Newcastle United’s Alan Pardew is fired up for derby battles

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ALAN Pardew admits he looked straight away for a return showdown with Martin O’Neill when the new Premier League fixtures were announced yesterday.

The Newcastle United boss clashed with his Sunderland counterpart in an acrimonious Tyne-Wear derby back in March.

The game ended 1-1, but was overshadowed by a touchline bust-up between the two experienced managers, with Pardew apologising afterwards for his actions.

The two bosses will meet again on October 20 at the Stadium of Light after the fixtures came out yesterday, and Pardew admits it’s a game he is looking forward to.

He took Newcastle to Wearside at the start of last season, coming away with a 1-0 win thanks to Ryan Taylor’s free-kick, and is hopeful of a similar result.

“The first home game is probably the one I look for first, quickly followed by the Sunderland situation,” said Pardew.

“Those Tyne-Wear derbies are key factors in the season. Just like last year, we are away at the Stadium of Light first, which isn’t ideal, but we coped with that well and we will hopefully do so again.

“After that, I look at the Christmas games and then the final game. I haven’t studied it in too much detail yet, but it always looks really, really tough on paper and this season is no different.”

H Newcastle are preparing a bid for Dutch striker Luuk de Jong – but Pardew still hopes to keep hold of Demba Ba.

FC Twente star de Jong is high on Pardew’s list of possible replacements for Ba should the forward quit the Sports Direct Arena this summer.

The Magpies have watched the 21-year-old for two seasons, and have made enquiries over his availability in the last few days as Ba’s contract situation continues to rumble on.

Ba, Newcastle’s leading scorer last season, has a £7m release clause in his Toon deal which can be activated before July 31, and has so far resisted attempts by United to renegotiate his contract.

It means that Pardew must line up potential replacements for the striker, with de Jong jumping to the front of the queue.

Pardew, however, is still hopeful of keeping the Senegalese international on Tyneside, despite speculation linking him with moves to Galatasary and a number of other European teams.

H The Magpies’ pre-season plans have been disrupted with the cancellation of the Vodacom Challenge Tournament in South Africa.

Newcastle were in negotiations to take part in the competition, alongside Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Congolese champions TP Mazembe, but the tournament has been pulled after the clubs failed to sign a contract to compete.

It means the Newcastle hierarchy must re-think their pre-season plans, with only three fixtures confirmed at the moment – against Olympiakos on July 27 and Porto on July 28 in the Algarve, Portugal, before a clash against Cardiff City on August 11.