Newcastle: What next for Alan Pardew and the club?
It was supposed to be the day that mass hysteria took over on Tyneside but it was confusion that reigned at St James' Park, not chaos.
A planned mass protest that was meant to show Newcastle fans were united in wanting manager Alan Pardew sacked, ended up revealing some splits in the Geordie Nation.
While a smattering of supporters did take part, what was striking is that they did so while chanting for the removal of owner Mike Ashley, not Pardew.
And, somewhat ironically, instead of a demonstration of the power of the crowd's combined discontent, what we eventually saw through the Magpies' stirring fightback to draw 2-2 with Hull was evidence of how effective the Toon Army are when they get together behind their team.
Hull boss Steve Bruce, who is one of the men linked with taking the Magpies post should Pardew be sacked, said "The crowd played their part in getting Newcastle back in the game. I don't think there can be any complaints about them - they were magnificent."
But a point at home to the Tigers, no matter how well-won, does not signal the end of the team's problems, resolve Pardew's future or appease undoubtedly disgruntled supporters unsure about the direction of their club.
|Ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon on Match of the Day|
|"You have to give Pardew a lot of credit. He was feeling and kicking every ball. "I have been in that situation. It is a lonely place. You can all have your staff and family around you, but you need a lot of self-belief. You have to transmit that to your players. "In my second season at Celtic, we were 10 points behind Rangers and we were 3-0 down at half-time at Kilmarnock. I told the players if they wanted me there on Monday they had to turn it around. Thankfully they did. Maybe today is the same for Alan."|
Those questions remain unanswered, but we do at least know how hard Pardew is battling to keep hold of a position that BBC pundit and former Newcastle coach Mark Lawrenson described this week as "untenable".
Pardew came out fighting when he spoke to the media after the game, attacking another pundit Robbie Savage for writing in his BBC Sport column that he "sounded like a broken man" after last weekend's 4-0 defeat by Southampton.
In fact, considering he had anticipated it being the "toughest day" of a managerial career that has spanned 691 professional matches, the 53-year-old was positively buoyant afterwards, as he hit out at his critics, saluted his players and thanked the crowd, or 80% of them at least, for their support.
Any sort of positivity seemed unlikely when his side trailed 2-0 with 16 minutes to go, but arguably Pardew's stock has risen through the dramatic manner in which his side secured their draw - he certainly thought so.
"I think big sections of our fans more or less took a neutral position during the game," Pardew said afterwards.
"I was not expecting them to be supporting me or in any way wanting to cheer for me personally, but I think they took a view of loving their club and seeing what happened and I also think we did enough on the pitch to win a few friends."
Whether his popularity has increased or not, it is probably fair to say that the much-hyped fifth-minute protest, organised by the group of supporters behind SackPardew.com, failed.
"The main thing we want to achieve is to get the fans united behind a cause because it's been a while since we have been," one of the organisers said beforehand.
That did not happen at St James' Park on Saturday. True, the limited participation was not wholly down to a lack of interest - stadium stewards had confiscated many of the 30,000 posters that were distributed in the pubs and streets outside before kick-off - but any anti-Pardew chants were not heard until Nikica Jelavic put Hull ahead after half-time.
Ashley received as much attention over the course of the 90 minutes and the suspicion remains that while some Newcastle fans want Pardew out, plenty more would like to see the back of the club's owner.
Certainly those fans I spoke to before the game felt that way, whether they were planning to join the anti-Pardew protest or not.
All of them were unhappy, unsurprising given their team was bottom of the league, has made a recent habit of selling its best players, and had won only five times in the whole of 2014, a statistic that still stands.
The banner reading "We don't demand a team that wins, we demand a club that tries" draped outside one of the pubs in the shadow of St James' Park summed their frustration up perfectly.
"I agree with the protest against Pardew, it's better than nothing," said former season-ticket holder David Hoddart, 59. "But getting rid of him is not the answer. We want to force Ashley out. He is a businessman and he does not have any feeling for the club."
Season-ticket holder Matthew Heymar, 23, added: "Pardew keeps coming out with the same excuses and something needs to be done otherwise we are going to end up in the Championship again. But the man upstairs, we are not realistically going to move him, we all know that. What we do doesn't really bother him."
That appears to be the case, given Ashley said last week he is going nowhere until the end of next season at the earliest.
Could the fans change his mind? Hitting him in the pocket by boycotting games was Lawrenson's suggestion, but Newcastle's 40,000 or so season-ticket holders have already paid for this season and their money is safely in the bank.
The biggest question, however, is whether they would want to stay away, even if they knew it would work.
The dilemma for Newcastle fans is how to find a way of forcing change without adversely affecting the team they love, and for which they are the greatest asset. Saturday showed they will not find that easy.
|Pardew's season-by-season record at Newcastle|
|*took charge on 9 Dec 2010|