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Arsenal can lay down a marker

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Pardew open to Ireland deal

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew insists he is still looking at a permanent deal for Stephen Ireland despite his injury problems.

Ireland moved on loan from Aston Villa in January after failing to impress Gerard Houllier, but he has yet to make an appearance for the Magpies.

He arrived with a hamstring injury and has since picked up a thigh problem in training that will rule him out of next week's game against Stoke.

Villa are said to be asking for £6 million for Ireland but, even though he is unlikely to make more than eight appearances for Newcastle during his loan spell, Pardew says he is still very much open to a deal.

"We knew when we took him he was injured but this thigh strain, like anything when you've been out for a long time, you pick up these little injuries," Pardew said in The Northern Echo. "I don't think he has played a game since December 9 or something.

"Maybe we forced him back too early because of Joey Barton's situation. I think we're at fault a little bit because he's picked up a thigh strain. He's still got time to impress me because I still think there is a chance of something permanent here for Stephen. Things at Villa aren't going too well.

"I want to have a good look at him before he goes back. We haven't got anything in place in terms of a deal. There wasn't time and we took a chance, Villa took a chance and that's where we are. He is under a little bit of pressure because there aren't many games left, but when you've got a player of Stephen's character, I don't think that is a bad thing.

"He is a player who has played on a big stage in the past, it's not like he is coming from a team which isn't high profile. Manchester City have been very high profile when he was there. There were big players arriving but he was their best player.

"He's a really nice guy, he's fitted in well. I don't think he needs an arm around the shoulder as such, but he needs our full attention. You can't let him drift. He needs to know he is important and he could be here. If he doesn't feel important, he doesn't play his best."

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