Belfast Telegraph

Champions League bid unlikely - Pardew

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has dismissed talk of a Champions League push after masterminding an encouraging turn-around in his side's Barclays Premier League fortunes.

The Magpies will make it four straight wins if they beat West Brom at St James' Park on Saturday - a run which has lifted them to eighth place, just two points behind the top four.

It is a far cry from the summer of frustration in the transfer market and the controversy over the future of midfielder Yohan Cabaye, all of which appeared to make a relegation struggle more likely.

Given the tempestuous nature of his tenure Pardew is understandably keen not to get carried away with his side's good form, but admits that with an almost fully-fit squad he can afford to look forward with confidence.

Pardew said: "I've been asked about the Champions League but we're far from that and if we got there it would be unbelievable.

"But we have got a very good side who are progressing up the table, and if that question gets asked to me again in April I will answer it, hopefully positively.

"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 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."

But fortunes can change swiftly in the north-east and Pardew will be acutely aware that defeat at home to Steve Clarke's men would once again raise the doubts that continue to bubble just below the surface.

Mike Ashley's controversial ownership and the exact role of Joe Kinnear have begged questions which are still some way from being answered, and which continue to threaten Pardew's intention of doing his talking on the pitch.

In Albion, Pardew sees a side relatively similar to his own, which is why he believes three more points on Saturday will go a long way to confirming the Magpies have turned a corner.

"West Brom are in good form and if we can put a big gap between us and them it will be very important," added Pardew.

"We have proved we can upset sides on form this season, and we will need to do that again.

"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."

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