PARDEW AIMS HIGH FOR NEWCASTLE
Alan Pardew has set his sights on bringing a trophy or European football back to Newcastle within three years, regardless of what happens this season.
The Magpies head into Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool at St James' Park sitting in sixth place in the table, one position and eight points better off than this weekend's big-spending visitors.
If they were to remain there at the end of the campaign, that could be good enough to book a Europa League berth for next season, and that would represent a remarkable achievement after just two years back in the top flight.
Asked how far they would be ahead of schedule in their long-term plan if they managed to achieve that, Pardew said: "It's difficult to say. You just want to be in there competing, and we have done that.
"Whether we get a European place will probably decided by fate more than anything. We have had a great season regardless of the European spot, and we want to do that again next year.
"By hook or by crook, in the next three years it would be nice to get some sort of European football or win a trophy. That's the goal."
In purely mathematical terms, Newcastle will embark upon the final eight-game run-in still in with a chance of claiming a Champions League spot with Tottenham only five points ahead of them in fourth.
However, a realistic Pardew insists they have no chance of overhauling Spurs.
He said: "We won't get Champions League football, I just think that's too big [a gap] to bridge - five points on Spurs, and Arsenal are probably away from us now.
"It's too much, they are too good a teams to catch with eight games left."
The Magpies' hopes of playing in the Europa League next season could depend largely on who reaches the FA Cup final with a team from outside the top six guaranteed a spot if they play a side which qualifies by another route, meaning Everton could hold the key.
It is a system which has worked to the benefit of the Tyneside club in the past, but which could hurt them this time around, much to the manager's disappointment.
He said: "I think it's slightly unfair that the losing cup finalist gets a place in front of a whole season's campaign, but that's the rule at the moment.
"We are not going to change that before the end of the season, we have to accept that.
"I think it should change for next year, in my opinion, but we have still got a great chance of finishing fifth or sixth, and that's what we are going to try to do."
Sunday's game will see £35million striker Andy Carroll return to his home-town club for the first time since his move to Anfield in January last year with the debate over his lack of form rumbling on.
However, Pardew, who never wanted to sell the player, is confident he will return into the kind of form which saw him terrorise Premier League defenders in a black and white shirt.
He said: "One hundred per cent. He is an outstanding footballer who is having a difficult first season at a new club, no more than that.
"A lot of other players have had that situation with high price-tags.
"He is a very young man still, he has got a great career in front of him and I for one hope he has a chance on England duty one day.
"If you put the delivery in the right place and he times his run, he is undefendable.
"I said that when he was here and I am not going to change that opinion.
"You pick any centre-half in world football and Andy Carroll will score that particular goal."
Pardew, whose first game in charge of the club was a 3-1 home win over Liverpool in December 2010, will have Cheick Tiote and Ryan Taylor back from injury, but will be without skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
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