Steve McClaren’s hit back at claims that relegation-threatened Newcastle United is a club in denial.
McClaren’s side has been in and around the Premier League’s drop zone all season.
And Newcastle take on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium tonight looking to end a dismal run of six successive defeats away from home in all competitions.
United managing director Lee Charnley took questions from supporters at a Fans Forum meeting last week.
Charnley and the club’s other representatives were asked if the club was “in crisis” given its predicament near the foot of the league.
Newcastle’s hierarchy, according to the minutes of the meeting, “disagreed” with that assessment and insisted they were “confident” the team would stay up.
We know exactly what position we’re in. We know the severity of it, and it isn’t like last season where it maybe sneaked up on us a bit.Steve McClaren
Some fans responded by claiming the club, which hasn’t had a game for 18 days, was in denial about its increasingly precarious position.
But head coach McClaren said: “I’ve seen people who were there (at the Fans Forum) and that wasn’t the case.
“That’s been misinterpreted. We know the situation we’re in, and that’s what has been stressed most of all in the last 18 days.
“We know exactly what position we’re in. We know the severity of it, and it isn’t like last season where it maybe sneaked up on us a bit.
“We’ve been in the bottom four or five for the whole season, so we know.
“We know where we are, and we know what we’ve got to do. We know we have certain things we have to put right to make sure we get out of it, but we’ve got the players to do that.”
Asked if the players shared that view, McClaren added: “Yes, the players share that knowledge.
“It was one thing that we asked at the start of this period, and the message that we threw at the players was that they have to know and realise the situation that we’re in.
“They can’t afford to leave it until the last game in the hope they’ll do something there.
“We’ve been saying this all season to get out of the bottom three. It’s not a new message in that respect, it’s just the severity and the seriousness of the position is starting to get heightened.
McClaren took his squad away to La Manga, Spain, for a training camp and friendly against Lillestrom last month.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini returned to Tyneside with a calf injury.
And the defender will miss the Stoke fixture and Saturday’s must-win home game against Bournemouth.
Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, signed from Swansea City last month, is the leading contender to wear the captain’s armband at the Britannia Stadium.
And midfielder Shelvey, signed from Swansea City in January, is the leading contender to lead McClaren’s relegation-threatened side.
Asked who would captain Newcastle at Stoke, McClaren said: “You’ll find that out.
“We need someone to drive this team and lead by example both playing and vocally.
“It will be interesting to see after a lot of criticism about the team interesting to see how we cope without Colo and see who steps forward.
“We’ve talked a lot about bringing in characters with Shelvey and (Andros) Townsend.
“He (Shelvey) has certainly been vocal. It’s about everybody, and we’ve lacked that especially away from home, and that’s one of the reasons we’re not winning.
“The captain has to envelop what you are trying to say.
“That’s one of the reasons we brought Jonjo Shelvey into this club because he epitomises what we want to achieve going forward.
“He flicks a coin and says which way you’re kicking, but we need 11 captains out there.”
Coloccini’s defensive colleague Chancel Mbemba (ankle) will also miss this week’s games, but striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has recovered from a knee problem in time to make McClaren’s squad. Siem de Jong, Papiss Cisse, Vurnon Anita and Paul Dummett are also available.