Newcastle United legend Peter Beardsley has called for owner Mike Ashley to be given the credit he deserves for resurrecting the club's fortunes.

The 51-year-old former England international, who enjoyed two hugely successful spells with his home-town club before joining the coaching staff, has been handed the task of identifying a new generation of stars in his role as football development manager.

However, he believes sportswear magnate Ashley, whose reign has been beset by controversy - the latest the decision to rename St James' Park as the Sports Direct Arena - is presiding over a bright new era on Tyneside.

The Magpies stand sixth in the Premier League with manager Alan Pardew determined to secure European qualification in their remaining ten games of an already impressive campaign.

But while Pardew has received plenty of plaudits, Beardsley is convinced both Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias should be also congratulated.

Beardsley said: "He [Ashley] is different class, I have to say. Unfortunately, he hasn't been given the support he deserves, but now people are starting to realise the club is on an even keel and going in the right direction.

"I have to say - obviously I am biased and it will always be my club - the club is going in the right direction.

"We have got a brilliant owner, a brilliant managing director, a brilliant manager, and if you have got those three who are really positive, you must have a chance."

Pardew arrived in the North-East under a cloud in the wake of Chris Hughton's surprising departure, and was swiftly dismissed by many as just another member of the so-called 'Cockney Mafia'.

However, having secured Premier League status during the second half of last season, Pardew has set about the task of building a team which can compete in the upper echelons of the table.

Asked if they can cap that by qualifying for Europe, a feat which would need results elsewhere to go in their favour, Beardsley said: "That would be nice.

"The good thing is, that's not my problem, that's the manager's job. But to be fair, he has done an incredible job, he really has done an incredible job. Everybody around the place likes him.

"The Geordies, he would probably be the first one to admit, they didn't want him initially, but they have been pleasantly surprised, and onwards and upwards."

Ashley's efforts to make the club self-sufficient have not always been well received, but figures released last week showed they are close to breaking even.

With the days of marquee signings over, the emphasis on producing home-grown players to supplement the astute business conducted on the recommendations of chief scout Graham Carr has become increasingly important, and that is where Beardsley comes in.

Beardsley said: ''We had a big meeting about it yesterday, and the manager is incredibly positive towards young players.

"The manager has promoted a lot of youngsters this season and they have had a chance - and I wouldn't be surprised before the end of the season if one or two more get a chance."

* Beardsley's comments came as he performed the opening ceremony for a new 3G artificial grass pitch, part-funded by a £102,000 grant from the Football Foundation, at the city's Walker Technology College.