Pardew in the hot seat

Tor­res back for Reds

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

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