HIS unbeaten record in North-East derbies will be on the line this Sunday, but Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew admits he can’t wait to step out in to the hostile atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
Last season, Pardew masterminded a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light when Ryan Taylor’s second half free-kick was enough to give Newcastle maximum points and bragging rights.
However, in the return fixture at St James’ Park in March, Pardew and his backroom staff were involved in unsavoury scenes at the half time and full time whistles, which led to a war of words between the opposing managers.
Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill accused a member of Pardew’s staff of entering the referee’s dressing room during the interval, while Pardew suggested Sunderland’s physical approach to the game had set the tone for the afternoon, which saw two Sunderland players sent off and nine yellow cards issued in total.
Sunday will be the first time the two managers have met since that day and despite leading his team into rival territory, Pardew admits he can’t wait to feel the atmosphere.
“The derby games are electric games,” he said. “I can’t wait for it. The games over there have so much electricity.
I can’t really explain to people.
“I was talking to Tony Pulis yesterday and he was asking me what my next game was. I said ‘trust me, you haven’t got a clue.’”
With neither side having played last weekend due to the international break, both managers could be boosted by the return of key players ahead of the derby.
Sunderland could see the return of defender Phil Bardsley, while Pardew is hoping defensive pairing Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini will be fit.
The pair’s absence has left Pardew short of defensive options and forced the Magpies boss into a reshuffle, while it has also raised questions over the club’s failure to bring in cover during the summer transfer window.
The Magpies were constantly linked with defenders during the summer, but failed in their attempts to land number one targets Mathieu Debuchy and Douglas.
Midfielders Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye have also missed games due to injuries, while Danny Simpson has only just returned to action in the Europa League win over Bordeaux.
Pardew admits it would have been nice to have more options at his disposal, but insists he will not use his injury problems as an excuse.
He said: “I am not looking for excuses but we have not really been able to pick the same team in too many games because of injuries.
“We had a nice run last year because we were fortunate in terms of injuries, this year not so much. It would be nice to have a bigger hand to select from, it’s always nice to have a nice poker hand.”
After Saturday’s African Cup of Nations play-off between Senegal and Ivory Coast was abandoned late on because of crowd trouble, confirmation came through yesterday that the Ivorians had gone through and a rearranged match would not take place.
Ivory Coast were leading the two-legged tie 6-2 on aggregate when the match was stopped, but officials from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed the result would stand and that Senegal had been disqualified from the tournament because of the trouble.
That means Pardew will have forward duo Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba available after Christmas, although he stands to lose Tiote for at least a month if he is selected by the Ivory Coast.
Shola Ameobi could also miss a chunk of Premier League games for the Magpies after Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi revealed he was considering calling up the striker.
If that happens, the 31- year-old would miss games against Norwich, Reading and Aston Villa – and potentially crunch clashes with Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as the FA Cup fourth round, should Newcastle progress.