SHOLA AMEOBI has revealed Newcastle United have not given up on a top six finish despite being without Alan Pardew until the final three games of the season.
The Magpies’ 1-0 defeat to bottom club Fulham saw the gap to sixth-placed Everton widen to eight points over the weekend.
Pardew was missing from the stadium as he served the first of his seven-match suspension for head-butting David Meyler and the Football Association’s independent regulatory commission yesterday explained its reasoning behind the punishment.
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The Tynesiders have spent the majority of the campaign flirting with the European places, but a dip in form since the turn of the year has seen them lose ground on the teams above.
Having more or less consolidated a top ten finish and fallen away from the race for sixth, there were concerns on Tyneside that the season would fizzle out in a disappointing manner despite the promise shown at the back end of last year.
However, with Everton, Manchester United and Southampton all to play in the space of ten days starting next Tuesday night, the Magpies camp still believes they can spring a surprise on the final Premier League standings.
The outcome of those games is likely to play a huge part in deciding who finishes where, but Ameobi, whose Newcastle career is set to come to an end after 14 years at St James’ Park this summer, insists there is still plenty to play for.
“We still believe we can do it,” said Ameobi, who made his first appearance in six weeks as a substitute at Craven Cottage. “As players you look and see there is still 27 points to play for. That’s a lot of points and way more than enough to get us into Europe.
“We’re still fighting even though Southampton have gone ahead of us but we play the next two games at home (Crystal Palace and Everton) and they will be vital come the end of the season as to where we finish.
“As disappointed as we are with this result we have to move on and hopefully use those next two home games to really push up the table and hopefully finish in a European position, which is our ambition as a club.
“We’ve got Everton, Manchester United and Southampton to play and whatever happens in those games will probably determine how well we do, but every game is huge now.
“Your fortunes rest on the last ten games of the season for me and it’s important you continue to carry the momentum we’ve had throughout the season.
“We don’t want the season to peter out, we really want to push ourselves as players. Set backs are always going to happen, but it’s how you react to them and we have to make sure we react quickly to this defeat.”
Pardew will be forced to watch the Palace and Everton games elsewhere as he serves the final games of his stadium ban, although he will banned from the touchline for the next four, but the FA’s independent regulatory commission yesterday admitted the punishment dished out to Pardew could have been more severe.
In its written explanation to the FA, the commission suggests it could have handed the Magpies boss a five-game stadium ban had it not been for Pardew’s swift apology and action taken by the club to fine him £100,000.
The commission said: “In considering the sanction to be imposed, the commission considered initially a five-match stadium ban and a higher fine.
“But, based on the mitigation presented together with the action taken by both the club and Mr Pardew, the regulatory commission came to the conclusion that the appropriate sanction set out below was fair, reasonable and proportionate and thus ordered as follows: "Mr Pardew be warned as to his future conduct; be suspended immediately until such time as Newcastle United FC has completed seven first team matches. The first three matches imposed are a stadium ban with the remaining four a touchline ban from first team fixtures; Mr Pardew is fined the sum of £60,000."
“Bluntly, Mr Pardew had little option but to admit the charge and to apologise accordingly. Mr Pardew is a high-profile and very experienced manager at a high-profile and well-respected club in a high profile league and where matches are watched worldwide.
“This is, on any view, a serious incident which has to be sanctioned accordingly, but at the same time proportionately.”
*Newcastle has announced it will heavily subsidise match tickets for the trips to Stoke City (April 12) and Arsenal (April 28) following supporter feedback on how it should spend funds as part of the Premier League’s away supporters’ initiative.
The initiative was introduced by the Premier League at the start of the current season to arrest declining visiting supporter attendances, with £200,000 per top-flight club earmarked to be spent for that purpose across each of the next three seasons.
While Newcastle’s preferred route would be to enter into reciprocal price deals with clubs, driving down the original price of tickets for both sets of fans, Newcastle will firstly discount £10 from all tickets purchased by its supporters for the trip to Stoke, with the club expected to take its full allocation of almost 3,000 tickets at the Britannia Stadium.
With Magpies fans facing an arduous 560–mile round-trip to Arsenal, with a later kick-off time of 8pm, the club has also discounted tickets for its Premier League fixture at the Emirates Stadium by £10.
Tickets for juniors travelling to Arsenal will now be effectively free of charge, with only a standard £1 administration charge per ticket remaining payable.
Tickets for both matches went on sale for season ticket holders with 50+ loyalty points yesterday morning. Remaining tickets will go on sale to season ticket holders with 25+ loyalty points from 10am tomorrow and all other season ticket holders from 10am on Monday.
The members’ sale period for Stoke City will begin on Friday, March 28, should there be tickets remaining. The members’ sale period for Arsenal will be confirmed in due course.