ALAN Pardew has challenged his players to fill the boots of Andy Carroll and Cheik Tiote in the Wear-Tyne derby.
The influential pair will miss out against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
Carroll was yesterday ruled out with the thigh injury he suffered late last month, the news a further blow after the suspension of Tiote, which the club had hoped would be overturned on appeal.
However, Carroll’s fellow striker Shola Ameobi, second only to Jackie Milburn as a goalscorer in Tyne-Wear derbies, is expected to be fit, and Pardew is looking for another big performance from the seasoned derby veteran.
“Andy hasn’t been around for the last two Premier League games, and we’re now without Cheik, as well, and he’s been a massive player for us,” Pardew said.
“We’re going into this game without two key players. It’s a real test for us, if we were to win it, it’d be a hell of a result.
“Andy’s not even a risk – he’s not even that close. We’re hoping he’s risky against Spurs (on January 22), as that’s the best we’re going to get.”
Ameobi has six derby goals to his name, most recently netting twice in Newcastle’s 5-1 win over Sunderland in October, and Pardew feels the bigger the game, the bigger the performance from the 29-year-old.
“Shola’s one of those players that rises to the occasion,” Pardew went on. “The criticism is you’d like to see him on the pitch more often.
“When the big games come around he produces, and we’re really hoping he’s available, and he gets a big part of the game on Sunday.
“He’s a real gentleman – a real nice guy, and a good professional. He is a handful. When he gets himself up, he’s a really good player.”
Tiote will serve the first of a three-game ban after being sent off in last Saturday’s FA Cup defeat at Stevenage.
Pardew has a number of options in midfield, where Tiote’s absence will be keenly felt, among them Alan Smith, who was disappointing in Newcastle’s FA Cup defeat.
Pardew added: “I’m not going to go into what team I’m going to play, but Alan Smith at Stevenage wasn’t a good performance.
“He’d be the first to admit that. The one thing I do know he’ll be fuelled with putting that right. I’ve got no worries – he’ll be fine.”