Belfast Telegraph

Pardew focused on Potters points

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is treating owner Mike Ashley's joke threat to sack him as a back-handed vote of confidence.

The 53-year-old woke on Saturday morning to read claims that he is "Dead. Finished. Over." if the Magpies lose at Stoke on Monday evening.

Club officials immediately dismissed Ashley's comments to a reporter in a Soho bar as a joke, and Pardew, who has come under intense pressure from dissenting fans in recent weeks, is viewing the sports magnate's remarks as a positive.

He said: "I think he was trying to be supportive in his own kind of way. They [the comments] are what they are and unfortunately we have had those sort of headlines for two or three weeks.

"The focus for me really can only be Monday night."

Pardew and his players have steadied the ship somewhat in the last week with a determined fightback from 2-0 down to claim a 2-2 draw with Hull with the manager's critics in full voice at St James' Park last Saturday, and then a 3-2 midweek victory at Crystal Palace which ensured the club's continued participation in the Capital One Cup.

However, they will head for the Britannia Stadium sitting at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table and still awaiting their first three-point haul of the campaign.

Pardew said: "We are very conscious that we haven't had the win. We have got to try to get the balance right because it's not a boxing match, we can't fight our way to a win.

"We have got to get a balance between having enough fight and playing, and I think we got that right at Palace. We had enough determination to win the game, but also were relaxed enough to play."

Pardew admits the pressure he has been under, and in many ways remains under, has been far from enjoyable but a better week has salved some of the wounds.

He said: "You're going to carry some scars as the week progresses. You can get an injury, the team doesn't function in training or the press are giving you a hard time, so it does change your mood when you get lifts like we've had this week.

"In particular in the striking department, we've had a lift. We've looked okay in the majority of games and have deserved more points than we have, but at the same time we've looked like we're not going to score too many goals.

"The lift from the three strikers has helped the squad and will settle us."

It was Papiss Cisse who started the ball rolling when, after five months on the sidelines nursing a fractured kneecap, he climbed from the bench and, with Pardew freely admitting he should not even have been in the squad, scored twice to salvage a point against Hull.

Summer signing Emmanuel Riviere took up the baton at Palace when he ended his wait for a first competitive goal for the club at the seventh attempt as he also claimed a double.

Asked how hard it has been for the Frenchman, Pardew said: "He hasn't really carried it as hard. His confidence has been strong in training.

"I have spoken to him on a number of occasions on things I thought would help him get the goal and he always seemed very assured - strikers are made like that.

"But you don't want to go too long without a goal, particularly at this football club and particularly when he got the competition he has at the moment, so they were very important goals for him."

Cisse, keeper Tim Krul and midfielder Yoan Gouffran could all be available after missing the trip to Selhurst Park through illness, and Pardew is hoping the outbreak has been contained.

He said: "I haven't heard anything from the doctor that makes me worry."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes has laughed off Manchester City counterpart Manuel Pellegrini's "small team" comments.

Pellegrini was left annoyed by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho's tactics in last Sunday's 1-1 draw between the sides at the Etihad Stadium.

Having been beaten at home by Stoke three weeks previously, the 61-year-old Chilean held up Chelsea and the Potters for comparison, seemingly belittling both clubs.

Describing the match with Chelsea, Pellegrini said: "It was very similar to the Stoke team, with a big team playing against a small team with very good players, trying to defend, trying to keep the score (0-0)."

Asked for his thoughts on Stoke being described as "small", Hughes said: "I think everybody understood what he meant.

"He was possibly disappointed with the way Chelsea approached the game.

"Having seen us play exceptionally well a few weeks previously, why wouldn't Chelsea follow what we did?

"We didn't take any umbrage with it, as criticism of ourselves.

"It was more the Manchester City manager's take on how he thought one of the top teams went up against his side.

"On the day they were gracious in defeat, which sometimes doesn't happen with big clubs.

"But I felt we fully deserved the victory and they said so."

It was at Manchester City where Hughes was given his first taste of big-time management, and the pressure and expectation that comes in running a club of that ilk, lasting just over 18 months before being sacked.

In that respect Hughes appreciates the circumstances currently being faced by Newcastle boss Pardew, whose side face the Potters on Monday.

From his time at City, Hughes claims the expectation and focus that comes with managing a big club is "unfair".

The Welshman added: "It's circumstantial as a lot of people don't know the reason why certain things have occurred or why there hasn't been a good performance.

"There are always other things people outside the immediate group don't know about and you know yourself you can't go out and say, 'well, these are the reasons'.

"So you have to protect yourself, your position and your club sometimes from situations, and sometimes that's to the detriment of yourself.

"It's not easy because there is more focus on you as a club and you, as the figurehead, in terms of football. It goes with the territory and you have to deal with it.

"The focus on big clubs is always there and the only way you can deal with it, to take that focus off you as a manager, is by winning football matches and if you don't there is a negative focus."

Hughes has no fresh injury concerns, with only midfielder Jonathan Walters a doubt with a calf problem.


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