DESPITE the impending return of Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United midfielder Danny Guthrie expects to retain his place in Alan Pardew's starting line-up, admitting his manager has a big decision to make.
Having completed a three-match ban after an FA charge of violent conduct, Cabaye will be available for the Magpies when Wolves visit St James' Park a week on Saturday.
And after the conclusion of the African Cup of Nations, from which he came away with a runners-up medal, Tiote is also set to return.
Loading article content
The pair have formed a dynamic partnership is their first season playing together under Pardew, and when the majority of people on Tyneside might expect a swift return to action for duo, there is one man in Newcastle who has other ideas.
In their absence, Guthrie has been an admirable performer in midfield and the 24-year-old - whose current deal at the club is set to run out in the summer - expects to keep his place.
"It'll be interesting to see what the manager decides to go with, obviously on my current form I'd expect to be playing and I'm match fit, so it'll be interesting to see what happens," Guthrie said, speaking at a Newcastle United Foundation event at Newburn Leisure Centre to launch a series of free football Fun Days for local children in the city.
"It hasn't surprised me having a run in the team, the main thing has been to stay fit because I've had a lot of injury problems over the past couple of years.
"I've managed to stay fit most of the season and played very well so if we're going on form I'd expect to play.
"I've put my marker down and the manager has got choices to make, but that's been a bonus for us this season, because the competition for places has been part of our recipe for success."
Pardew is hopeful that along with Fabricio Coloccini and Danny Simpson, Guthrie will sign a new deal to stay at St James' Park, but it is likely any contract talks will be held off until the summer.
Guthrie's performances in recent weeks will undoubtedly have caught the eye of some Premier League managers and the former Liverpool man admits the amount of football he plays between now and the rest of the season could play a part in his decision to stay or leave.
But with Pardew's policy of keeping faith in players who have performed this season, the midfielder is hopeful he will continue to get his chance to impress.
"How much football I play between now and the end of the season will possibly be a factor, but I'll get the season out of the way and I'll have an open mind at the end of the season.
"We've already seen this season that the manager has kept faith in players that have played well and hopefully he'll do the same with me."
Newcastle shipped five against Harry Redknapp's in form Tottenham side on Saturday evening, which saw the Magpies slip to sixth in the Premier League table.
A win against Wolves could see Newcastle climb as high as fourth depending on other results and although Guthrie admits the Spurs result was tough to take, he believes it was a game the Magpies could afford to lose.
He said: "It wasn't a nice result and it doesn't look great on our record, but with the points we've picked up in previous games, it was a game we could afford to lose although we didn't want to lose it obviously.
"A win at home against Wolves going into the Sunderland game would get us back on track and we could be in a great position in fourth.
"We'll look to bounce back again, we've got a little break this week because of the cup so it will give us time to regroup and get over the Spurs result. It's a nice game to come back to against Wolves at home.
"There's a few months left, the run-in will be interesting and we'll see where we are with five games to go.
"It's been a brilliant season and we want to finish it off in the right way and continue what we've done in the first half, but the next season is always the hardest to top that again."
n Newcastle's forthcoming Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland at St James' Park on March 4 is a complete sell out. It is the first time since the club introduced membership schemes that a home game has sold out before going on general sale.