ALAN Pardew is determined not to underestimate wounded Wolves as his Newcastle United side hit the home strait in their Champions League chase.
The Black Country side have faced ridicule for their efforts to replace sacked boss Mick McCarthy and eventually settled on the former Sunderland manager’s number two Terry Connor in an appointment panned by their supporters.
Although respected by the Wolves players, Connor is an unknown managerial quantity and his appointment prompted bookies to shorten the odds on the Molineux outfit to suffer relegation this season.
It sounds like the perfect time for a fired-up Newcastle to face them, but Pardew remains cautious – warning Wolves will have extra motivation in their attempts to upset the apple cart.
Pardew knows Connor well and will not be fooled into a false sense of security by the under-whelming reaction to his appointment.
The Newcastle boss was hardly feted on his own arrival, but has subsequently performed minor miracles at St James’ Park.
He said: “I have been on a coaching course with Terry Connor and he is a top man.
“I know his brief in the dressing room will be ‘Win it for Mick (McCarthy)’ and that will bring its own motivation for those players. We have to be on our guard for that.
“You only have to listen to some of the noises coming out of their camp – Mick is well respected by that group of players.
“Through thick and thin, he stood there and took the media rap, he stuck up for those players so they will want to show this one is for Mick, for sure.”
Complacency would not be advisable in the Newcastle camp after a mixed recent run of results.
Although they notched noteworthy wins against Blackburn and Aston Villa they have also been hammered at Fulham and suffered a heavy defeat at Tottenham.
They shipped ten goals in those two games to leave some supporters wondering if the defensive fortitude which served them so well at the start of the season had disappeared.
Pardew does not believe that – heralding the return of Cheick Tiote as absolutely crucial to his side’s attempts to tighten things up at the back.
He added: “No, I have not really been scratching my head at those defeats. I think I am clear on why and I think we can address it.
“Missing Tiote was a big reason. I do not think we would have got two heavy defeats with Cheick in the team.
“You know, sometimes, the back four can get confidence from the screen in front. I think there is a little bit of that. That is why I have no hesitation in putting Cheick straight back in the team, he is a big part of this team.”
The season is reaching boiling point for United with back-to-back home games key to regaining the early-season momentum.
Pardew knows it is a critical time for Newcastle – who are desperate to make the most of their terrific form and clinch a return to Europe.
He said: “We have had a fantastic season, we were written off at Christmas but we are in a position we deserve.
“Now the question is whether we are going to move on up.”