Toon defuse panic talk

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has told his players not to be afraid of taking risks as they attempt to drag themselves out of a depressing slump.

The injury-hit Magpies head for Stoke tonight desperate to avoid a fourth successive Premier League defeat amid a run which has severely dented their hopes of matching last season’s top-five finish.

The loss of central defender Steven Taylor and midfielder Yohan Cabaye until February has significantly extended an already lengthy casualty list and darkened the clouds hanging over St James’ Park.

However, Pardew insists neither he nor his players can afford to doubt their own ability if they are to stage a fightback ahead of games with Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal.

“You can’t doubt your risk-taking, because actually, that’s what it affects as a player.

“There’s a balance between really working hard and risk-taking, and that’s what we need to get right at Stoke.

“We are certainly not panicking, but we need to be conscious of where we are in the division and that we have got tough games around the corner.

“We are going to need to kick into gear — and kick into gear with some key players missing. That means we have to work that little bit harder.”

Stoke duo Michael Owen and Andy Wilkinson are likely to miss today’s clash with Newcastle.

Owen returned to training on Monday after a month out with a hamstring injury but Stoke boss Tony Pulis is keen not to push the former England man too hard, while Wilkinson missed Saturday’s victory over Fulham with a back problem.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox