Alan Pardew reflects on funeral of Liam Sweeney and the season ahead

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew likes the look of his side ahead of a 'huge' week for the club, starting at Aston Villa on Saturday

(From the left) Newcastle United's John Carver, Lee Charnley and Alan Pardew, followed by Fabricio Coloccini (r), as they arrive for the funeral of Liam Sweeney
(From the left) Newcastle United's John Carver, Lee Charnley and Alan Pardew, followed by Fabricio Coloccini (r), as they arrive for the funeral of Liam Sweeney

Before we preview a football match, we must pay tribute to the ultimate football fan.

A couple of hours before Alan Pardew met the press on Thursday afternoon, he attended the funeral of Liam Sweeney along with Lee Charnley, John Carver and Fabricio Coloccini.

Aston Villa could wait. Just for a morning.

The Newcastle United manager has to his great credit spoken well every time he has needed to about Liam and John Alder. Indeed, the club’s response to the MH17 tragedy, which over a month on does not seem any more real, has been exemplary.

Pardew said: “It was important for the city that we honoured the memory of Liam and it was done in a fabulous way, in my opinion.

“I thought it was a great service. We were there to pay our tribute to what was an absolute mad Geordie fan. It’s such a shame that we have lost two of our greats, but I thought it was done in a very nice manner, and respect to everyone who was there.

“I just think we tried to be there as much as we can as support for them (the family). We have done a number of issues at the club that the family has appreciated and that’s all we can do.

John Alder and Liam Sweeney
John Alder and Liam Sweeney

“It’s a small measure for the loss that they have.”

And while it can seem trivial, and it is in so many ways, there is a Premier League fixture for Pardew to win at the weekend.

Villa Park has proved to be a mostly happy place for Newcastle and this trend has to be continued at the weekend. It is only the second game of the season, but the manager and his team could do with a win after losing the first to Manchester City.

Pardew was right to say that while his team did well enough last Sunday, it was the champions who left with the three points, which counts for a lot more than a decent team performance.

He said: “We have not got away from the fact that we were beaten – you mustn’t get away from that – but I think the mood in the city and the mood around the training ground is the same. It was a performance that suggested we might have some good players here and we might have a unit that has a good framework to go and win games.

“The process for a football manager is to give flair players a framework to play in and that’s what we have got here.

“Now we need our flair players to deliver. We didn’t score last week; we need to get some goals. I think this team has got goals in it. I think it’s got more than one goal a game. Last year, we were winning games by one game – I think we could do better than that this year.

“The expectation on us is a good one at the moment, but we need to deliver, particularly this week, when we have got three games.

“We go Villa, the League Cup and then Crystal Palace, and they are big games for us.”

Getty Images Siem de Jong of Newcastle United
Siem de Jong of Newcastle United

A plus for Pardew is that Siem de Jong will travel. If he starts, one would assume that Vurnon Anita would drop out and Moussa Sissoko would drop back into his place.

But as the Dutchman is not quite completely up to speed yet, it would appear the manager is going to go with the same 11 who started against City. Pardew said: “Siem has to earn the right to play.

“Whether he is ready 100 per cent for this weekend, I am not sure, we will decide that, probably, on Friday. But the guys who played on Sunday did a terrific job. When you are playing teams of the quality of Manchester City, forget about the offensive quality, the defensive quality is just as high.

“It’s very difficult to get past players such as Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta and get shots off against (Joe) Hart, so I thought they did a good job. Whether they can improve on that against Aston Villa’s defenders, we will have to wait and see.

“It’s an important week for us to get points and win our cup game. We have got an opportunity against an Aston Villa team that we have beaten there in the last two years.

“So it’s somewhere we have played well and we have proven we can win there, so we should take that confidence into this game and that’s what we will try to do.”

Action Images / Ed Sykes Jack Colback of Newcastle United in action
Jack Colback of Newcastle United in action

Arguably the best player on the park last weekend was Jack Colback.

If there was any weight on his shoulders regarding where he used to play and who he plays for now, the 24-year-old didn’t look bothered by any extra pressure.

Pardew said: “I’m not surprised by Jack because from the day he walked in here he has looked what I hoped he was going to be, a player who can carry the Newcastle shirt.

“It’s a big shirt, it carries responsibility and the role I have given him carries more responsibility than perhaps he had at Sunderland, and I think he is enjoying that. I want him to express himself a little bit more, and I think he will prove that too. We are really pleased with him.”

There is an argument that Newcastle’s season’s starts for real on Saturday. It’s a season that promised much. A win at Villa Park would help to keep that positive vibe going.

Pardew said: “We have got nothing at the end of the year in terms of the European Championships or a World Cup or anything to distract us from what it’s about for this club, and that’s Newcastle having a great season. Most of the players – in fact, 99 per cent of the players – are spot-on.”


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