ALAN Pardew has challenged his “dilapidated” Newcastle United side to dust themselves off and chase down the Premier League champions.
Newcastle are four points behind struggling Manchester United with 13 games left to play.
Manager Pardew is irked by claims that the club’s campaign is all but over, with eighth-placed his team safe from relegation, out of the domestic cups and some way off the European places.
And he is adamant that his players have every incentive to push hard between now and the end of the campaign.
Pardew feels his injury and suspension-hit team, without a goal in 270 minutes, can renew their league challenge – starting against Tottenham Hotspur at St James’s Park tomorrow night in what will be his 150th game in charge.
“People say we’ve got no incentive, but I remember two years ago when we were on a tricky run like this,” Pardew said.
“We were out of the FA Cup, and everybody said there wasn’t much left for our season. But we got into Europe after a fantastic run.
“So there are always incentives. You never know, once you get momentum, what you can do.
“Our team is dilapidated, but there’s no reason why we can’t get a result against Spurs. That would be brilliant if we could get a win.”
Captain Fabricio Coloccini and midfielder Cheik Tiote are expected to return from injury against Aston Villa on February 23, when leading scorer Loic Remy will be again be available after serving his three-game ban.
And their return will significantly strengthen the hand of Pardew, who wants to challenge for a high league finish.
“We owe it to ourselves,” said Pardew. “It bugs me when people say there’s no incentive. What do they want? A relegation fight?
“That’s not what I want, so I’m happy we’re out of that.
“But we still need to secure our position, certainly with another win or two.”
Manchester United – who visit St James’s Park on April 5 – were held to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford by Fulham on Sunday.
And Pardew has suggested David Moyes’ side are vulnerable to a challenge from below.
“The result at Manchester United was a result that cheered me up, because if gives us a chance to try to catch them,” said Pardew.
“If we try to finish above Manchester United, that would be a hell of an achievement for this club regardless of anything else. That’s the immediate incentive for us, and then we’ll see where it takes us.”