Pardew in the hot seat
Torres back for Reds
ALAN PARDEW faces a frosty reception from Newcastle United supporters after taking charge as manager.
Chris Hughton’s name will ring around St James’ Park for the visit of Premier League rivals Liverpool today, but the new man in charge has welcomed fans paying tribute to his sacked predecessor.
Newcastle supporters are still in shock at the unexpected departure of the popular Hughton, and unimpressed at his low-profile replacement, whose last job saw him sacked by third-tier club Southampton in August. Protests similar to those when former manager Kevin Keegan left the club in 2008 are planned against multimillionaire owner Mike Ashley, who has come under renewed fire from the stands after appointing a sixth manager of his turbulent threeand-a-half-year reign.
Roy Hodgson’s visitors have had a far from untroubled campaign so far, but their problems are for once eclipsed as they travel to the North-East looking to build on a comfortable 3-0 victory over Aston Villa that took them back into the top half of the table.
Keen to make an instant impression, Pardew has shunned a chance to watch from the stands, preferring instead to lead from the front and spark an upturn for a New- castle side that has dropped into the bottom half of the table after five games without a win.
After signing a five-and-ahalf year contract believed to be worth an annual £750,000 with incentive-based bonus payments, the for mer West Ham manager insists he can win over the many doubters on his retur n to the Premier League after a three-and-a-halfyear hiatus.
“I know I’m not going to win the PR battle. That’s just a battle I’m not going to win. The battles I need to win are out on the pitch,” he said. “I’m not going to compare myself to Chris. I’m a competent manager and my message is that I didn’t deter mine what happened to him. I’m the new guy.
“The problem I’m going to have initially is with the players and making sure I get my message across to them with clarity about them carrying any resentment towards me.
“If there’s a protest for Chris to show him their support then I don’t have a problem with that but I hope it is over with quickly and the fans start supporting their team.
“I can’t wait to get started and what better way to kick off than welcoming Liverpool to St. James’ Park?”
Liverpool had initially hoped Steven Gerrard would be fit for the visit to St James’ Park but Hodgson confir med the England midfielder will be out. Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, has not figured since sustaining a hamstring injury while on international duty in November and despite making good progress, the trip to the northeast has come a week too soon.
“We’ve always been thinking more that he’d be fit to face Fulham the following week.” Hodgson explained. “It would have been much too early to be considered for Newcastle, but he is making very good progress.”
But Liverpool will have Fernando Torres back in their side after the striker missed Monday’s win over Villa to be with his wife as she gave birth to a boy.
Elsewhere this weekend, Chelsea will look to halt their worst run of form in more than a decade when they take on high- flying Tottenham tomorrow.
The Premier League champions’ protracted slump could easily develop into something more serious if results go against Chelsea over the next fortnight, when they face Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal in quick succession.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have taken just five points from a possible 18 in their last six matches, and have not registered a victory in the Premier League since beating Fulham 1-0 a month ago.
The sense that Chelsea’s season is unravelling escalated in mid-week when they suffered their first defeat of their Champions League campaign in a 1-0 loss against French champions Marseille.
And Ancelotti, whose future at Stamford Bridge has been the subject of intense speculation, admits his side’s confidence had collapsed.
“The bad moment continues and we have lost confidence in our play now but we have to come back and keep going,” Ancelotti said. With leaders Arsenal not playing second-placed Manchester United until Monday, an away win for Chelsea tomorrow will be enough to see them go top, albeit if only for 24 hours.
Tottenham, riding high after securing first place in their Champions League group, will be desperate for a victory to maintain their push for a fourth-place finish or better. Spurs are currently three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who travel to relegation-threatened West Ham today. – Sapa-AFP
FATHERHOOD: Striker Fernando Torres should play for Liverpool against Newcastle today.