Hopefuls' Journey into the Unknown; Alan Pardew Will Hand Youth Its Chance in Madeira Tonight - but There Is Method Behind This Marriage of Convenience. Mark Douglas Reports
Byline: Alan Pardew
IT is a long way to go for Newcastle United's young guns to learn home truths - 1,713 miles to be precise and almost to the tip of Africa.
However, Alan Pardew is adamant the journey into the unknown in Madeira will be a voyage of discovery for those prepped for a major role in the supplementary cups this year.
For a few of those trailed as the future of Newcastle United, these are critical days.
Futures are on the line and Pardew knows his own judgement calls will come into question if they fail to perform at the required level as Newcastle zig-zag around Southern Europe in an effort to navigate a wideopen Europa League group.
It is a perennial problem for young players in the Premier League - managers are fearful of putting them in the firing line because they just can't be sure they'll come up to the mark in the biggest games.
Faced with the sizeable task of fighting on four fronts with a squad which remains at the mercy of injuries and suspensions, the Newcastle manager has no other choice but to give those unproven players their opportunity. To be fair, Pardew has embraced this philosophy whole-heartedly.
He is the man who gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his debut at Southampton and he also promoted youth at West Ham, setting Mark Noble on his way to a senior career at Upton Park.
Now he is prepared to do the same at Newcastle, but it is a policy not without its pitfalls.
The club-chartered aircraft which touched down on Portuguese soil yesterday afternoon included Mehdi Abeid, Romain Amalfitano, Shane Ferguson, Haris Vuckic and Sammy Ameobi - a quintet of players with a major point to prove when they step out against FC Maritimo tonight.
Let's be honest, Newcastle have arrived at this point as a consequence of their decision not to spend lavishly in the summer.
It is a philosophy which has split opinion but Pardew is unapologetic about United's approach to Europe - and the way it will affect his season.
He said: "I make no bones about it - this year our priority is the Premier League and getting a Champions League place if we possibly can.
"That's our goal. Next on our agenda is the FA Cup because we need to win a major trophy here. I put that unashamedly in front of the Europa League and the League Cup.
"However, it is a great opportunity for the Fergusons and the Ameobis who come through the system and are probably the closest to the first team to break through this year and certainly be knocking on the door. The squad's thin at the minute because of injuries and so they are going to get these opportunities.
"We have Man Utd next week and that will be a game where I should think Fergie and Ameobi will start."
Pardew's admission the Europa League is joint third on his list of priorities should not be taken as proof he is disinterested in Newcastle's progress.
Advice has been sought from Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Tony Pullis on their experience of Europe - but Pardew is determined not to let United fall into the trap of becoming weary from their week-day exertions. …