NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew is hoping to head into the knockout stages of the Europa League with a significantly stronger squad than the one with which he started.
The Magpies had already qualified for the next stage of the competition before last night’s 2-0 defeat in Bordeaux, which saw the French side retain their place at the top of Group D to secure, in theory at least, a more favourable draw.
Pardew fielded an inexperienced side at the Stade Chaban- Delmas with the likes of Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba all left at home nursing injuries and Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye on the long-term casualty list.
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However, he is hoping that by the time they resume their European campaign in February, his hand will have been strengthened considerably.
Pardew said: “We wanted to qualify, that was the first agenda in this competition, and we did that with a game to spare.
‘‘I think it would have been difficult coming here if we both hadn’t qualified and they played their best team on that pitch.
‘‘It would have been difficult for us because they have got some very good players.
‘‘But the bottom line is we have qualified and we can look forward to February.
‘‘I am just hoping that, fingers- crossed, when we come out of the other side of the window, we have got a stronger squad.’’ Bordeaux, who like the Magpies made nine changes for the game, were in control for much of the contest and after keeper Rob Elliot had made three important saves, took a 29th-minute lead through Mali international striker Cheick Diabate’s towering header.
The visitors threatened briefly to drag themselves back into the contest immediately following half-time, but Diabate’s second, a cool finish after being played in over the top, secured the win.
Pardew said: ‘‘I was a bit disappointed, really. We both played mixed teams – we had both qualified, which made it psychologically a difficult game.
‘‘The pitch was difficult.
They play rugby on that pitch and it was heavy on the legs.
‘‘I thought they coped better with the pitch, and they were the better side and they deserved to win.
‘‘The truth of it is that a lot of our young players who we played tonight, I was expecting a little bit more.
‘‘We will have a good look at them now because I don’t think the opportunity is going to come around for them again this season unless we really suffer like we did tonight in terms of who was available because I didn’t leave anyone behind who was fit.
‘‘There was no strategy other than bring everyone who was fit, really, but I did have one eye on Monday, for sure.
‘‘I was just a little bit disappointed that we didn’t give it a better go in terms of trying to retrieve the situation after conceding the first goal.’’ Few of Pardew’s young guns enhanced their reputations on a difficult night, and he admitted some of them might have to prove themselves elsewhere before being given another opportunity.
He said: ‘‘Certainly looking at my group there, I think they need to learn a little bit more about this game away from the black and white and the pressure of the jersey here and the level we are playing at.
‘‘I will probably look at loaning a few of those who played tonight, hopefully after January when I have got a stronger position in the squad.’’