LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew risked antagonising irate fans even more on Thursday when he labelled the tide of public opinion against him as "mass hysteria".
Supporters called from him to be sacked during last weekend's dire 4-0 Premier League drubbing at Southampton but after talks with controversial owner Mike Ashley, Pardew is still in a job yet fears Saturday's visit of Hull City.
"This situation at the moment is almost like mass hysteria," he told reporters with his side bottom with two points from four games.
"It's gone to a level which makes it really difficult for players to perform in. I'm hoping we can turn that around but the environment for the players on Saturday will probably be as tough as it's ever been. We have to accept that Hull will come and try to make good use of our situation."
Pardew has six years left on a bumper contract which raised eyebrows across the English game when it was signed, especially given his lack of real pedigree in the top flight and lack of any connection to the passionately-supported north-east club.
The length of his deal may have helped him avoid the sack so far but, with assistant manager John Carver verbally clashing with fans at Southampton and being forced to apologise, tensions are running so high that pundits believe something has to give.
"I have to be as humble as I can in terms of accepting the chants from supporters," he said with protests planned at the cavernous St James' Park on Saturday.
"Newcastle should not be bottom of the league... it's as simple as that. That's a responsibility I have to accept. I think I'm the best person to sort it out but our fans don't agree.
"It's been suggested that I don't care, that I've got a long contract and I'm going through the motions - nothing could be further from the truth." (Writing by Mark Meadows; editing by Toby Davis)