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Birmingham City v Newcastle United: Preview
Published : 17 Dec 2010 20:17:03Rss feed
Birmingham have no new fitness doubts as they prepare to face Newcastle at St Andrew's despite a bout of flu hitting the camp.
Defenders Liam Ridgewell and Martin Jiranek were both affected, but have recovered sufficiently to be in contention for the team's match against Alan Pardew's side.
Alex Hleb is still out with a calf strain.
Pardew will have central defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson back from suspension.
Coloccini was sent off during the 5-1 defeat at Bolton and Williamson also picked up a three-match ban after being found guilty of violent conduct against striker Johan Elmander following the use of video evidence.
Their return could prove timely with Sol Campbell struggling with illness, while striker Shola Ameobi is likely to miss out with a hamstring injury.
Keeper Steve Harper, who was an unused substitute in last week's 3-1 victory over Liverpool on his return from shoulder surgery, is pushing to replace Tim Krul in goal but Dan Gosling (knee), Ryan Taylor (ankle ligaments) and Hatem Ben Arfa (double leg fracture) are still out.
Pardew is confident he can make Andy Carroll an even better player as he takes over responsibility for his development.
The homegrown 21-year-old has made huge strides in the last 12 months to establish himself as the club's biggest goalscoring threat and force his way into senior England contention.
He was nurtured through that process, of course, by Pardew's predecessor Chris Hughton, and the striker was as upset as anyone by his departure last week.
It was Hughton who decided the time was right to hand Carroll the famous number nine shirt during the summer and he who sought to bring the movement to his game which has transformed him from promising youngster to genuine Premier League marksman.
However, having worked with a string of top flight strikers at various stages of their careers in the past, Pardew is confident he can take up the baton.
He said: "I just think he is a sound character, and that bodes well.
"If I am honest, on the training ground, I haven't seen that much because of the conditions.
"But in his performances, he has set himself his own standards, and I will continue that and improve on that if I can.
"I have done well with strikers in the past - Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood, Carlos Tevez, Darren Bent, Teddy Sheringham - so I would like to think some of the things I have pulled from them, I can dip into those which suit his style."
Alex McLeish's men have won just one of their last eight league games, that victory coming against champions Chelsea, but the trip to St Andrew's will be another tricky one.
Pardew said: "I like the way they play. They put an honest performance out on the pitch.
"Like ourselves, we would love to have some more technical players who take our teams into the top eight or nine.
"But first and foremost are diligence and professionalism, and they have that in abundance, so it's a difficult game for us."