Alan Pardew has tipped Davide Santon to become Newcastle United’s answer to Phil Neville – and suggested he is a central figure in the Magpies’ plans to rebuild in the summer
The United boss deployed Santon in central midfield to useful effect at Stamford Bridge and says he will play the Italy defender there again in the future. With a career spent switching between left and right-back, he already has the sort of versatility that made the younger Neville brother such an important part of Manchester United’s title-winning squads during their glory days.
Although Santon’s performances at full-back have not quite matched the level that he managed to produce on a consistent basis during the early stages of last season, the 23-year-old has proved good value for money at the £5m figure that United invested in him back in 2011.
He was a Pardew pick – on the basis of a recommendation from Jose Mourinho – and the manager has suggested that he will be a central figure when the club look to refresh their squad at the end of a crossroads campaign.
With Cheick Tiote set to miss out again, Santon (pictured left) could play in the engine room as Newcastle prepare to face a Tottenham team riding high after their weekend defeat of Everton. Pardew thinks he has proved himself capable of matching the best sides in that role.
He said: “The important thing is that he’s got a long-term future at this club because he’s still only young and is gaining such experience. He can play right-back, left-back and now he has shown can play central midfield, so you’re looking at one very important player.
“When I look at someone like Phil Neville, Santon could in my opinion be the Phil Neville of this football club, a kind of unsung hero like Phil was at Man United. You look at when they won trophies he was very important.”
With United near the bottom of the form table and losing touch with the European qualification places there has been a sense of drift at St James’ Park of late.
The club’s decision to sell Yohan Cabaye without any serious moves made to replace him made more of a statement than Pardew ever can about the club’s intentions for the second half of the season, and even the long-overdue departure of Joe Kinnear has not prompted any real optimism for the future.
Pardew has bridled at suggestions that the campaign is over but with enthusiasm waning, injuries stacking up and Newcastle fans already beginning to look to a major summer of upheaval, he must be aware that it will take a good performance to re-focus minds on the job that lies ahead for the Magpies.
Pardew insisted: “We’re certainly not looking to limp through this. We’re looking to win, and whatever team I put out there we’d have to look to win it.
“I’m not hiding behind the fact that we have a load of injuries but I still expect us to win.”
One of the bugbears of United’s fed-up faithful is the club’s stated attitude to the Cups and the suspicion that there is not much enthusiasm for getting back into Europe either.
While there were some memorable moments in the Europa League campaign last season, Pardew is on-record as saying it caused serious problems for him. It is a theme that he returned to as he considered the fate of Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked by Spurs earlier in the season.
Pardew has pointed to the fact that every single manager of a Europa League team has been dismissed this term, and he believes the second string of Continental competition has a lot to answer for.
“Number one, all the Europe League managers in the Premier League this season got sacked this year, not surprisingly,” he said.
“I don’t think on the Sunday after the Thursday night you can get to the level as a team for the Premier League and I’ve been saying that ever since Stoke warned me when I went in it.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle have tied young striker Adam Armstrong (pictured above) down to a new long-term deal after noting his impressive progress with the under-21s this season.
The 16-year-old may yet receive his United bow this season and there have been suggestions that he may get his debut against Spurs.