IN the end, it wasn’t the fans that edged Alan Pardew towards the exit door.
It wasn’t the vitriol, the abuse or the chants aimed at him.
That, Pardew could just about deal with.
In the end, it was seemingly Newcastle United’s stringent transfer policy that made up his mind.
There was a tell from Pardew, on the brink of becoming Crystal Palace’s next manager, early last week.
And then another one at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
A week ago, Pardew sat down with a handful of print journalists in a small room at the club’s training ground.
Relaxed but businesslike, the 53-year-old, dressed in his training gear, took questions on Newcastle’s Boxing Day game against Manchester United.
Pardew didn’t take much prompting to bring up the need for the club to sign a striker in next month’s transfer window.
Asked about Papiss Demba Cisse, he said: “I think we are still a striker light.
“Even Siem de Jong returns, I think we’ll need another one.
“Papiss, even taking away the flu, is still not right. He’s not 100 per cent, and you could see that in the way he plays.
“That’s something we need to look at.”
Then in Old Trafford’s more salubrious Press conference room after the club’s 3-1 defeat three days, he returned to the subject.
Again, without much prompting.
“I said in the summer we needed another striker, and I think it’s important we do need to bring another striker in,” said Pardew.
“We need to score more goals.”
At other clubs, such comments from a manager might not have raised an eyebrow.
But they were unusually off-message from Pardew.
Set against the backdrop of discussions ahead of the club’s plans for the transfer window, they were telling.
Pardew had quite pointedly, and publicly, challenged Ashley to sanction a potentially expensive signing, a signing the billionaire, possibly, felt the club did not need.
After all, United are exactly where Ashley wants them – in the top half of the league.
Pardew – and Newcastle’s fans – have higher aspirations, but does Ashley share their ambition?
There’s also the prospect of losing a player next month, with Moussa Sissoko, one of its most saleable assets, being closely watched by a number of clubs.
Every transfer window, the club is arguably short of a striker.
And every transfer window, the club is in danger of losing one its prize assets.
Every year, there’s the hope that the squad can be strengthened, but football is secondary to finance at United, a model of self-sufficiency in a league which has seen hundreds of millions of pounds poured into it from overseas owners.
The club’s ambition isn’t to win the league. And it isn’t to win a cup.
Instead, the aim is for Newcastle to be “the best it can be pound for pound”, which is something entirely different.
Supporters, understandably, want their team to challenge for honours, with the club having not won a major trophy since 1969.
Why shouldn’t they expect their team to challenge given the sheer numbers that click through the turnstiles at St James’s Park every home game?
More than 52,000 were in attendance for Sunday’s 3-2 win over Everton.
Pardew – who fuelled speculation about his future by refusing to speak to the media after that game – also wanted silverware.
He has his shortcomings, but a lack of ambition wasn’t one of them.
Only time will tell how history views Pardew’s four years at St James’s Park.
There have been highs, lows and everything in between.
Four consecutive derby defeats to Sunderland are an indelible stain on Pardew’s record at the club.
But that same record also shows a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League and a Europa League quarter-final.
It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.
And managing a club when you don’t have control of incomings and outgoings isn’t easy.
But the relationship between Ashley and Pardew, unusual as it was, seemed strong.
When he signed his eight-year contract in September 2012, it was for better or worse.
Ashley opted not to dismiss Pardew in the summer despite a public clamour for his sacking, and few thought a separation was in the offing early this month when he celebrated his four-year anniversary.
At the time, Pardew said: “It’s credit to the owner, and also credit to me because I’ve had to dig in a few times.
“Sometimes his flag is up the pole, and sometimes it’s mine.
“But I think we both knew that when we signed that long contract, that there were going to be difficult days as well as good days for us both.”
As the club’s only public mouthpiece, Pardew has had to defend Ashley’s decisions.
And his relationship with fans has long been frayed, though there are many who will defend his record.
As ever with United, it’s not black and white.
Pardew, undoubtedly, will be embraced at Selhurst Park, where he spent four years as a player.
He’ll also be embraced by his family, having lived away from them for four years.
But will Newcastle embrace his successor?