ALAN Pardew last night hailed the instant impact of his January signings, and claimed Newcastle United would not have secured a crucial 2-1 win over relegation rivals Aston Villa had Moussa Sissoko's transfer not been completed in time for him to line up at Villa Park.
With Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy in the starting line-up, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa coming off the substitutes' bench, the Magpies claimed their first away win of the season to move four points clear of their opponents, who dropped into the bottom three.
Sissoko set up Papiss Cisse's 19th-minute opener, with Yohan Cabaye doubling Newcastle's lead shortly before half-time, but the visitors had to withstand a frantic second-half fightback from Villa to secure a much-needed victory.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul was outstanding after the break, but Pardew felt his side would not have triumphed without the efforts of their January additions.
“It was a big win for us,” said the Newcastle boss. “When you're looking at players, you're trying to find a secret ingredient for the team, but it's not always easy for them to come in and do as well as they did in the first half. “I'm surprised myself. Sissoko really came in and grabbed the game by the horns, and that's what we needed. We really needed something out of this game and did well to get the players over the line in time to be involved.
“Derek Llambias (managing director) and Lee Charnley (club secretary) have really worked hard to get those deals over the line. I don't think we'd have won that game without the signing of Sissoko, I really don't. That's how important that signing was.”
The jubilant reaction of Newcastle's players at the final whistle underlined the importance of the result, both in terms of improving the club's position in the bottom half of the table and fostering a renewed team spirit. Every Magpies player celebrated in front of the travelling fans, a number of whom were wearing French-style dress.
Some observers have claimed this week's events will create divisions within the Newcastle squad, but last night's events suggest the group is in a much better shape than it was a couple of weeks ago before four of the five new faces arrived.
“We worked really hard this week on integrating the players,” said Pardew. “They're not here to save us, but they are here to help us and that was the message to our established players.
“We had a nice night (on Monday) in the hotel. We had a nice meeting and you kind of sensed there was a good feeling amongst them all. We had a bit of a laugh with the French translations. It's been a terrific couple of days.”
The mood was certainly triumphant at half-time, but after Christian Benteke halved Villa's arrears from the penalty spot at the start of the second half, Newcastle were forced to dig deep to maintain their advantage.
With Krul and Steven Taylor at the fore, they repelled a series of Villa attacks, and while much of the post-match attention was focused on Newcastle's new boys, Pardew was quick to praise Taylor as he made his first start for more than two months.
“We've paid 8m Euros for Mapou (Yanga-Mbiwa), but Steven got the nod over him so that's how highly I rate him,” he said. “The trick with Steven is that he needs to stay away from injuries and protect himself.
“He needs to learn now. When he got injured last time, he was running up for free-kicks, sprinting here and there and wanting to do this and that. He needs to learn that he needs to manage himself in a game.
“He's got a genuine enthusiasm, but sometimes that's to his detriment. He needs to learn. He's at an age now where he needs to push on. Potentially, I've always thought he could be an England centre-half because he can pass, he can jump and he's quick enough. He's certainly got confidence to play at that level, but injuries have always knocked him when he's playing well.”
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