Pardew: Festive period pivotal
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew admits the festive period could make or break his side's season as they go in search of their fourth straight win against West Brom at St James' Park.
Pardew has master-minded an unexpected revival after his club's sluggish start to the new Barclays Premier League season, so much so that European qualification is even being mentioned in some quarters.
And despite the glut of fixtures coming up in December and January, Pardew is convinced his squad is in a much better place to deal with the pressure than last season's injury-hit campaign.
Pardew said: "We're coming to the real thick end of the campaign now and this really is a spell where you've got to pick up points.
"We've got a great momentum going and if we get another win against West Brom we will be in a great position.
"The nature of the league has helped us stay in contention with the bigger clubs but this is where their advantage comes into play in terms of their squad size.
"But our squad is stronger this year and if we can keep the momentum going and the group fairly fit and well, hopefully we can stay in touch."
Such is the buoyant mood at St James' Park that Pardew could afford to shrug off the latest speculation regarding the long-term futures of Yohan Cabaye and captain Fabricio Coloccini.
Both will feature in the Saturday clash against the Baggies, while French full-back Mathieu Debuchy will return from suspension with no guarantee of forcing his way back into the starting line-up.
"Last season the Europa League campaign was decimating for us and when I was moaning about it a lot of fans probably thought I was making excuses but it had such an impact," added Pardew.
"This year we haven't got that pressure and on Tuesday we probably had the best day's training we've had here in terms of numbers.
"I could have picked two teams but this time last year I struggled to select a side that was capable of representing the team. Heading into December we're in great shape."