ALAN Pardew has urged his Newcastle United players to “seize” a unique opportunity to return to Europe – as he prepares to welcome skipper Fabricio Coloccini back into contention for Bolton.
Newcastle will move into fifth and shave the gap to the Champions League places to just two points if they defeat Good Friday opponents Swansea City, a testament to the fine work of Pardew and his players.
Rather than resting on their laurels and being satisfied with achieving over the club’s pre-season expectations, though, Pardew wants to see his players grasp the opportunity they have given themselves.
The Newcastle boss reckons his side are one season ahead of where they expected to be in terms of their targets, but that is no excuse to be satisfied with what they have done already.
United have a run of winnable games after the Swansea trip, with struggling Bolton Wanderes to visit on Monday.
They will be missing injured Danny Guthrie tomorrow and Haris Vuckic, who was being considered as a replacement.
The Slovenia international will also miss the South Wales trip with a knee injury which will take weeks rather than days to recover from. James Tavernier has been recalled from MK Dons.
But there is good news on Coloccini’s fitness, with the defender looking in good shape to return for the Easter St James’ Park showdown with the Trotters.
“I spoke to Fabricio on Wednesday morning and he’s going to give himself a good chance for Bolton, and try and concentrate on being fit for that,” Pardew confirmed.
“He ain’t going to be far away so if he doesn’t play it’s probably going to be me deciding it’s too risky rather than him. But knowing him, he’ll want to play.”
That is symptomatic of a season that has developed so much better than Newcastle expected.
United have looked a motivated, finely-tuned outfit and their defeat of Liverpool on Sunday proved that they fully deserve their elevated league position.
“The target was to be in contention for Europe (next year), now we find ourselves in contention for Europe this year,” he said.
“Football doesn’t often put an opportunity in front of you, so you’ve got to try and grasp it. I’ve been saying that to the players. We’ve got an opportunity, so let’s grasp it with both hands and hopefully that’s what we’ll do in the remaining games.”
The secret to United’s success has been how unified they have been. Pardew has been delighted at the spirit that the club have shown – even the squad players.
“All the squad have played a part. That doesn’t always happen at a club,” he said. “You can go through a season and squad players come in and they do okay but the team doesn’t get the same results, and there’s a little bit of bad feeling goes on between one group and the other, but we’ve not had that.
“Players have come in and done as well as the ones that have gone out and I’ve not lost a wink of sleep over selecting someone over somebody else and that’s important.
“We find ourselves in a great position after the result on Sunday. We’ve got to try and grasp the opportunity now.” Pardew also attributes part of the success to the way United have enabled their new additions to settle so quickly.
With six goals in six games, Papiss Demba Cisse is just the latest player to enjoy the more professional and disciplined training ground set-up, as well as the meticulous off-field planning.
“A lot of things were settled last year and we put down the foundations of how we played and conducted ourselves around the training ground and that’s followed through this season so it’s been a lot easier for the new players to settle into that environment.
“You have to say we’ve had outstanding players, and you need that in the PL to achieve anything. You can’t get those results without outstanding players. That’s what we’ve got.”