Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Britannia Is a Chance to Test United's New-Found Optimism; THE AGENDA: The Issues Alan Pardew Still Has to Address at Newcastle United Alan Pardew and His United Team Have Answered a Lot of Critics over the Last Few Days, but MARK DOUGLAS Believes There Are Questions That Still Need Answered

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Britannia Is a Chance to Test United's New-Found Optimism; THE AGENDA: The Issues Alan Pardew Still Has to Address at Newcastle United Alan Pardew and His United Team Have Answered a Lot of Critics over the Last Few Days, but MARK DOUGLAS Believes There Are Questions That Still Need Answered

Article excerpt

IT seemed to sum up the Premier League's insularity when Andy Gray - then riding high as Sky Sports' top pundit and their most prominent talking head - reacted to a question about whether Lionel Messi was the best player in the world by casting doubt on his ability to perform "on a cold night at the Britannia".

It was a ridiculously worded statement but his point had some validity.

Since the Potters progressed into the Premier League, their brand of football has always been used as a litmus test for whether players - particularly those from foreign climes - can cope with the blood and thunder nature of English football.

Only Stoke have lost that Potteries fear factor recently.

They haven't scored at home this season and have struggled at home since March - so is Monday the night for Alan Pardew to throw caution to the wind and give Adam Armstrong and the young guns a go? While the pressure has eased slightly on the manager for the time being, Newcastle head for Stoke on Monday with a fresh crop of questions emerging for embattled Pardew.

He might have survived his week from hell - the last 20 minutes on Saturday and a hard-fought win at Crystal Palace giving him a pass mark - but there are issues still to address.

United's season has hurtled to an early crossroads.

Do you trust the kids at Stoke City? 1 ADAM Armstrong is the man (or should that be boy?) of the moment but Alan Pardew has previously told people that he must plot a careful path with Newcastle's prodigy.

Armstrong looked fearless on Wednesday and showed up the failings of some of his senior colleagues with a composed debut. But is the Britannia on a Monday night really the place to throw a 17-year-old into the mix? The complication is that Papiss Cisse, who looked sharp last Saturday, can't probably handle 90 minutes. Pardew could send a real message by pairing Manu Riviere with Armstrong - but does he dare? Are you happier playing away from St James' Park? …

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