Pardew issues challenge
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has challenged his players to prove their hunger to be part of the club's future during the remaining weeks of the season.
The Magpies head for relegation-threatened Blackpool on Saturday having reached 40 points for the campaign with a hard-fought draw against Manchester United on Tuesday evening to edge themselves closer to Premier League safety.
Victory at Bloomfield Road would surely end any lingering fears of being sucked into the relegation fight and allow the club to start planning for the new season.
Pardew's scouts have already scattered far and wide in anticipation of a busy summer with the club intending to invest a large proportion of the £35 million they received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll in January on new recruits.
However, they will first need to thrash out the way forward with the likes of full-back Jose Enrique, who has been strongly tipped to follow Carroll to Anfield, Joey Barton and skipper Kevin Nolan, whose contracts are running down.
Enrique and Barton have put talks on hold with the latter indicating that his decision will depend on how much ambition the club's hierarchy shows this summer. But Pardew insists the remaining five games also give those players an opportunity to prove that they are worth a new deal.
He said: "We are not really going to do anything in terms of the players we have here until the end of the season. That's right and proper because we have got the keep the players hungry and fighting to the end to earn that new contract. That's important.''
All three have proved key figures this season and in an ideal world, the manager would love to retain their services. Nolan, in particular, has continued where he left off in the npower Championship, leading by example and chipping in with 12 goals.
Pardew has admitted he did not realise just how good a player the former Bolton man, who will return from suspension at Blackpool, was until he saw him at close hand.
Asked if he has been surprised by Nolan's influence, he replied: "A little bit, and not just by his character and the leadership qualities he has, but as a player. He's a much more accomplished player than I expected him to be - but when you actually look at what he has done, it makes more sense.
"For a midfield player, his finishing is outstanding - as good as any striker I have worked with - and he does all the other stuff you need to do as a central midfield player. He's a very, very important player.''