ALAN Pardew is urging his Newcastle United players to use this evening’s Premier League home game with Everton as a springboard for the second half of the season.
The Magpies kick off 2013 in a perilous position just three points clear of the relegation zone, having lost eight of their last ten league matches.
Twelve months ago, they started 2012 with an impressive 3-0 home win over Manchester United, a result that sparked a run of four wins in five games, a sequence that was a key factor in them eventually finishing in fifth position.
They could do with a similar upturn in form this time around, and while Everton travel to the North-East in fine fettle despite their weekend defeat to Chelsea, Pardew is confident his patched-up side are capable of starting the New Year in style.
“Everton could be a platform for us,” said the Newcastle boss, who welcomes Mike Williamson and Vurnon Anita back into his squad after the pair both missed Saturday’s 7-3 thumping at Arsenal. “It’s a difficult platform, but no more difficult than Man United last year.
“I certainly feel that within the team we can beat them. It’s not like I am in a position where I think the team has massively malfunctioned and we have got a problem. Other than in the last 20 minutes, I thought we gave a good account of ourselves at Arsenal.”
Few Premier League sides score six goals in the space of three days against Manchester United and Arsenal, but while there were undoubtedly positives to emerge from Newcastle’s Christmas schedule, the last week has felt like a return to the club’s chaotic past.
On the pitch, the concession off 11 goals in two matches exposed some deep-rooted defensive failings, while away from the field of play, things were equally unstable.
Pardew’s spat with Sir Alex Ferguson dominated the weekend headlines, while the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Demba Ba has overshadowed the build-up to tonight’s game, with the Senegal international expected to start against Everton despite a group of his representatives having met with Chelsea officials at the weekend.
For most of 2012, it was possible to detect a mood of optimism and serenity at St James’ Park. In the last two months, however, much of the gloss has been removed.
“Take November and December out of the year and it was a really great year for the football club,” said Pardew. “Unfortunately, you can’t (take them out of the equation), so this year we have got to put 12 good months together.
“That would be good. I do feel it (2012) was a decent year. I look at this group of players and know that, if they were all fit, we would be in such a great position.
“I have been in situations like this before and suddenly you look at your team and think, ‘Wow, that is our best team playing out there and we are losing games’. Then you really do have a problem, but we have not got to that stage yet.
“I do think there is some real light at the end of tunnel, which is ironic after such a heavy defeat. We’ve had some good news in terms of players coming back (Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye both stepped up their training on Monday) and some positive news in terms of negotiations taking place. Hopefully, that will all come to fruition.”
Those negotiations have related to Mathieu Debuchy, and Newcastle officials have agreed a £5.5m fee with their counterparts at Lille.
Debuchy is expected to undergo a medical before the weekend, and could be involved in Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Brighton with Danny Simpson nursing a broken toe.
The Magpies have pursued Debuchy for more than a year, and after talks collapsed last summer when Lille raised their asking price on a number of occasions, there is a collective sense of relief that a deal is now close to completion.
“It’s not my job to sign players, but the people in charge know what they have to do,” said Davide Santon. “We know we need more players and if they come, we’ll be happy. If anyone comes in, they have to help us finish the season as best we can.
“Particularly in defence, we haven’t had much cover, but it looks like we’re going to sign a player and that would be good news. I don’t know much about him (Debuchy), but he’s a good player.
“I think it’s our job, especially the captain and the more experienced players, to help new signings when they come in and give them confidence in the team. It’s important we help them to play their best.”