September 18, 2014

If Newcastle United can't properly handle their own supporters' displeasure in an away environment, a home match might not be the best fix for a side wallowing at the bottom of the table four matches into the season.

Nevertheless, the struggling Magpies - rife with compounding interior drama - return to St. James' Park Saturday against Hull City after last weekend's embarrassing result and behaviour at Southampton.

Newcastle (0-2-2) enter their third home match with pressure mounting on manager Alan Pardew to resign, which resulted in a confrontation between the Newcastle staff and fans displaying banners that called for his firing.

To make matters worse, Newcastle left St. Mary's Stadium last Saturday with a 4-0 loss, prompting Pardew to describe the atmosphere he expects at St. James' to "probably be as tough as it's ever been" having now won once in 12 top-flight matches.

Tigers manager Steve Bruce, meanwhile, could feel like the man of the hour after often being treated poorly by Newcastle fans through his career. Bruce grew up a Magpies supporter and has been linked to Pardew's job.

Adding to the seemingly endless layers of Pardew's plight is the fixture serving as the clubs' first meeting since Pardew infamously headbutted Hull midfielder David Meyler in Newcastle's 4-1 win at the KC Stadium on March 1.

"Certain issues, particularly the issue regarding me, have to somewhat take a bit of a back seat for the team because it's going to be a very difficult environment," said Pardew before elaborating on a recent conversation with owner Mike Ashley. "Of course he was upset about the performance and really we focused on that, and I never asked for any reassurance."

Rumours of the sale of the club have also swirled, though Ashley has denied such reports.

Amid the mess, which could include an organised protest at the match, the club's most pressing concern has to be finding themselves at the bottom of the table later than Week 2 for the first time in the Premier League era. They've endured three clean sheets and conceded seven times in the last two matches, in which they've fallen behind in the first and sixth minutes.

Tyneside provided no safe refuge for Newcastle in last season's meeting with Hull, who got second-half goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Sone Aluko to complete a 3-2 comeback win on Sept. 21, 2013.

Hull (1-2-1) will continue working toward taking advantage of a string of relatively light opening fixtures, in which they face no side that finished higher than ninth in the last campaign through their first six matches before a home date with Manchester City to close the month.

Monday's 2-2 home draw with West Ham United might not have been the result they were looking for, but it came with a certain amount of promise as forward Abel Hernandez and former West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame celebrated goals in their club debuts.

"Bringing Diame here was a no-brainer," Bruce told the club's official website. "He's played in this league for the last six years and what we saw on Monday night is what I've seen from him many times for Wigan and West Ham.

"He's a very, very good midfield player - big, strong, powerful - he can deal with the ball with both feet, he's got a trick or two and as we've now seen, he can score a goal. ... If he keeps playing like he did on Monday, I'll be perfectly happy."

The match also saw on-loan Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa debut for Hull as a 79th-minute substitute. A deadline-day move sent him out of Newcastle after yet more drama involving Pardew's fining of the Frenchman for being overweight.

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