Alan Pardew is fighting to keep Joey Barton at Newcastle United

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NEWCASTLE United boss Alan Pardew has admitted he faces a battle to hang on to midfielder Joey Barton, writes Miles Starforth.

The 27-year-old only has 18 months left on his contract and has been linked with a number of clubs this month, including West Ham United and Aston Villa.

Pardew is keen to open talks with the player – who has refound his best form this season – over a new deal.

Barton himself has said he wants to stay at St James’s Park, but with clubs beginning to circle over the former Manchester City ace, Pardew admits United have to move fast.

The Magpies manager said: “Joey has 18 months left to run and that leaves him vulnerable. Other clubs are aware of that and they are testing our resolve.

“We hope Joey commits to us because he has been superb, not just as a player but in the group.

“I want to secure him for a longer period.”

Pardew, meanwhile, is finding it hard to convince owner Mike Ashley to part with his cash due to the mistakes made by his predecessors.

United are reluctant to spend big on transfer fees and wages these days, and there is a doubt that they will add any further to the squad this month, having completed the permanent signing of loanee Hatem Ben Arfa.

He said: “They have had some really, really big disasters here in terms of big transfer fees being paid, and not a lot of success out of that.

“Mike obviously understands the game better than he has ever done and we want to buy good young players that can take the club forward.”

H NILE Ranger has been backed to bring goals to Newcastle after netting a hat-trick for United’s reserves.

The striker missed from close range in the club’s last home game, the 5-0 demolition of West Ham United.

But reserve-team coach Peter Beardsley is confident the 19-year-old can come back stronger for those experiences after watching him net three goals in yesterday’s 5-1 win over Wigan Athletic.

James Perch and Paul Dummett also netted, while Dan Gosling – who made his debut late in Sunday’s derby against Sunderland – played 90 minutes.

Beardsley sees a bright future for Ranger if he continues to apply himself.

“When you look at when we beat West Ham, he missed from six yards out.

“He missed by miles. That’s him, but he’s still a kid.

“When you look at some of the younger players, he’s physically bigger and stronger, but in terms of age, he’s a kid.”

“He’s got a lot to learn, but to be fair to him, when he’s trained or played for me, his attitude has been spot on.

“He might miscontrol the ball sometimes, but that’s what happens at the top level.”

His attitude’s good, and he’s got a real chance.”