ALAN Pardew is hoping the defining part of Newcastle United’s season starts in Southampton tomorrow afternoon.
For the next six weeks, the Magpies can concentrate on one competition – a luxury they have not had all term.
On Thursday they qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League, and United manager Pardew will not overstretch his thin squad chasing the victory that would guarantee top spot in their group at Bordeaux the week after next.
But with eight players injured and captain Fabricio Coloccini suspended, it will be far from easy against a Southampton side starting to find their feet in the Premier League.
Pardew compared it to when Newcastle were without Demba Ba, Cheick Tioté and Papiss Cissé at last season’s African Cup of Nations – and is hoping for similar results.
“I look back to last season and I remember when the guys were going to the African Nations, we were losing Demba and Cheick and Cissé had just signed but couldn’t play for us because he was there,” commented Pardew.
“We looked at the group and I just thought, ‘Wow!’ – we were about eighth or something – and thought this is the defining part of the season for us. It (eighth) is probably where we are going to end up and actually, we ended up in a stronger position for the boys to come back to. I am hoping that is the case this time.
“We look to the squad and can they grind us a couple of wins in this period, then the big players will be back?”