ALAN Pardew claims qualifying for the Europa League's knockout phase tomorrow would help restore some of the "feel-good factor" that has seeped away from Newcastle United in recent weeks.
The Magpies entertain Portuguese side Maritimo tomorrow evening knowing a victory will guarantee a place in the Europa League's last 32 and remove any pressure from the final group game in Bordeaux at the start of next month.
A win would also help repair some of the psychological damage caused by successive Premier League home defeats to West Ham and Swansea.
Those losses have affected morale, and while Newcastle's European schedule has undoubtedly contributed to this season's struggles, Pardew is hoping a return to continental competition will spark a much-needed revival.
"We all know if we win against Maritimo, a bit of feel-good factor comes back to us with qualification," said the Newcastle boss, who was speaking after helping launch an educational anti-racism DVD at an event organised by Show Racism the Red Card at St James' Park yesterday.
"Like all teams, I don't care how good you are, you can suffer with your confidence and we don't want to go down that road.
"We've been humbled a little bit recently. I think when you've been humbled, there's only one way to respond. On Thursday and Sunday (against Southampton), I expect my team to respond."
That team will not contain Yohan Cabaye, who is sidelined with the groin injury that kept him out of last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Swansea.
The Frenchman has undergone a number of scans this week in order to ascertain the extent of the damage, and an operation now looks inevitable.
However, the problem is not as severe as it might have been, and Pardew is hoping that initial fears that Cabaye would be unavailable until the turn of the year will prove unfounded.
"I think Cabaye will get the green light to have a minor operation, not a major one," he said. "We don't know how long he's going to be out for but we've got our fingers crossed."
Nevertheless, the Frenchman is set to miss the next few weeks, with his absence exacerbating an injury and suspension pile up that has had a significant effect in recent matches.
Fabricio Coloccini will play tomorrow but miss Sunday's trip to St Mary's through suspension, while Jonas Gutierrez will miss tomorrow but could be passed fit to face the Saints.
Pardew rejects accusations that last summer's failure to land the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Douglas has contributed to the mounting pressure on Newcastle's squad, but accepts that injuries have had a major negative impact on his side's performances in the last month.
"I think I've learned the squad has been stretched and injuries compound that," he said. "With these type of competitions you do need a little bit of luck and we've had bad luck - two cruciate injuries (to Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic), another lengthy injury maybe to Cabaye. We have come unstuck a little bit on top of a bigger programme. Last year we didn't have those injuries."
Pardew and Santon's support for Show Racism The Red Card yesterday comes at a time when the organisation has been criticised by some black players for not taking a strong enough stand against racial offences.
The issue has dominated the news agenda in recent months thanks to high-profile cases involving Luis Suarez and John Terry, the racist abuse that was directed at the England Under-21 side in Serbia and currently unproven claims that referee Mark Clattenburg made a racist comment at Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.
English football has had to reassess just how far it has come since the less enlightened days of the 1980s, but Santon feels the current situation in this country is still light years ahead of the one he left behind in his native Italy.
"Maybe the fans are a bit more racist in Italy," said the full-back. "If they don't like a player they will boo him. It's not nice for the player. Some players, when the fans do that, they walk off the pitch.
"Some black players would get a lot of booing every game and I saw some players cry on the pitch because of it. I understand that. It's not right.
"I think Italy can learn from the atmosphere in the English stadiums. In England they have more respect, in Italy not so much."