Newcastle United players have become so scared of St James' Park that they have told their families to stay away.
A run of eight successive defeats has left Newcastle in Premier League relegation danger with three matches to play. Two of those are at St James' Park, against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and West Ham United on the final day of the season, May 24.
It is understood, however, that a number of players have become terrified of playing in front of the New-castle home fans and that some of the foreign contingent have advised their wives, girlfriends and families to stay at home.
The news only confirms fears that some Newcastle players would rather go into hiding than fight against rele-gation and it remains to be seen whether families are now encouraged to show their support for the final two home games.
Newcastle fans have become fed up with the performances of the players and there have been protests and boy-cotts of games over the past month. John Carver, the head coach, was involved in an altercation with supporters during the 3-2 home defeat by Swansea City on April 25 and players have endured verbal abuse and booing.
Newcastle have won just one game at home this year, against Aston Villa on Feb 28, but desperately need to improve that run over the final three weeks of the season.
It was confirmed yesterday (Monday) that Carver, 50, would remain in charge at St James' Park. He held talks on
Sunday and yesterday with Lee Charnley, the Newcastle managing director, and also met the captain, Fabricio Coloccini.
As revealed by The Daily Telegraph, Coloccini was involved in a bust-up with team-mate Tim Krul after Saturday's defeat by Leicester City that raised question marks over his captaincy. Following clear-the-air talks, however, Coloccini is poised to escape being stripped of the armband for the West Brom game.
Carver has given serious consideration to replacing Coloccini as captain for the final three games of the season, but the Argentine is his only available senior defender for the West Brom match. That appears to have saved Coloccini for this weekend at least and Newcastle will now hope he and the other senior players accept more responsibility and show greater character over the closing weeks.
In a statement that reiterated Carver would remain in charge for the games against West Brom, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham, New-castle confirmed that senior players had been spoken to.
The statement read: "Following the result at Leicester City on Saturday, there has been two days of frank -dialogue with John Carver and senior players. The outcome of those discussions is that the board, John Carver, his staff and players are absolutely focused on our current situation and the three hugely important fixtures that remain this season, two of which are at St James' Park.
"All parties accept responsibility for the current situation but are determined, together, to ensure this club - your club - retains its Premier League status. That is the only focus at this time."
Despite the appalling run of results, there remains backing for Carver at board level and an acceptance that mistakes have been made over recruitment that have left the club with too many players lacking character. The board are also aware that accusations that Carver had not properly prepared his squad for games were unfair. Newcastle players were shown a video of Leicester's fast start against Swansea on at least two occasions before their trip to the King Power Stadium, but still conceded a goal after 38 seconds.