ALAN Pardew has set Newcastle the task of recovering derby pride after tasting defeat by Sunderland for the first time.
The 51-year-old was stunned by Sunday’s capitulation at St James’ Park as his run of four positive results against the Black Cats came to a spectacular end.
However, he is urging his players to use a humbling 3-0 defeat to fuel them for their final five games of the season, and then into another battle for the title of the north-east’s top dogs.
Pardew told reporters: “Next year, we have to prove that we are a bigger and better club.
“That’s in terms of our Premier League position by finishing well above them. That’s what we are going to try to do next year.
“But first, we have got to make sure we play well in the last five games with good, solid performances.”
Pardew’s hopes for revenge presuppose the continued presence of the Tyne-Wear rivals in next season’s Barclays Premier League, something which is currently far from certain.
Despite Sunday’s famous victory, Sunderland remain only three points clear of the drop zone with Newcastle just two points better off, and both still have a significant amount of work to do.
The Magpies head for West Brom on Saturday, where a repeat of last season’s 3-1 victory would be more than welcome in the circumstances.
However, the Baggies, who have taken just a single point from their last three games, will be keen to address that situation in front of their own fans.
Pardew will at least have a week to work with his players having seen many of them head off on international duty last month, and then have to balance the demands of their Europa League quarter-final double-header against Benfica with league games against Manchester City, Fulham and Sunderland.
That could prove particularly important for men such as Mathieu Debuchy, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa, who have missed out in recent weeks through injury.
Indeed Ben Arfa’s appearance as a substitute at the weekend was his second inside four days after just one in four months.
In addition, Pardew will hope to be able to bring a new energy to the legs of Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Cisse, whose weariness has become increasingly apparent.
Pardew said: “We certainly can do a week’s work with Hatem and Debuchy, who had his first game, and Cheick. We will do more work with him.
“We will give a rest to some of the other guys.”