MIKE ASHLEY has given Newcastle United's recruitment team the green light to step up their pursuit of a number of “realistic” attacking targets ahead of the opening of the summer transfer window.
In a move that suggests there is no immediate intention to appoint a new director of football to replace Joe Kinnear, Ashley attended a strategy meeting with Alan Pardew and Graham Carr to discuss the club's transfer options.
The trio have agreed the need to sign a proven replacement for Yohan Cabaye, who joined Paris St Germain in a £20m move in January, and are also understood to have discussed potential centre-forward options with Loic Remy unlikely to complete a permanent move to Tyneside in the summer and Shola Ameobi due to be released as a free agent.
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Kinnear's departure in February left a significant hole in Newcastle's executive structure, and while the Irishman's input into transfer matters in January was limited, his presence was widely interpreted as a barrier to Pardew having a direct say in transfer dealings.
There is seemingly little appetite to appoint a direct replacement for Kinnear, so Pardew will hope to have more of a say over who arrives at St James' Park this summer, even if Carr will continue to play a pivotal role in the recruitment process.
“Myself, Graham and Mike had a meeting with some members of our scouting team, and we have some targets that we now need to put our minds on,” said Pardew. “In terms of them being realistic targets, then I think it's fair to say they are.
“Obviously, we will still need to present it further to Mike at some stage and show that it makes sense financially. This club needs to wipe its nose.
“But I'm pretty sure about what I think we need. We've started that process, we started it last week, so the process of bringing players in here is now very much ongoing. Although in terms of will I look at things before the end of the season, then yes I will with certain players.”
For the next two games, Pardew's match-day observations will have to occur away from St James' Park as he serves the final two matches of the stadium ban that was imposed following his altercation with Hull City midfielder David Meyler.
Last weekend, the Magpies manager watched a live television feed in his hotel room as his side slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Fulham, although he was in regular contact with his assistant on the touchline, John Carver, via telephone.
Tomorrow, he is expected to watch the action against Crystal Palace unfold at Newcastle's Benton training ground, enabling him once again to play a prominent role in altering tactics and personnel.
The situation, which is a direct result of Pardew's lack of control at the KC Stadium, is far from ideal, as it is difficult to assess the mood and physical capability of a group of players from the pictures on a television screen.
However, the unusual circumstances have resulted in one unexpected benefit – namely that Pardew has been able to experience his side's matches through the eyes of a fan.
“I had lots of different feelings,” he said. “I had almost like a butterfly feeling in the stomach, the type of thing you get when you're watching your favourite team play. I never really get that as a manager so it was a bit strange.
“Before a game, I know my preparation is good and I'm confident my team can win whoever we're playing against. I have an assurance about how I feel. Maybe because I was detached, I was a bit more nervous I think.”
As part of his personal punishment for a previous touchline spat with Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, Pardew invited 27 local boys' club coaches to Newcastle's training ground yesterday to watch a first-team training session.
The Magpies boss then delivered a coaching seminar and paid for each of the clubs to receive a gift of balls, bibs, cones and sportswear.
He is also seeking outside help to manage and adapt his behaviour, and is close to appointing a personal counsellor.
“I spoke to a couple of guys who I think could assist me in terms of becoming a better manager, so there has been some progress,” he said. “One of them has worked in football, but he's not from football.”
Hatem Ben Arfa was on the training ground yesterday, and after missing the trip to Fulham, the Frenchman will be back in the squad for tomorrow's game.
However, Mathieu Debuchy and Davide Santon will be absent, meaning Paul Dummett and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will almost certainly fill the full-back berths, and Loic Remy is also unavailable.
“Loic will be back for either Man United or Southampton, and Mathieu will probably be a week later,” said Pardew.
* Tomorrow's Northern Echo will take a detailed look at Newcastle's attempts to strengthen their links with the youth football clubs in the area.