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Pardew: Change is sign of the times
ALAN Pardew can understand why supporters are upset at the rebranding exercise that transformed St James' Park into the Sports Direct Arena last week, but the Newcastle United manager claims the club has to move with the times if it is to remain competitive in the Premier League.
The vast majority of fans have reacted furiously to owner Mike Ashley's decision to dispense with more than a hundred years of history and rename St James', and a large away contingent is expected to air its views when Newcastle take on league leaders Manchester City tomorrow.
Pardew understands the resentment, but is confident yet another bout of off-field upheaval will not derail his players' fine start to the campaign.
And while the creation of the Sports Direct Arena has not raised a penny, with Ashley effectively using the rebrand as a means of attracting potential new sponsors, Pardew feels it is essential Newcastle examine every revenue stream possible as they attempt to compete with the cash-rich clubs at the top of the Premier League.
"I can understand the argument from both sides," said the Magpies boss. "The traditionalists amongst our fans are upset. Of course you can understand how they feel, but the stadium is still in the same place, the Gallowgate End is still there and so is the Leazes End.
"You're still going to have those traditions of walking up to the stadium from the centre of town. They'll still be in their same seats roaring us on. The memories of that stadium are still there and that's important. It's a bit different when you move stadium.
"People aren't ever particularly comfortable with change. You get comfortable with what you know around you, but lots of things change. Barcelona have a sponsor on their shirt when they never used to have one before.
"Clubs have to move on and I hope our fans understand that. The plus side of the coin is that I am sure we will see some money come from that. Hopefully, a big sponsor will see a fantastic situation and we will generate some income."
The last time Newcastle generated a significant amount of income in so controversial a manner was when they sold Andy Carroll to Liverpool for Ã‚£35m last January. Last week's events have reopened some of the wounds that were beginning to heal in terms of the supporters' relationship with the board, but Pardew insists the two events are completely different.
"I don't really see this being as problematic as some of the other issues in the past, in terms of letting it affect us," he said. "Losing someone like Andy had an immediate effect on us and so did not being able to replace him. This is a different type of situation, although perhaps more sensitive, more emotive, for the fans."
The cynics will claim the renaming exercise was timed to coincide with the international break and back-to-back away matches, thereby lessening the prospect of a major demonstration ahead of a Newcastle home game.
The first of two consecutive trips to Manchester sees the Magpies visit Manchester City tomorrow, and takes Hatem Ben Arfa back to the scene of the darkest day of his career.
Ben Arfa's leg was shattered in two places when he was the subject of a horror tackle from Nigel de Jong last October, and the Frenchman has not made a single Premier League start in the intervening 13 months.
He could feature in the starting line-up tomorrow, with Cheik Tiote and Sylvain Marveaux definitely unavailable and Gabriel Obertan and Leon Best still doubtful, and de Jong has made contact this week to apologise for last season's events.
The pair will meet face-to-face after the game, and Pardew is confident Ben Arfa will not suffer from any unwanted memories if he is called into action.
"You can carry some demons after an injury like that, but I've had a chat with him and he's assured me he has no problems going back there," he said. "He has no problems with the particular player.
"That player has contacted him, which I appreciate. He has said he wants to see Hatem, and we've said after the game, not before. Hopefully that will then come to rest.
"I wasn't the manager at the time, but I thought it was a bad tackle and unfortunately Hatem suffered a severe injury. It has taken a long time, but I think Hatem is finally getting back to his best, which is good news for us."
* Sammy Ameobi has signed a new three-and-a-half year deal with Newcastle.
Ameobi, 19, has been rewarded for his breakthrough into the first team and some impressive performances.
The younger brother of Shola, he has made seven first-team appearances in all competitions this term, scoring once - the winner at Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup.
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