A season of struggle for Newcastle United appeared to reach a watershed on Saturday when a previously patient crowd at St James' Park turned on their team during the 2-1 defeat to Reading.
Multiple injuries have meant that supporters have refrained from criticising Alan Pardew's side but two controversial second-half substitutions from Newcastle's manager which saw Sylvain Marveaux and Yohan Cabaye replaced with James Perch and Gaël Bigirimina produced a cascade of boos.
As Reading fans serenaded Pardew – once in charge of the Berkshire team – with chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning," substitute Adam Le Fondre's two goals secured a victory which lifts Brian McDermott's one place to 18th in the table.
When Pardew, who signed an eight-year contract last autumn, was asked if he feared for his job his reply was unequivocal. "No," he said. "My past experience means I can deal with where we're at." He is not believed to be in any immediate danger – and after steering the team to a fifth-place finish last season he has considerable credit in the bank – but it is understood Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, could dismiss him at the cost of a year's salary by way of compensation.
Pardew admitted it has been " a mistake" to replace Marveaux with Perch but explained he had been forced to withdraw Cabaye as the France midfielder – who gave Newcastle a first-half lead – had suffered a groin injury.
Hovering just above the Premier League relegation zone, the Tynesiders have now won only two of their last 18 games in all competitions and have lost five and drawn one since securing their last victory, at home to QPR a month ago.
"We controlled the first half and had numerous chances," said Pardew. "In the second half we lost too many tackles, couldn't get our passing game going and things rang away from us.
"The bad reaction to my taking two flair players off spread to the team and we looked very nervous after that. We lack impetus at the moment, we need to improve defensively for sure and we definitely need two or three new players to strengthen the team."
Brian McDermott, Reading's manager, had warm words for his old friend. "Alan Pardew's a fantastic manager," he said. "He's a great guy. Newcastle didn't spend the money they could have done in the summer."
McDermott was also full of praise for his two Adams – Le Fondre and goalkeeper Adam Federici: "Federici made two or three fantastic saves. We paid £300,000 for Le Fondre, you wouldn't buy his right foot for that now. It's been a good day for us."