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Beardsley’s mission to Russia helps preparation
WHEN Newcastle United aim to step closer to sealing a quarter-final place in the Europa League tonight, Alan Pardew will have to ensure his players are primed to deal with talented opponents, freezing temperatures and an artificial surface.
Before training on the FieldTurf inside the 78,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium for the first time last night, Newcastle’s squad had been familiarising themselves with false grass before leaving the North-East.
After Peter Beardsley, the Magpies’ football development manager, was part of a fact-finding team which travelled to Moscow to examine the surface last week, manager Alan Pardew identified a pitch closer to home to train on in preparation.
Newcastle spent Monday and Tuesday on the 4G pitch at Druid Park, the home of Gosforth Rugby Club, and Beardsley is satisfied Pardew’s players will be ready to take on Anzhi Makhachkala in conditions completely different to those faced weekly in the Premier League.
“I went out to look at the pitch because the manager wanted to do his homework and have everything looked at closely,” said Beardsley, as forecasts suggest there will be a temperature of -10 for kickoff in the Russian capital.
“Everything the manager does is top class in terms of preparation, homework, and he will get his rewards hopefully.
“I think the Luzhniki is 4G – it looked it. The pitch we have been training on in Woolsington is very similar.
But it’s even better out there than the one they have been training on, without being negative. The one in the Luzhniki is immaculate.
“There would not have been anywhere around here to prepare for a surface like that in the past. That’s what I mean by the attention to detail the manager shows and is very good at.”
The prospect of the stadium – scheduled to host the World Cup final in 2018 and the homeground of both Spartak and Torpedo Moscow – being less than a sixth full tonight could make it even more difficult for Newcastle.
Anzhi, a Dagestan club, are having to play more than 1,000 miles away from their home ground in Europe because of safety concerns. Regardless, though, Beardsley think Guus Hiddink will have his team in perfect shape.
“They reckon there’ll be 12,000 supporters inside, which will be strange, but it is a lovely stadium,” said the former England forward.
“They are really excited about getting Newcastle in the cup. They are also excited about coming to Newcastle next week. They see us as a big club in the Premier League.
“It’s a great tie with the likes of Eto’o, Zhirkov, Diarra ... good players. When you look at how we have been strengthened, we have added to the quality already here, it’s going to be a very good tie.”
When Beardsley returned to St James’ Park for a second spell between 1993-97 he was instrumental in turning the club into a force to be reckoned with. He was, however, unable to end the long wait for silverware.
It is 44 years since Newcastle won the Fairs Cup and Beardsley, speaking at the Discovery Museum where he reminded primary school children about the history of the club, knows only too well how time moves on.
“For these kids here today they didn’t have a clue who I was,” said Beardsley. “Then people introduced my name and they remembered the name. I understand that. But that’s what happens.
“It’s hard to believe that when you look at a club like Liverpool, and I was part of their team that last won the league. That’s more than 20 years ago. It’s incredible.
That’s what football gives you.
“When people talk to you, the memories are what make it special. Forget the money, that sorts some things out, but the memories are what money can’t buy. You really can’t buy the memories. When I look back and think of the teams I was in ...
“Now you think about players here at Newcastle like Cabaye, Coloccini – they know that I was part of a team in history that was very decent.
They are trying to go one step further than that. If they could it would be brilliant.”
While a testing two-legged tie with Anzhi stands in Newcastle’s way in the last 16, the Europa League represents the club’s only avenue to cup glory this season after early exits in both the Capital One Cup and FA Cup.
Beardsley said: “When I think in general terms I was lucky enough to go to Liverpool, Everton, and everyone reminds me of the history of these clubs. When you look at our history there has been some superstars but not enough trophies. Sadly.
“Our manager is trying to rectify that now.
“You can see what it means to Alan Pardew. You can’t be false about history. It has been a long time.
“Bob Moncur keeps saying it will come soon. They have done brilliantly to get to the last 16 when you think of the number of games they have already played.
“They have a real chance of getting to the next stage and it is exciting for everybody.”