ALAN PARDEW has defended the decision to sell Jose Enrique to Liverpool without having a left-back lined up to replace him at Newcastle United.
Enrique underwent a medical on Merseyside yesterday after successfully agreeing terms on a move that will cost the Anfield club an initial £6m.
But the timing of the transfer has left Pardew without a recognised senior left-back ahead of tomorrow's Premier League kick-off with Arsenal at St James' Park.
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Newcastle are still talking to PSV Eindhoven over the possibility of acquiring Erik Pieters, while Pardew insists there are also "one or two" other options he is considering.
However, he will be shaping his team up during training this morning without a new face in his defence and is pondering whether to field Steven Taylor or Danny Simpson out of position. Ryan Taylor or Jonas Gutierrez provide alternatives.
Despite limited options, though, Pardew is adamant that Newcastle had to sell a highly-valued player who would be within his rights to leave for nothing at the end of his contract next summer.
"I would be asking why we hadn't got a left-back in earlier (if I was a fan)," said Pardew. "The difference was, if Jose had signed, we would have ended up with two very, very expensive left-backs and that's something we couldn't afford when we're trying to get the best possible side.
"We also need that money in other areas and of course we haven't got the striker over the line yet. It all has to be within a structure. It's difficult for fans - you try telling a 14-year-old who's passionate about the game why Enrique has gone, he can't understand that.
"I understand a big bulk of our fans just wanting our best players wanting to stay here - it doesn't always work like that unfortunately. We have a back up plan in place.
"You don't want your best players to leave, but we were vulnerable. We offered him a deal and he didn't want to sign it so we had nowhere to go."
Pieters, 23, remains the favourite to replace Enrique at St James' Park, but PSV are adamant their player does not leave the Eredivisie for less than £8m.
Pardew insists he will be given the funds to spend before the end of the month, with the £6m-plus he is due to receive from the sale of Enrique topping up the budget he already had earmarked for a replacement and a striker.
With no progress on his search for a new forward, despite handing the board a list of targets to look at earlier in the week, Pardew was again faced with a familiar topic yesterday: Joey Barton.
He has been training with the squad this week after holding clear the air talks with Pardew. The midfielder, however, is by no means certain to be involved against the Gunners.
With uncertainty surrounding his future, the Newcastle manager is keen to have another meeting with Barton before the season starts to gain an insight into how the player feels.
"His crime to me wasn't that great and I'm big enough to look him in the eye and say by the same token I want the same back from you," said Pardew, who had certain decisions questioned by Barton in the dressing room at Elland Road after a pre-season friendly.
"If you're (Barton) going to stay I need to hear that you're going to stay and that's it. It's as simple as that. Only Joey will determine that. I've said to Joey that he won't play for me and I won't include him unless I think he's pulling for us.
"The decision in front of Joey at the moment is that there's no contract on offer for him here - so does he take a longer contract elsewhere or does he stay and play for Newcastle and take that option later on in the season?"
Pardew insisted Barton would be replaced if he was to leave on a free in the next few weeks.
Given so many unwanted distractions during the summer, Pardew was satisfied to have sorted out the bonuses' in his players contracts for the new season.
"I made it a big priority of mine to make sure that got over the line," said Pardew, aware of problems which existed last season when players were unhappy with the bonus scheme owner Mike Ashley had introduced. "It's important the board and the players are going to go together. I think at any football club, that's what you need. I think it's important - and I don't think it should be underestimated either."