Pardew challenges his Magpies to soar higher

ALAN PARDEW has challenged his Newcastle players to keep punching above their weight to maintain contact with the Premier League’s big boys.

The Magpies head into tomorrow night’s home clash with West Brom without a win in their last five games, but still sitting in seventh place in the table after an impressive start to the campaign.

Injuries, suspensions and a fixture list which pitched them into battle with Manchester City and Manchester United as well as fellow aristocrats Chelsea on consecutive weekends have taken their toll.

And there was disappointment on Tyneside on Saturday when Swansea left with a point after surviving a first-half deluge to claim a 0-0 draw.

However, while Pardew knows his squad cannot hope to compete with English football’s major powers financially, he is confident they can cling to their coat-tails.

He said: “Our best team can compete with any team in this Premier League. Whether we have got a strong enough squad to keep us consistently in the top seven all year, we will have to wait and see.

“But certainly, we still have a nice margin over the rest.

“Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea are way, way above us in terms of budgets and everything else, so we are doing absolutely fabulously, make no mistake about that.”

Pardew, whose side have amassed 27 points from their first 16 games, continues to look upwards rather than over his shoulder. He said: “It’s dangerous to look behind, so we will look up and go from there.”

The busy Christmas period will fully test Pardew’s squad as he prepares to enter the transfer market again with a centre-half high on his wish-list as a result of Steven Taylor’s season-ending Achilles injury.

He has been linked with FC Twente’s Douglas Franco Teixeira, but it was the Brazilian-born defender’s former club-mate Cheick Tiote whose future remained a major topic of debate amid reports that Manchester United — one of several clubs credited with an interest — had him watched at the weekend.

Pardew is hoping to have Ivory Coast international Tiote, who made his first appearance for almost two months against Swansea following a knee problem, and Senegal counterpart Demba Ba available until the middle of next month before they head off on African Nations Cup duty.

Meanwhile, Newcastle again declined to comment on reports Sochaux striker Modibo Maiga’s proposed move has collapsed because of a knee problem.

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