Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pardew's Targeting Return to Europe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pardew's Targeting Return to Europe

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

ALAN Pardew has urged his high-flying Newcastle United side to grasp the "fantastic opportunity" their form has afforded them - and clinch a triumphant return to Europe.

United missed a chance to close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea on Saturday by losing at Fulham.

However, they remain well-placed to have a tilt at the Europa League places - provided they can regain their momentum when they visit struggling Blackburn next week.

Pardew has been at pains not to overreact to the Craven Cottage reverse, but he is monitoring his side for any drop in the standards they have set for themselves so far. A mid-season break in Tenerife, which ends today, was intended as a chance to recharge batteries ahead of a run-in which Pardew feels could be "terrific".

"The hunger is something I am trying to drive. Some of the younger players have not been this close before to where we are going," he told BBC Newcastle's Total Sport programme.

"Shola Ameobi is one of the exceptions but it is important to get the message across that we have a fantastic opportunity here and we cannot let it go. I can sense in the squad they see an opportunity.

We are just going to try and play the best football we can to try and take it."

Pardew sees the mid-winter months as key to United's assault on the European places.

Pinpointing Newcastle's relative lack of experience in comparison to the likes of Liverpool, he believes staying focused and in form during the next few weeks will be a major challenge.

So far United have been able to cope with the pressure, brushing aside setbacks to stay on course for an impressive top-ten finish.

However, the second half at Fulham caused alarm in the Newcastle camp, because Pardew identified a lack of "hunger" in his team.

He added: "That disappointed me a bit in terms of the hunger, in terms of getting it back. …

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