Alan Pardew turns Newcastle United attention to Premier League survival

 

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has warned his players to forget about their Europa League heroics and concentrate on the task of dragging themselves to Barclays Premier League safety.

The Magpies booked a last-16 clash with big-spending Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala next month with a 1-0 victory over Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine last night.

However, despite his delight at the win, just his side's second on the road in all competitions this season, Pardew swiftly turned his attention to Sunday's visit of former club Southampton to St James' Park and the quest for another three points to ease themselves clear of the fight against relegation.

Asked if Europe now had to be put to one side for the time being, Pardew said: "Yes, for sure.

"We have got two very important Premier League games and if we could get three, four points out of those two games, I would take that now.

"It would give us a good angle to go into the next phase of the Europa League."

Newcastle currently sit in 16th place in the table, just four points better off than Reading inside the bottom three and Pardew is well aware that advantage could have all but disappeared by the time his side kicks off on Sunday afternoon.

The game has added spice for him as he was summarily dismissed from his job as Saints manager by chairman Nicola Cortese in August 2010 after just 13 months in charge.

A similar same fate befell successor Nigel Adkins in January, although the south coast club's fortunes have taken a turn for the better since the appointment of Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino as his replacement.

Southampton have collected four of the last six points on offer, the last three from a stunning 3-1 home victory over champions Manchester City, and Pardew is under no illusions as to how difficult a game it will be having seen his side lose 2-0 at the St Mary's Stadium in November.

He said: "It's going to be dear to my heart to win this game, trust me, so I won't be pulling any punches in my dressing room.

"But that's easier said than done. Southampton have definitely picked up and they play a high pressing game which we are going to have to combat.

"He [Pochettino] has had a good start. There are some good players there and I am looking forward to seeing them.

"They got the result over us the last time and they thoroughly deserved it, so we need to perform a lot better than we did at their place."

Victory at St James' would cement a great week for the Magpies, although last night's match-winner could find himself cast in the role of frustrated bystander for part of the afternoon at least.

Striker Shola Ameobi calmly stroked home the 64th-minute penalty which ensured Newcastle's progression, but is likely to be among the substitutes once again on Sunday with Frenchman Yoan Gouffran, who is ineligible in Europe, ready to resume after recovering from a badly-gashed shin.

Ameobi said: "It is difficult for me. When you try to establish yourself in the team, you play one week, then have three out. That's difficult for anybody and I am no exception.

"It is hard to find your form. I just do the best I can when I am given my chance.

"But it's important to know that it is not about me - it is about the team. That always comes first.

"The manager has a big decision every week on who to play and who to leave out.

"Unfortunately I have been the one left out the most this season, but every time he asks me to do a job, I will grab it with both hands."

Ameobi did not show a flicker of emotion as he waited to make his decisive intervention amid a hostile atmosphere at the Metalist Stadium, 10 years to the week after former boss Sir Bobby Robson heaped praise on a player he described as his "lanky Bambi" after watching him score a Champions League double at Bayer Leverkusen.

The 31-year-old said: "People ask me this, but it is a free shot at goal. You are nervous, but it was a chance.

"But there was no doubt going through my mind. Fortunately, I have never missed one. The confidence has always been there - it always will be. It is a matter of applying myself."

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