolved to do everything in his power to remain in charge at St James' Park.
Before departing for a holiday abroad on Wednesday Pardew told the Evening Chronicle he had no intention of emulating Llambias's exit. "I am staying to take the club up the league," he said.
It was the first time Newcastle's manager had spoken since Kinnear's shock installation. If the brevity of that sentence betrays the awkwardness and enduring uncertainty of the position in which he has been placed, Pardew at least finally met the 66-year-old in west London on Tuesday, when they talked for several hours.
Although Pardew is far from delighted at being answerable to Kinnear and it remains to be seen how the relationship will work in practice, the manager is currently minded to dig his heels in.
Quite apart from developing a genuine attachment to both Newcastle and the north-east, Pardew is fiercely loyal to his coaching staff of John Carver, Steve Stone and Andy Woodman, and remains anxious to protect their careers.
While his popularity with fans and the local media has been bolstered appreciably by the almost wholesale dismay at Kinnear's return to the club he managed for five largely corrosive months during the 2008-09 relegation season, Pardew also holds another ace. Under the terms of his eight-year contract, Ashley would find sacking him expensive.
Although Llambias, currently on holiday in Los Angeles, is believed to have discussed potential changes to his role during a series of post-season discussions with Ashley, he is unlikely to have been impressed by the latter's unilateral decision to hire Kinnear. Or appreciate the former Wimbledon manager's announcement that the managing director would, from now on, be restricting his remit to financial rather than football matters.
A key mover in Pardew's recruitment nearly three years ago but in recent months perhaps not quite as close to Ashley as he had once been, Llambias may have found an outlandish Monday night radio interview given by Kinnear painful listening.
In it he claimed that "Lambezee" had recently resigned as director of football. This was a position Llambias never held. Yet less than 24 hours after Newcastle confounded those who believed Kinnear's return was untenable by ratifying his appointment, they released another significant statement. It read: "Managing director, Derek Llambias, has resigned from his position with immediate effect."
Llambias said: "I have had an incredible journey during my five years at the club, including some challenging times. I will reflect with great fondness on my time in the north-east and, in me, Newcastle United have a lifelong supporter. I want to thank the staff for their hard work, our fans for their support of the club, and wish them all well for the future."
The identity of his successor remains unclear. While second-guessing Ashley is impossible, Newcastle's owner tends to employ people he knows and trusts. Lee Charnley, the club's football secretary, could be a contender and, for the moment, he and John Irving, the financial director must hold things together.
Now answerable to Kinnear, Pardew has lost the man who habitually watched his back but not everyone on Tyneside will be sad to see Llambias go. Poached from the world of casino management, he arrived at Newcastle in the summer of 2008 following the sudden resignation of Ashley's first chairman, Chris Mort.
While his part in choosing Kinnear as Kevin Keegan's interim managerial successor in 2008, the £35m sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool, the re-naming of St James' Park and the securing of a controversial new sponsorship deal with Wonga raised hackles, Llambias also attracted plaudits.
Commercially savvy, he not only played a key role in shifting Newcastle's balance-sheet from red to black but helped secure the signing of a series of gifted players, most notably from France, at bargain prices.
When Newcastle finished fifth at the end of the 2011-12 season Llambias looked to be on Tyneside for the long haul but last season's skirmish with relegation evidently re-awakened Ashley's penchant for springing left-field surprises and provoking creative tensions.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © StartAgain