ALAN Pardew believes a focused Fabricio Coloccini can lift Newcastle United up a level this season, insisting once again he is the Magpies own version of England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore.
United hope to add another striker before the season starts but Pardew sees Coloccini and Hatem Ben Arfa – two of the club’s longest-serving players – as key to the United revival.
He revealed that Ben Arfa has posted swifter sprint times in training than the rest of the squad which has convinced him that the mercurial playmaker is over the worst of a very serious hamstring injury. But it is Coloccini, who spared Newcastle a summer of uncertainty by confirming early in the close season that he would be back to see out the rest of his contract at St James’ Park this season, who will be a real boost for Pardew.
The United boss sees him as his on-field lieutenant and has no reservations about once again drawing a comparison with Moore, both in terms of his temperament and his classy playing style.
Pardew said: “He’s our captain and you only have to look at the stats when he plays. We defend better, our record with goals against is better and he’s a natural leader of the team in terms of what he does on the pitch.
“He’s not a particularly big spokesman in the dressing room but he leads by example.
“I’ve compared him to Bobby Moore and I’ve no embarrassment in doing that.
“He’s very, very similar. Everything I’ve been told about Bobby Moore, Colo is. Lead by example, right attributes, train hard, work hard and play at the very highest level. That’s what Colo gives us.”
United’s progress last season was hampered by a number of distractions but arguably none were bigger than the threat of Coloccini walking out in January, which arrived on the back of personal problems.
Newcastle persuaded him to stay on Tyneside to see them through until the end of the campaign but an injury in February ruled him out for much of the season – only for his return in April to play a massive part in pushing United closer to safety. If injury-ravaged Coloccini’s campaign, it was even worse for
Ben Arfa – who is such an important part of Newcastle’s plans. He is the one player in the Magpies squad with the natural ability to turn a game and Pardew is adamant that he wants to see more from him this season.
He has already put him forward for a recall to the France team ahead of the summer’s World Cup and reckons that the influence of new fitness coach Faye Downey will play a big part in any renaissance.
“It’s a big year for Hatem to stay fit. I don’t worry about anything else with Hatem,” he said.
“I look at him and we all know when we train with him he’s got exceptional talent. We need it on the pitch and we need more of it. That’s something we’ve worked really hard with him on this summer, particularly in pre-season. He got his rest from that hamstring injury.
“Remember that was a terrible hamstring injury and I remember people questioning if he would come back the same. Actually in pre-season he’s produced faster times than anyone else. We know that burst of power is there and that is what sets him apart.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle will visit Morecambe for the first time in the Capital One Cup later this month.
Yesterday’s second-round draw handed the Magpies a trip to the Globe Arena in the week beginning August 26.
The Shrimps shocked Wolves in a televised first-round tie this week and the visit of a Premier League side may attract the Sky cameras again.
Carlisle United’s reward for Wednesday’s thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Championship side Blackburn Rovers is another home game against second-tier opposition.
This time Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City will be the visitors to Brunton Park.
Liverpool will play host to Notts County, Aston Villa will entertain Rotherham and Everton will welcome Stevenage.
Premier League newcomers Cardiff – runners-up at Wembley in 2012 – face a trip to Middlesbrough’s conquerors Accrington.
CAPITAL ONE CUP SECOND ROUND DRAW
Carlisle United v Leicester; Doncaster v Leeds; Nottingham Forest v Millwall; Sunderland v MK Dons; West Brom v Newport; Bristol City v Crystal Palace; Peterborough v Reading; Barnsley v Southampton; Burton v Fulham; Burnley v Preston; Liverpool v Notts County; Norwich v Bury; Leyton Orient v Hull; Everton v Stevenage; Stoke v Walsall; Huddersfield v Charlton; Aston Villa v Rotherham; Tranmere v Bolton; Morecambe v Newcastle United; QPR v Swindon; Derby v Brentford; Watford v Bournemouth; Yeovil v Birmingham; Accrington v Cardiff; West Ham v Cheltenham.
(Matches to be played week beginning August 26)