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Pardew praise for Ashley

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has risked the wrath of the fans by hailing the impact and investment of unpopular owner Mike Ashley as the club close in on Champions League qualification.

• Toon go fourth and conquer
• Pardew after 'special' end

Ashley was widely criticised for his decision to sack Chris Hughton and appoint Pardew in December 2010, and for allowing star striker Andy Carroll to leave the club on January transfer deadline day, albeit for a whopping £35 million, the following month.

However, Newcastle 3-0 win over Stoke on Saturday lifted them to fourth in the Premier League as Pardew's team - built around shrewd acquisitions such as Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa - continue to exceed expectations.

Pardew and his team have scoured Europe to sign relatively cut-price players, who have all come good at St James Park, but the manager believes Ashley must also take some of the credit.

"Mike's put something like £273 million into the club and he's not taken anything back,'' Pardew told the Sunday Times.

"Since I've been here I have not really shouted his corner. Politically for me it's a minefield. I want to keep the fans in a good place but I would say to them, before they get emotional about it, that Mike has invested something like 25% of his personal wealth in this football club.

"Ask me for 25% of my money and you've got no chance. I don't care how good your idea is.''

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