ALAN Pardew is ready to ring the changes for Newcastle United’s long-awaited return to European football.
A clutch of key players will be left behind on Tyneside when the club flies to Greece tomorrow morning ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Atromitos.
Pardew – who says the Premier League is his overriding priority this season – is unapologetic, as his team face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge less than 48 hours later.
However, he’s confident whatever team he puts out will be capable of getting a result in the first-leg at the 10,000-capacity Peristeri Stadium.
Pardew points to the late inclusion of defender James Perch in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur as evidence of the quality he has in his ranks.
Perch ably deputised for injured captain Fabricio Coloccini, who won’t be involved against Atromitos.
Nor will match-winner Hatem Ben Arfa, who still has a three-game UEFA suspension to serve dating back to his time at Olympique Marseille.
However, Pardew is expecting big performances from the likes of Haris Vuckic, Gael Bigirimana, Ryan Taylor and Vurnon Anita, who are all on standby to play.
“Who would have predicted that Perchie would have started the (Spurs) game, but he was excellent,” Pardew said.
“I’ve got great players, and they all need to play. They all need to contribute.
“If I can get their heads around that three or four are going to be left behind and they accept that and we get the same attitude at in Athens, we should win.”
Meanwhile, Ben Arfa was sent off playing for Marseille against Benifca in March 2010.
The forward – who won and converted a penalty against Tottenham – lashed out at Alan Kardec, who scored the goal which was to put the French club out of the Europa League.
The ban automatically handed to Ben Arfa still stands.
However, had he been free from suspension, Ben Arfa still wouldn’t have been involved against Atromitos.
Meanwhile, the first-leg against Atromitos is being screened live by Premier Sports (6pm kick-off BST).
Pardew, who was yesterday charged with misconduct by the Football Association for pushing an assistant referee on Saturday evening, in the game against Spurs, will not contest the charge.
H Former Newcastle United striker Michael Owen has referred to stories linking him with Everton as “just rumours”.
The 32-year-old, a boyhood Evertonian, is a free agent having been released by Manchester United at the end of last season.
It had been claimed Everton would be an ideal fit for the veteran given his perceived desire to stay in the north west.
But when asked by a Twitter user if he was signing for Everton, or whether the stories were not true, he responded by tweeting: “Just rumours”.
Owen made his name as a precocious teenager with Merseyside rivals Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid and Newcastle, and then enduring three injury-hit years at Old Trafford.
He has also been of reported interest to Stoke but no agreement has been reached.