Club Focus – Newcastle – Pardew’s Magpies travel to Birmingham

Newcastle travel to out-of-form Birmingham City as Alan Pardew looks to continue a winning start to his new job. Tyneside’s latest manager has now had a full week to assess the players at his disposal and has had a chance to get some of his ideas across. It will be interesting to see if he makes any changes to style or personnel ahead of Saturday’s game. Traditionally many of Pardew’s teams have played attractive attacking football, a style often desired by the Geordie faithful. So far this season goals have not been a problem with the Magpies fifth in the list of the league’s top scoring teams.

Although they have not met for the last two seasons, Birmingham’s St Andrews home has not been a happy hunting ground for Newcastle with their last win coming back in 2002/03. So far this season Birmingham have struggled with a lack of goals being a real problem. They have scored just 17 goals in their 17 league games and sit just above the relegation zone. Right-back Stephen Carr is likely to face his former team having enjoyed a late revival to his career following his release by Newcastle in 2008.

Pardew has plenty to ponder with his line-up with decisions to be made across the team. Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson have returned to provide major competition in the centre of defence. Offensively Jonas Gutierrez and Shola Ameobi have been poor of late despite being regular starters for much of the campaign. Youngster Nile Ranger is pushing for a start following some bright displays from the bench in recent games.

However one of the biggest issues facing Pardew over the coming weeks is over who will be his number one goalkeeper. Dutch prodigy Tim Krul is in possession at the moment while previous number one Steve Harper has returned from a shoulder injury. Harper has featured in some second-team games and is now ready to compete for a place in the starting eleven. In truth Krul has done very little wrong since replacing his mentor against Everton in September. He has kept three clean sheets since then with impressive displays against both Chelsea and Arsenal. There is a feeling that the time has come for the 22-year-old to be given an extended run for the rest of the season. Of course that would be tough on Harper who has been a model professional for much of his time on Tyneside. He set a club record for clean sheets last season and is an important figure in the dressing room.

The appointment of Pardew has received praise from an unlikely source with Sunderland striker Darren Bent praising his management skills. Bent worked under Pardew for a short time together at Charlton but the pair were unable to avoid relegation. Bent told the Northern Echo: “His man-management was superb. He made me captain, so I’ve got a lot to be grateful to him for, but it’s not just that. He got us relaxed, got us playing football. He told us to try and forget what was going on around the club and just concentrate on what we did best. I’m sure he’ll be doing the same at Newcastle.”

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