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Pardew banned but Santon aiming high
Published : 04 Sep 2012 08:00:00
AS Alan Pardew gears up to serve a two-match touchline ban, full-back Davide Santon has moved to soften the blow by claiming Newcastle United can overcome a slow start to the season by pushing for
a top four finish this season.
Less than 24 hours after the Magpies stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa, it was confirmed Pardew has been hit with the suspension and a £20,000 fine by an Independent Regulatory Commission. The punishment has been dished out to him after accepting a charge of improper conduct for shoving referee's assistant Peter Kirkup during a 2-1 win over Tottenham on August 18. It means Pardew must now sit in the stands for the Premier League games at Everton on September 17 and then at home to Norwich City five days later.
The ban does not include Europa League fixtures, so he will be in the dug-out for the trip to Maritimo on September 20. It was something Pardew had been expecting, but will be a frustration for him as he looks to steer Newcastle back to winning form after a decent if unspectacular start to the new campaign. Despite securing a place in the group stage of the Europa League by negotiating a two-legged qualifier with Atromitos, Newcastle have won one, drawn one and lost one domestically.
A crammed fixture list is something Newcastle are going to have to get used to, knowing there are six Europa League group games to cram in before December 6. But there is a confidence in the Newcastle squad that they can cope, even though there were no further additions to the playing staff before last Friday's transfer deadline. Santon, relieved there were no departures either, said:
"Now the transfer window is finished we are relaxed. We have a really good team and can try to win every game because we have that quality.
"I don't know where we can go but I think we have a possibility of qualifying for the Champions League this year. If we have the right mentality in every game, why not? We have the quality to do that. "I think we can cope with the Europa League. It is tough for us and we do not have an easy group but it's important for us in every game to get a win."
Newcastle struggled to find top gear during Sunday's draw with Villa, which is why Pardew is keen for Cheik Tiote to regain full match fitness before facing Everton, which comes after the international break. "We played well but I'm not happy because it's important for us to win," said Santon.
"Now we have a rest for two weeks because of the internationals and that is good because we have a very important game against Everton. "We are disappointed every time we do not win now because we have a different mentality where we expect to win games. When you don't win it is very difficult - especially at home where the fans are so important." Santon has been overlooked by the Italy squad again for Friday's World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria but is not concerned.
Instead he would rather focus on playing well with Newcastle and let prospects for his country follow on from that eventually. That was the attitude taken by Hatem Ben Arfa last season and ended up with a call up by the France squad for the European Championships. And after watching Ben Arfa's latest wonder goal for Newcastle on Sunday, Santon thinks his team-mate is an exceptional talent worth keeping happy. He said: "For us Ben Arfa is so important. He has really, really good quality with the ball and is fantastic.
There is nothing he can't do with the ball so of course he is important. "Nothing he does surprises us. He has that quality. I'm not surprised if another team wants to sign him because he has fantastic quality."