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Pardew insists Newcastle will not be taking it easy
Published : 07 May 2011 08:00:00
ALAN Pardew has rejected suggestions that Newcastle's players will have one eye on their summer holidays during the club's final three matches of the season. With three games to go, the Magpies are six points clear of the relegation zone, with their Premier League survival all but assured. As a result, it could be argued they have little to play for in matches against Birmingham, Chelsea and West Brom, and their lacklustre display in last weekend's 3-0 defeat to Liverpool was attributed in various quarters to a lack of motivation. Pardew insists that is not the case, and is urging his players to silence the doubters once and for all when they entertain Birmingham this afternoon. "We had a lot of criticism after Liverpool regarding our attitude to the game, and I thought that was a bit harsh," said the Newcastle boss. "But we need to answer it. "It's something I have to focus on and we have to have a professional outlook and handle ourselves very well in the games that remain. "Speaking to other managers, I think it's a difficult period when you get past that 40-point mark, and we're experiencing that ourselves. "The hunger and character of the team is what's driven us on so far, and if we let that fall away, we won't win." With every Premier League place worth more than £800,000 at the end of the season, there is a financial incentive for Newcastle to improve on their current position of 12th in the table. Indeed, with just five points separating the Magpies and Bolton, it is not inconceivable that Pardew's side could finish as high as eighth, an upward surge that would swell the St James' Park kitty by more than £3m. There is regional rivalry at stake as well, with Newcastle currently leading North-East rivals Sunderland by goal difference alone. However, with two of the Black Cats' remaining games coming away from the Stadium of Light, the Magpies' home matches against Birmingham and West Brom could be crucial in the regional reckoning. "Of course it's important (to finish above Sunderland)," said Pardew. "I know how important it is for the fans and, if it's important for them, it's important for me. "Having said that though, I'm glad Sunderland have stayed in the Premier League because I'm looking forward to the two derbies next season." With Mike Williamson ruled out of the remainder of the season after breaking his arm, Steven Taylor is set to return to the starting line-up after a three-game absence. There could also be a recall for fit-again goalkeeper Steve Harper, who is hoping to edge out Tim Krul.