Pardew targets derby-day boost
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is challenging his players to launch a late-season charge with a derby victory over bitter rivals Sunderland.
The Magpies' 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light in August provided the foundation for a fine start by Pardew's men, and a similar return would give them the perfect launch pad to mount a concerted bid for a top-six Barclays Premier League finish.
Pardew said: "It would give whoever wins a real boost. It will be a difficult game to win. Sunderland are very disciplined and organised and are going to make it difficult for us and put pressure on the ball."
He added: "Our 12th man, the fans, we are going to need them to help us squeeze over the line - but I think it will be a squeeze for whoever wins."
Pardew's assistant John Carver and fellow Geordies Shola Ameobi and Steven Taylor have left the club's newcomers in little doubt as to what is required of them as Newcastle attempt to repeat the glorious scenes which greeted last season's 5-1 demolition of their old foe on Tyneside - when Chris Hughton was the Magpies boss.
Pardew's two derbies since replacing Hughton have both been away from home and have yielded four points, and he is relishing the prospect of sending his team into battle with their neighbours in front of a sell-out crowd at their own stadium.
Asked how long it had taken him to understand the passion of the Tyne-Wear hostilities, he said: "One game. Once you turn up at one of those games, you get to understand it.
"I'm never going to understand it quite as much as a Geordie fan who has been watching his team for 40 years or 10 years, I am never going to have that kind of feeling that they have.
"But I have to understand it and I do understand it. John Carver has made our responsibilities very, very clear this week, and I shall make sure we follow them through, hopefully. The message is loud and clear with our players. The ultimate thing is not to get wrapped up in it, though, when we play.
"You need to have an intensity to match the occasion, but you also need to be able to play and you need a different mindset for that. We need to get the balance right between intensity and having the calmness to play."