WHEN Alan Pardew agreed to take over at Newcastle United he always knew it would be a difficult job. He has shown during his two years in charge that he is up for a challenge – and that is exactly what he is faced with now.
Pardew might not have been the fans’ choice to succeed Chris Hughton in December 2010, but in the months that have gone by he has won over the doubters and the cynics with his ability to lead the Magpies up to a fifth place finish last season.
Newcastle have had a squad under him that has shown an ability to bounce back from disappointments on and off the pitch, with a group of players showing a togetherness which has got them through in times of adversity.
Now Pardew is looking for Newcastle to show all of that again. After four straight Premier League defeats and a series of high profile injuries to key personnel, he makes no secret of the need to win for the first time since October 28 when Wigan arrive at St James’ Park tonight.
The Newcastle boss reckons his players showed more than enough during Wednesday night’s 2-1 defeat at Stoke City to suggest fortunes could be about to take a turn for the better.
“We’ve had our inquest after the second defeat (at home to Swansea),” said Pardew. “As I said last week, we’ve changed some things and I think they seemed to work at Stoke.
“We’ll continue down that vein now – we haven’t changed anything from our preparation for Stoke and that’s how we’re going to go along now, hopefully to get ourselves a win.
“It’s important that you try to cut through some of the rhetoric that can follow a defeat like that and not overanalyse it. You have to stick to your gut feeling about what went on (in the game). My gut feeling on the night was that we played well.”
Pardew knows that another defeat would mean he becomes the first Newcastle manager to lose five Premier League matches in a row. He also knows his team have only managed to keep one clean sheet in the top-flight this season.
“You could throw a number of stats at us that show us up in a bad light,” said Pardew.
“We haven’t scored as many goals, no clean sheets, set plays haven’t contributed as they should do ... the fact is that will turn in our favour if we put a proper performance in.
“That is what you have to base yourself on: getting a performance from the players you’ve got and making sure my staff are motivating each and every individual until we get the maximum we can out of every player.”
While Newcastle are working on trying to get the defence working as an effective unit once more, the need for the attacking players in the squad to click again is just as essential.
Pardew is hoping Papiss Cisse’s second league goal of the season at Stoke – his first came off his backside against West Brom – will kick-start the Senegalese striker’s campaign.
“He looked energised at Stoke,” said Pardew. “ I think putting him in a wide area took the pressure off him a little bit. I hoped that would be the case and obviously he got a goal. It was a proper goal.
“We all know the West Brom goal did not have any intention from Papiss but he got in the position he should have been in against Stoke and suddenly there’s a little spring in his step and he’ll take that in to Monday.”
When Cisse did put Newcastle ahead at the Britannia Stadium he was mobbed by those around him. Only Tim Krul was missing from the touchline celebrations.
“It’s difficult to describe to the fans and the media how desperate we are to win. We really are. We’ve got to make sure we channel that in the right way,” said Pardew, who will have Shola Ameobi on the bench again after groin trouble.
“The celebration on Wednesday was almost like relief because we’d taken the lead and got the first goal. In the Premier League the stats don’t bode well if you don’t score first so we took a step in the right direction, now we have to follow that with a win.”