SHEFKI Kuqi’s stay on Tyneside will be a brief one, but Alan Pardew has a feeling it could be memorable as he tipped the veteran striker to make a positive impact in his short stint as a Newcastle player.
Pardew has already informed the 34-year-old Finnish international he will almost certainly not be given another contract when his deal runs out at the end of the season, but he hopes he will make the most of the unexpected chance he has been given at a Premier League club.
Kuqi was released by Championship side Swansea City last month and believed he had played his final game in the top flight, yet Pardew has seen something in him which will help fill the void left by Andy Carroll’s controversial departure.
“I didn’t have much of a list if I’m honest. A couple of the players mentioned were not even eligible, there was false information,” said Pardew. “A couple of the players, looking at their references, why are they out of contract?
“Shefki was in a different situation. He is a player I know. He is honest and he is a gentleman. I don’t think too many players here are going to have too many complaints about him because he is a big guy and he can handle himself.
“I knew coming into this dressing room there wouldn’t be a problem. Whoever I brought in, let’s be honest, wasn’t going to be Andy Carroll.
“Was he going to affect our first team? He wasn’t going to challenge Bestie and Peter, unless he rises to the occasion, gets a situation where he comes on the pitch and attacks it. I’ve got a sneaky feeling he might just do that, he’s that sort of character. I’ve always admired him as a player, he gives an honest performance and he is a physical presence.”
Kuqi will be expected to make whatever impression he can from the bench and will go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s game at Blackburn Rovers – one of his 14 former clubs.
Although Pardew has received good news on Shola Ameobi’s expected return date this week, he still felt the squad lacked a bulky targetman up front.
He explained: “With Andy leaving and Shola injured, I just felt we lacked that. It’s a great move for him at 34 and it’s a great challenge to rise to. He is absolutely thrilled to be here and I can understand that. He’s not in awe of it, though, that’s the difference. We haven’t dangled a contract in front of him.
“I’ve said to him, let’s be honest, there probably isn’t anything here for you in the summer, but just to bring his personality and playing ability to see us to the end of the year and he is absolutely fine with that.”
Ameobi was expected to be out for as long as two months with the fractured cheekbone he suffered in the 1-0 defeat at Fulham earlier this month, but United have turned to America and the NBA to reduce that recovery time. Pardew said: “We’ve got some good new on Shola. He’s had his operation, we’re going to send him to America, there’s a basketball guy who specialises in masks for the American NBA. He’s the only one who does that kind of thing, so we’re going to use it to help protect Shola’s cheekbone.
“If he goes out and gets the mask he might be back sooner than we think. I’m open minded about it to be honest, let’s send him out and see how we get on.
“Shola’s sending out the signals he’ll play with it if he’s given the guarantee it’ll protect him and I think it will. He’s out for six to eight weeks at present, so will it be less with that. The important thing is he is willing to put himself on the line. If he doesn’t feel confident going into challenges then there’s no point.
“We’ve got to get him out there, get it made, get him to wear it, get him comfortable with it but, who knows, that could be three weeks, two weeks?
“It’s a nasty injury, but I’d say the NBA is more physical than the Premier League when it comes to cheekbones and injuries, you’ve got arms everywhere and rebounds and stuff.
“If someone in the NBA, a 6ft 8in giant is wearing one of those, I’d feel confident wearing one in a football match.”