AS he comes to terms with the loss of Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye until February, Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has revealed the club will have to revise its targets for the season, but refused to admit a top six finish is beyond his struggling side.
The Magpies go to Stoke City tonight seeking their first win since October 28, but will be without both Taylor and Cabaye.
Taylor limped off towards the end of Sunday’s defeat at Southampton with a hamstring injury and he is likely to be missing for six to eight weeks.
Cabaye has been out since the home defeat to West Ham with a hernia problem and Pardew revealed he will also be sidelined until February after undergoing a second operation to fix the injury.
Their absence piles even more pressure of Pardew, who is already missing the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and Gabriel Obertan, and means the Magpies boss will be forced to reshuffle his pack once again.
There is one saving grace for Pardew ahead of tonight’s game at the Britannia Stadium, the return of captain Fabricio Coloccini, who has completed a three-match ban.
After three straight defeats, pressure is mounting on Pardew to turn things around and having targeted a repeat of last season’s fifth place finish, he admits the squad will have to reassess their aims.
“We need to re-evaluate and I think we are all aware of that,” Pardew said. “You have to take into the consideration about what the psychological damage of losing key players can do to a team.
“We lost Colo and Cabaye in the same weekend and anyone who saw the disappointment on my face at Liverpool – it wasn’t so much that they had scored but I knew we would be facing some problems and ironically that fear has come to light.
“Hatem on top of that – they are psychological blows to a team. That would be for any top team in the Premier League other than the top four who have big players in the background.
“We have suffered and have to deal with that. We need to find a solution to winning games in the Premier League with what we have.”
Pardew, though, refused to concede finishing in the top six was out of reach.
He said: “I won’t say it’s beyond us as I don’t know what has happened in the past but it will be a long, long run for us, certainly in the second half of the season we will look to have a stronger side what with the window and senior players coming back to us.
“The crucial period for us will be now until the first of February.”
With the creativity of Ben Arfa and Cabaye now missing, Pardew will have to come up with a different game plan and he believes the key lies with the way his team attack.
He said: “A big creative force of this team is in the treatment room, Hatem and Cabaye are two big big players for us in terms of imagination.
“You cannot suddenly ask a team to start delivering the type of imagination those two offer us. So we have to come up with a different game plan.
“The link between the attack and midfield has been a problem for us and, in terms of the opposition, playing Stoke is not ideal if you want to get that going again because the game is stop start.”
Sunday’s defeat was the first time Newcastle have lost three games on the bounce since their relegation season and their current form has attracted criticism.
However, Pardew insists his players must deal with it and improve, although key players have suffered dips in form.
“A few egos have been knocked,” he said.
“I think that is understandable and not a bad thing. But it’s about the reaction and how you react to it. We are well aware that the fans are restless for a performance let alone a win but so are we.
“The media criticism in today’s society and modern football world is part and parcel of what goes on. You can’t be affected by it. You have to deal with it.
“The criticism is warranted to a certain degree because the performance level hasn’t been great in the Premier League.
“There are a few players hurting from their performances but great players fight that and are able to answer the criticism.
“And when you lose three games in a row at Newcastle it’s coming your way and you have to deal with that.”