Pardew claims Barton should have been in PFA Team of the Year
ALAN Pardew last night claimed Joey Barton's chequered past had cost the Newcastle United midfielder a place in this year's PFA Premier League team of the season. The PFA's Premier League select XI was unveiled on Sunday evening, with Arsenal duo Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri named in midfield alongside Manchester United winger Nani and Tottenham's Gareth Bale, who claimed the Player of the Season award. Bale beat off competition from a seven-man shortlist that also included midfielders Nasri, Charlie Adam, Scott Parker and Rafael van der Vaart. Barton's name was never mentioned in the build up to the awards, despite the Magpies midfielder enjoying his best season since he broke into the senior ranks as a fresh-faced teenager at Manchester City. Pardew was not surprised to see the 28-year-old overlooked, and with England boss Fabio Capello also continuing to ignore Barton's international claims, the Newcastle manager feels his side's most influential player is not being judged on his most recent performances. If you're just looking at Joey this season, I think he gets into that team, said Pardew, who is likely to be without first-choice goalkeeper Steve Harper as Newcastle entertain league leaders Manchester United tonight. He's been as important to us as Charlie Adam has been to Blackpool and Scott Parker has been to West Ham. I think probably if he'd burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old and played the football he has this season, he'd be in. But he has a past, and I think that plagues him somewhat. He's the only one who can get rid of that by consistently doing what he's done this year. He's 28 now, and presumably he can go on until he's 34. So maybe, a couple of years down the line, he'll be in that team if he plays anything like he's done this year. Barton will be back in the Newcastle team tonight as a capacity St James' Park crowd dream of a result that will, temporarily at least, derail Manchester United's title ambitions. Sir Alex Ferguson's side boast a six-point lead over second-placed Arsenal, so an away win would all but end the title race as a contest, even though Manchester United still have to visit the Emirates. The visitors will be desperate to atone for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final slip up against Manchester City, and Newcastle's hopes of recording an upset were dented yesterday when goalkeeper Steve Harper was effectively ruled out of the game. Steve has a slight problem in his knee, said Pardew. He's had an injection in the past and it has settled down. However, he's had the injection this time and it hasn't really settled as quickly as we thought it would. So the game will probably come a bit too soon. Tim Krul will deputise for the first time since January's FA Cup defeat at Stevenage, and Shola Ameobi is confident of passing a late fitness test to take his place in the side. Ameobi missed the 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa with a knee injury, but came through training unscathed at the weekend. He is set to partner Peter Lovenkrands in the starting line-up, but Stephen Ireland is only expected to make the bench after a lengthy injury lay-off of his own. The only worry with Stephen is a lack of game action, said Pardew, who has never beaten Manchester United as a manager. At Villa last week, had we been able to bring Stephen on with ten or 15 minutes left, it might have changed the game. Without doubt, over a period of 20 minutes, he can influence the game. How much more than that he has in the locker, I don't know. Newcastle go into tonight's game six points clear of the relegation zone, with most sides in the bottom half of the table having just five games to play. It would take a remarkable series of results to send them down, but Pardew insists there is no question of his players taking their foot off the pedal ahead of such a marquee match. John Carver (assistant manager) has said to me that, after Sunderland, this is probably the biggest game for Newcastle fans, said Pardew. They'll want to see us be committed and have a go, and that's what we'll do, 100 per cent. The pressure is off to a degree because I think most neutrals would expect us not to win, but I don't want our public to think that because I want our players to expect to win every game, and every game at St James' for sure. Psychologically, it's a chance for the players to put themselves up against the best, and I hope they respond to that.
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