ALAN Pardew believes Mike Ashley’s January transfer blitz has teed Newcastle up to emulate Everton by storming the second half of the Premier League season.
On an uneventful deadline day for the Magpies, the appearance of Ashley’s helicopter landing at the training ground briefly raised bad memories of the afternoon United sold Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35m.
But the owner’s appearance at the training ground was no cause for alarm – with the sportswear magnate merely landing in the North East to introduce himself to the clutch of French internationals that he had sanctioned moves for. The club received a couple of “enquiries” for their key men, but gave an “emphatic” no, according to Pardew.
Newcastle added to their foreign legion with a move for Swiss youngster Kevin Mbabu yesterday, but that was the only incoming deal brokered by United on a day when they were happy to let others do last-minute business. United have spent more than £20m in January – a record for the Ashley regime – but the outlay was sorely required to shore up a season that has been heading in the wrong direction after a winter struggling with suspensions, injuries and a lack of quality
reinforcements. Pardew (pictured right) paid tribute to Ashley’s approach, hailing him as the best owner he had ever encountered in football, and said that United should aim to finish the season on a high.
He stressed that the club were still embroiled in a relegation fight that saw them facing “15 Cup finals”, but there is a determination to right the ills of the first half of the campaign.
“(Mike Ashley) has been very, very supportive,” Pardew said. “The results we’ve had this year have not been good enough for this club. We did need to strengthen and, fortunately for myself, it gives me an opportunity to turn the situation around.
“We’ve really worked hard to get in this position and the job now is to ensure the team is strong enough between now and the end of the year to not just secure our Premier League status but to hopefully do a little more than that and give us real optimism for next season.
“We want a second half of the season like Everton had last season. I think we have the potential to do that but we have to realise it (that potential).” Ashley’s flying visit coincided with the club’s first ‘French day’ since signing Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haïdara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy.
They have increased the number of French players in the squad to 11, and even encouraged Newcastle to play a France versus the rest of the world game in training yesterday. The Gallic contingent were beaten 5-0, however, much to Pardew’s amusement.
“It’s important to understand the culture and when you have such a big percentage of your squad from one nation,” Pardew said. “We actually had the French versus the rest of the world, which was an interesting game. They got Les Miserables today. But they looked a little bit tired from the other night, they will want a bit of revenge.
“It’s important they integrate (them) into the club very quickly. Nothing integrates better than a win, trust me.”
Pardew wants to see more of the same from Gouffran and Sissoko when Chelsea visit St James’ Park tomorrow. “I think the most important thing for us is to secure our status and when you look at the squad in the summer, you will think it looks healthy,” he said. “The problem we’ve had here is an unhealthy squad in terms of the capping we’ve had. Too many injures, not enough numbers. But the numbers are much better now.”
Fornew boy Mbabu there is a determination to make the most of the three-and-a-half year contract awarded by Newcastle, who signed the 17-year-old defensive midfielder from Servette. “I’ve always wanted to sign for a club in the Premier League and Newcastle is one of the biggest there is,” he said. “I want to finish my development here with the reserves before one day training with the first team.”
United midfielder Mehdi Abeid has joined Scottish Premier League club St Johnstone on loan until the end of the season. In his first game tomorrow, he could face clubmates Paul Dummett and Conor Newton, who are on loan at St Mirren.