NEWCASTLE UNITED owner Mike Ashley will be in the stands when Newcastle host Everton tonight and Alan Pardew believes his presence at their last three games bodes well for the club going into a hectic summer.
Ashley made his first appearance at St James’ Park since September for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace and he will make it three games on the trot when Roberto Martinez’s side visit this evening having also been at Craven Cottage for the defeat to Fulham ten days ago.
It is a far cry from the man who has maintained an incredibly low profile during his tenure, with the exception of his early days in charge, despite several controversies overshadowing his ownership.
It is no coincidence that Ashley’s visits have come during Pardew’s three-match stadium ban for head-butting David Meyler, and the Magpies boss believes Ashley’s show of support during his absence suggests he is still very much interested in the club despite constant reports he could sell up.
“He will be at the (Everton) game and that means he has been to the three that I have missed so obviously for me it has been great that he has shown that support,” said Pardew, who will watch from the club’s training ground for the last game of his stadium ban.
“It is important that in my absence he did that and I thought it was great that he did do that. I don't want to say what was said in private discussions but it is the fact he has been to the three games that I have missed.
“In terms of the club, that bodes well because he knows in the summer, we have a bit of work to do.
“I caught up with him after the game and he was very pleased because he wants us to keep driving towards the end. That’s how he conducts his business and the other side of his business, and that’s what we do here.”
Pardew revealed last week that he had met with the Newcastle owner to discuss their summer transfer strategy ahead of a close season that is likely to see significant changes to his playing staff.
There are question marks over the future of several first-team members, including captain Fabricio Coloccini, who tried to force through a move to former club San Lorenzo 14 months ago.
Newcastle blocked his attempts to leave, but there has been constant speculation that the Argentina international will ask to return to his homeland again this summer, despite only signing a new long-term contract in 2012.
Pardew admits he is yet to discuss the defender’s future beyond the end of the season, but the Magpies boss revealed he is confident the centre-back will remain on Tyneside.
He said: “I have not had that conversation (about his future) with Colo for a while or about prolonging his contract.
“It has another two years left. I am not really worried about it at this stage but obviously it is a conversation that I will have with Colo and we will pick the right decision for the club.
“What might be right for him might not be right for the club but I am hoping we both make the same decision because I want him to stay. I think he is an essential part of this team. He is one of my most important players.
“I don't see anything to give me cause for alarm if I am honest. His mentality for the game will never change. He is quite calm. He enters the game to be the best player and most of the time, he is.”
Pardew is likely to name an unchanged team tonight with Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy not expected to be fit until Manchester United’s trip to St James’ Park a week on Saturday.
The Magpies have struggled to score without their top scorer, but Pardew hopes Cisse’s breakthrough in front of goal will ease the pressure on the Frenchman.
Remy and Cisse have only started together four times this season, but once the former is back from injury, Pardew is adamant the pair can forge a successful partnership.
“I think they can (play effectively together),” said Pardew. “Loic would definitely be the one who drops deeper, which he has done on occasions for us. He does that pretty well too.
“The difference between the two is that I do not think Papiss does that bit well, linking play. Since Cabaye has gone, I have talked to Loic about playing there and I think he can.”
Newcastle will be up against Romelu Lukaku tonight, a player Pardew tried to sign last summer.
The Belgium international’s future beyond the end of the season remains unclear, but the Newcastle boss admitted it would be difficult to land the striker should Chelsea decide to sell.
He said: “I think he is a player a lot of clubs will be looking at in the summer. I don't think Everton will get a free run at him. At the moment, it is a bit like we are with Loic.
“It is a situation that Everton would love to keep him as we would with Loic and those questions are really out of Everton’s and our control.”
Newcastle XI: Krul; Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Anita, Tiote, Gouffran; de Jong, Cisse.
*Andre Marriner will take charge of Newcastle's trip to Southampton this weekend, despite sending off the wrong player in Arsenal's defeat at Chelsea on Saturday.
Marriner dismissed Kieran Gibbs for handball in the early stages of the game, despite the fact it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who diverted the ball away from goal using his hand.