ASKING a journalist to gauge the importance of a football match is akin to giving an arsonist a box of matches.
We are never going to downplay the situation; rather the temptation to get carried away tends to overpower us.
But Alan Pardew did say that the press could work out for themselves just how vital this Saturday’s home match with Queens Park Rangers is.
So here goes. This weekend, Pardew will take charge of the most important football match of his two years as manager of Newcastle United.
Losing to the team second-bottom of the Premier League is not an option. If that happens, the club could well be looking at a season when relegation is a genuine possibility.
The defeat to Manchester City at the weekend was Newcastle’s sixth in seven Premier League games, in case you hadn’t noticed.
When City visited St James’ Park towards the end of last season, Pardew was legitimately dreaming about Champions League football. Now he is talking about keeping out of the bottom three places until he can sign some players.
If things go wrong against QPR, who recorded their first league in of the season on Saturday, then manager, players and especially the board will come in for a lot of criticism, most of it justified.
Yes, Newcastle played well during the second half of this 3-1 defeat and, yes, they are missing key men such as Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye.
But this has been a dismal last two months for the supporters who have been patient and incredibly understanding up to this point. That will change if QPR are not dealt with and Pardew knows it.
The manager said: “I don’t know how you could put it on a scale on the QPR game. I am sure you can work one out.
“I just think it is a game where we have got to play like we did against City, no more than that. If we play like this I think we will win because it’s the pressure, which makes you change the way you play.
“You didn’t need to be a genius to work out that the fans would be patient with us playing the champions, but we need that same patience against QPR. The players are going to be edgy because of the position we are in.
“Having said that, I still think we have very good players in this group who are still to come back. I sense that the period between now and the end of January is the period for us to make sure we keep out of that bottom area, to keep roughly where we are or a little bit higher – and then we will be okay. “
But being okay is not good enough.