CAPTAIN Fabricio Coloccini insists that even he cannot take his place in Newcastle United’s starting XI for granted – because of the competition in Alan Pardew’s squad.
Coloccini, who returned from a six-week injury lay-off last month, will lead sixth-placed Newcastle out at lowly Crystal Palace tomorrow.
The 31-year-old is now settled back into Pardew’s side after regaining his match fitness and sharpness over the past five Premier League games, and determined to lead by example over the busy festive period.
“It’s difficult when you have been out for many games and you come back,” Coloccini said.
“It takes a few games to get the fitness right. You have to feel comfortable on the pitch.
“I’m feeling very well now, so I’m happy.”
Coloccini has partnered Mike Williamson since returning from his hamstring problem.
Williamson started the season on the fringes, but Taylor’s absences through injury and suspension – and a below-par first-half performance from Yanga-Mbiwa at Everton in late September – saw him make a belated seasonal debut at Goodison Park.
The 30-year-old ex-Portsmouth and Watford defender – who opted to stay and fight for his place rather than leave in the summer – has not looked back.
With United relatively untroubled by injuries so far – in contrast to last season when the club battled relegation – Coloccini feels the competition in the squad is been a significant factor in the Magpies’ league revival, which has brought four away wins already – at Manchester United, Tottenham, Cardiff and Aston Villa – compared to just two all last season.
“We’ve played a lot of games together,” said Coloccini. “I’ve played with Mike in the Championship as well.
“The good thing is that we have a lot of competition in all the team. It makes the team stronger. Everyone has to be 100 per cent.”
The Argentinian added: “I think we have a good team. We can win against big teams if we play like we have for the last six or seven games.”
Palace are on the up since the apppointment of Tony Pulis as manager, and Coloccini is confident there will be no complacency in the visiting dressing room.
“Every game is tough,” he said. “We have to keep going the same way and try to get the three points – home and away.
“Sometimes we can’t, but the most important thing is the way that we play.”