Pardew backed to take Newcastle forward

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has been handed the task of dragging the club back into the top half of the Barclays Premier League after holding talks with owner Mike Ashley.

Manager Alan Pardew of Newcastle

The 51-year-old met the sportswear magnate with managing director Derek Llambias yesterday to review a desperately disappointing season and discuss the way forward.

However, journalists understand that despite a year of drastic underachievement for a club which had finished fifth 12 months earlier, Pardew's position as manager was never on the agenda amid fevered speculation that he could lose his job.

That said, Pardew will be expected to improve significantly on last season's 16th-place finish if he is to justify the faith placed in him when he was handed an eight-year contract in September last year.

Llambias said: "Everyone connected with the club was disappointed to finish where we did last season, particularly on the back of such a fantastic year prior to that.

"Our discussions on Wednesday were very constructive and we pinpointed a number of factors that contributed to a season which fell below expectations.

"We are now looking forward and are entirely focused on the forthcoming campaign, with the expectation of at least a top-10 finish in the Premier League.

"There has been a great deal of speculation in recent weeks but our desire, as we announced back in September, is to bring long-term stability to this club.

"It's up to us all now to work closely as a team to ensure next season sees us competing in the top half of the table again.

"We would all like to thank the fans for their continued support and assure them we remain committed to providing affordable football at St James' Park."

Llambias' comments may not satisfy Pardew's critics, who grew in both number and volume as Newcastle found themselves plunged into a fight for top-flight survival.

However, the indications have been all along that his job was not under threat after a series of factors, many of them out of his control, contributed to a dreadful campaign.

There is an acceptance by all parties that the squad with which the club went into battle at the start of the season was inadequate for purpose with the demands of the Europa League - something with which they will not have to contend this time around - and injuries cruelly exposing its lack of depth.

It will be depleted further at the end of the next month when veteran keeper Steve Harper and full-back Danny Simpson leave the club when their contracts expire, and while Pardew is desperate to retain the services of skipper Fabricio Coloccini, his continued presence is by no means certain four months after he asked to be allowed to return to his native Argentina for personal reasons.

In addition, the club's failure to replace frontman Demba Ba either in a pre-emptive strike or following his January departure for Chelsea is yet to be addressed.

It emerged after yesterday's meeting that Andy Carroll will not be a long-term solution to that particular problem despite Pardew's repeated admissions that he would like to bring him back to St James' Park is given the opportunity.

However, given the club's hard and fast recruitment policy, that news should perhaps come as little surprise.

While at 24, Carroll fits the age profile perfectly, the fee - West Ham have reportedly agreed a £15million deal with Liverpool - is in excess of anything Ashley has sanctioned during his reign to date and even a significant reduction on his current wage packet would smash the club's pay structure.

There is an understandable attraction to re-signing a man the Magpies sold to the Reds for £35million two and a half years ago in a cut-price swoop, but unless something changes radically, that is now unlikely to happen.

Instead, chief scout Graham Carr will concentrate his efforts on identifying the best young talent on the Continent with Belgium and Holland, as well as France, understood to be among his hunting grounds this summer.

Pardew will also be on his guard once again amid speculation that some of his bigger names could be vulnerable to attack from clubs who could offer them Champions league football, lucrative deals or both.

 



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