Boss backs Enrique for Spain call
Alan Pardew is backing full-back Jose Enrique to play himself into the all-conquering Spain squad if he continues to excel for Newcastle.
The 25-year-old turned in the latest in a series of fine individual displays for the Magpies at Blackburn on Saturday, combining rugged defence with genuine enterprise.
Enrique will head for Birmingham tomorrow night with his reputation growing by the week, and while Pardew knows the strength of squad the reigning World and European champions can boast means he faces a fight to gain recognition at senior international level, he believes he can force his way into consideration.
Pardew said: "Possibly that would be a fitting tribute for him, to get into that squad. It's a tough squad and an outstanding team, but he is showing the sort of form that could get him into that squad, no problem.
"There aren't too many who can hold a candle to him at the moment, the form he is in. If you were the opposition, you would have to start worrying about him defensively because he keeps coming at you.
"Let alone the other assets we have in the team offensively, you have to look after our left back because he will raid and raid all day. He has been terrific for us.''
Former Under-21 international Enrique joined Newcastle in a £6.5 million switch from Villarreal during the summer of 2007 as then manager Sam Allardyce invested heavily in his potential.
He initially found the going tough, but was one of the keystones of last season's promotion drive as his pace and power proved potent weapons in the Championship.
Pardew said: "I don't think his first season was particularly great, but he has come on in leaps and bounds. He is one of the first names on my team-sheet and one of the best left-backs I have ever worked with. It's a pleasure to work with him, he is a lovely guy.''
However, Enrique's form and consistency have inevitably alerted potential purchasers, and speculation has linked both Manchester United and Liverpool with him in recent weeks.
Having already seen the Reds prise Andy Carroll from his grasp with a £35 million January bid, Pardew knows the club could face another assault this summer, although he remains desperate to hang on to Enrique.
He said: "We are prepared for everything. It's always difficult, but you want to keep your best players.''