There’s turmoil at St James’ Park ahead of Saturday’s meeting between Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion.
John Carver’s Newcastle (9-8-18) have not picked up a single point in league play since February, losing eight games on the bounce to slump dangerously close to the relegation zone with just three matches remaining.
The club’s perilous position came into sharp focus with last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Leicester City, and Carver blistered his players in his post-match interviews. Defender Mike Williamson – one of two Newcastle players to be shown red cards in the game – came in for particular negative attention from the manager, but Carver believes that he and the centreback have cleared the air in the intervening week.
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"Me and Mike have had a good discussion," Carver said. "At the end of the conversation, we stood up, shook each other’s hand, and Mike has been fantastic in training this week. All right, he’s not available for the next two games, but he certainly will be for the last one. There are no hard feelings. Every morning, we have come in, we have shaken hands, looked each other in the eye and just got on with it because we are professional.
"I still think I’m the best coach in the Premier League," Carver added. "That’s what I think. If I have the right tools, I can do the job. I’m doing the job to the best of my ability at the moment and I’ll continue doing that for the next three weeks."
Newcastle are just two points clear of the bottom three and local rivals Sunderland are hot on their trail.
Visitors West Bromwich Albion (10-10-15) are in decent form coming into the game. Seven points from their last three have lifted the Baggies to the 40-point mark – effectively guaranteeing survival – and manager Tony Pulis is already turning his attention towards how he can improve the club during the summer break.
"The perception is that West Brom have been a Premier League club for five or six years so should be set up okay," Pulis said. "But since Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke left they’ve gradually slipped, so there is lots of work to be done.
"There’s stuff here that shouldn’t be here and there’s stuff elsewhere that should be here. We just haven’t got it at the moment in the way I’d want, but the lads that are here have worked really well and have really knuckled down and in a lot of the games have performed well."
Pulis will be without first-choice goalkeeper Ben Foster for the trip to Tyneside, while the hosts have a heap of absentees. Not only are Williamson and Daryl Janmaat suspended, but the Magpies are also without Jak Alnwick, Massadio Haidara, Cheick Tiote and Steven Taylor, while Papiss Cisse, Paul Dummett, Rob Elliot, Siem de Jong, Rolando Aarons and Adam Armstrong are doubts.
Newcastle won 2-0 at the Hawthorns when these two teams last met in early November. West Brom have won just one of their last six against the Magpies.