Newcastle start surprises Alan Pardew


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The Independent Football

Alan Pardew has admitted even he is surprised at how well his Newcastle side has started the new season.

The Magpies climbed into third place in the Barclays Premier League table on Monday night after extending their unbeaten run since the campaign got under way to 10 games with a 3-1 victory at Stoke.

Indeed, they have lost only one of the 13 matches they have played in all competitions - last month's 4-3 Carling Cup fourth-round defeat at Blackburn - to confound their critics heading into Saturday's home clash with Everton at St James' Park.

Pardew was always confident his team could prosper despite the summer departures of Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Joey Barton and the failure to land a big-name striker, but even he did not expect them to be flying quite so high.

Asked if he was surprised, he said: "Yes, of course. You don't expect to go this far in the Premier League and not be beaten.

"We have had a couple of shaky games where it was definitely on the cards that we could lose, but we have managed to get something out of the game.

"I can't say I am not slightly surprised by how well we have done."

Tougher tests lie ahead - Newcastle travel to both Manchester clubs later this month before hosting Chelsea on successive weekends - but the more optimistic of fans are starting to believe a top-six finish and European qualification may not be too far-fetched.

Pardew, however, is happy to resort to the cliche of taking one game at a time, and laughed off wilder suggestions that the Magpies could get themselves involved in the title race.

He said: "We have had a great start and we are showing a lot of sides to us as a team.

"We will just take that into Everton and look no further than that."

Managing expectation is something successive Newcastle bosses have not really had to do since Sir Bobby Robson's era, although Pardew is confident nobody is allowing themselves to be carried away.

He said: "I don't think it's a problem. I think our fans are under-estimated about their knowledge of the game. I think they know exactly where we are at.

"They know we are playing with confidence and that we have got a decent side. How good it is, we don't know. We are just going from game to game at the moment.

"But I don't see the expectation levels rising or going through the roof here. Everybody has got their feet on the ground and we are just hoping we can keep it going."

Defensive resilience has been a key part of Newcastle's success to date, and Pardew once again championed Steven Taylor's cause when asked about his England credentials.

He said: "This is a centre-half who is playing with the best defensive record in the league.

"He's quick, he's good in the air, he's brave, he's a very good passer of the ball.

"I look at the England centre-halves we have - and they are a good collection - and I think he definitely can fit in there, no problem."

Meanwhile, Pardew saluted Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson as he prepares to celebrate 25 years at Old Trafford, although insisted with tongue firmly in cheek that the Scot had him and his Crystal Palace team-mates to thank for the 1990 FA Cup final success which bought him time after a difficult start.

He said: "He's been the godfather of this Premier League for a long, long time and still reigns to a degree, although he is being pushed around a little bit by that upstart from down the road, (Manchester City boss Roberto) Mancini.

"What he has done is just phenomenal. I was there at the very start because perhaps if Crystal Palace had won the final - and we should have if we hadn't made a couple of errors towards the end of the game - he might not even be there, so he's got me to thank for that.

"I am pleased for him and long may he continue."