ALAN Pardew insists midfielder Alan Smith is still a key member of his squad, despite rumours he could be sent out on loan during the January transfer window.

The 30-year-old’s opportunities have been limited to six starts this season, with newboy Cheik Tiote preferred in central midfield since his arrival in the summer.

The Ivory Coast international has impressed in his first season in the Premier League and it seems unless he picks up an injury, Smith will have to be content with a place on the substitutes’ bench.

Loading article content

The former Manchester United man is one of the highest- paid players at the club, and with owner Mike Ashley keen to cut the wage bill, Smith could be loaned out or even sold.

Leeds United, are understood to be considering an offer for their former midfielder.

But Pardew insists Smith still has a part to play on Tyneside and fully expects the midfielder to see out the remaining 18 months of his contract, after hinting he could play a more forward role for the club.

“Alan’s been injured, and wasn’t involved on the bench against West Ham. But he will be in and around for the FA Cup tie at Stevenage,” said the Magpies boss.

“He’s an important person in this group, he’s a good character around the dressing room. He’s strong and he knows these sort of games, so he’ll definitely be in the dressing room come what may.

“I like Alan. He’s got 18 months to run here and I’m sure he will want to see those 18 months out.

“He’s had to change his game with injuries and the age he’s at, but that doesn’t mean to say he can’t play a more forward role.

“I just said to him I’ll use him where I think we might benefit from him.

“I think it’s got him excited.

I think he wants to get up front now and get a hat-trick if he’s got one in the locker somewhere. I haven’t seen that on the training ground yet though!”

Meanwhile, after the disappointment of failing to land Peter Taylor, Pardew admitted he was no closer to appointing an assistant, but insisted he was in no hurry.

“Obviously we approached Peter Taylor and that hasn’t worked out, which I’m not going to go into detail about.

“When things are going well you look at why it’s going well,” said the former West Ham United boss.

“Steve Stone and Wille Donachie have done a superb job here under my stewardship and I’m really pleased with them.

“I’m trying to think of somebody that’s going to fit in and not disrupt it.

“It’s about finding that person, who’s not going to bring baggage with them because we’ve got a really good thing going on here at the moment.

So I have to make sure I pitch this at the right time and obviously when you win, the necessity isn’t so great.”