DAVIDE Santon’s Italian job in Newcastle United’s defence is pivototal to their Premier League run-in, according to Alan Pardew, writes Miles Starforth.
Santon has started the club’s last three games, all won by Pardew’s side.
Newcastle also kept clean sheets in the games against Stoke City, Bolton Wanderers and Swansea and the club’s six-game winning streak has rekindled hopes that Champions League football can return to The Sports Direct Arena.
Santon, signed from Inter Milan last summer as Jose Enrique’s replacement, found his opportunities limited by injury and the form of makeshift left-back Ryan Taylor early in the season.
It has also taken the 21-year-old time to adjust to the pace and power of English football.
However, Pardew felt his performance in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Stoke City was his best yet for the club, the Italy international having forged an important partnership on the left side of defence with captain Fabricio Coloccini.
While United’s goalscorers, notably 11-goal Papiss Demba Cisse, have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, Pardew believes his back four deserve their share of the plaudits.
“The defenders have been outstanding,” Pardew said. “Davide Santon’s in the best form he’s had since he joined the club.
“He’s growing with the personalities he has around him. Him and Colo looked terrific.”
Newcastle have not conceded a goal in 398 mintues, with West Bromwich Albion’s Shane Long the last player to beat goalkeeper Tim Krul.
And Pardew also had praise for Mike Williamson, who spent the first part of the season in the treatment room.
Now firmly established back in Newcastle’s defence, Williamson has steadily grown in stature and Pardew has been heartened by his performances in the club’s six-game winning streak,
“You only have to look at Williamson to see that’s a different player to the one which came in the team,” said Pardew.
“He’s very, very confident, and he dealt with (Stoke’s Peter) Crouch very well.”
The defensive resilience of Pardew’s team in recent weeks has improved the club’s goal difference, though it is still not as good as their Champions League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.