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Pardew confident of drawing a line under summer speculation
ALAN Pardew last night admitted Newcastle United were paying a high price for last month's transfer speculation, but insisted he would have his players' minds back on the job when the Premier League resumes in two weeks time.
The Magpies produced a below-par display as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa yesterday, with Hatem Ben Arfa's second-half wonder strike cancelling out Ciaran Clark's headed opener for the visitors.
A number of Newcastle's players were linked with a possible move away from the North-East in the final weeks of the transfer window, and the likes of Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have all failed to hit top form in the early weeks of the season.
Pardew feels that is no coincidence, but the Magpies manager is confident any lingering discontent will have disappeared by the time Newcastle line up at Everton for their next Premier League game on September 17.
“I don't actually think it's a big job (to refocus minds),” said Pardew. “Once the window shuts it kind of eliminates all of that and you start focusing on the job in hand.
“I have some sympathy for players if agents, and not necessarily their own, start calling them and offering to double their money. It's going to affect you. And it's not just us that happens to either.
“There are some terrible people and agents in and around the game who do things like that, ring a player up promising the earth when they're not even their agent. It goes on.”
One player who has not been affected by speculation linking him with a possible move is Ben Arfa, and having been Newcastle's best player against Tottenham and Chelsea, the Frenchman was once again head and shoulders above his team-mates against Villa.
His 59th-minute strike ripped past Brad Guzan into the top right-hand corner of the net, and Pardew admits he could not have wished for a better start to the season from one of his side's key men.
“Hatem is a wonderfully gifted footballer,” said Pardew. “I didn't realise it was his right foot until I watched the replay because I didn't expect him to hit it with that power. He has exceptional power in amongst all his technique.
“He's been our best player from the start of the season. In training he's our best player and on the pitch he's our best player at the minute.
“When we get three or four like that we're a really good side, but unfortunately we haven't at the moment – we've got one or two below that.”
The major downside to the day from a Newcastle perspective was yet another injury to a right-sided defender.
Three days after Ryan Taylor sustained the cruciate ligament injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season, Danny Simpson was forced to hobble off clutching an injured hamstring.
Scans later today will reveal whether the injury is a tear or a strain, but with James Perch also struggling with a neck problem, Pardew was forced to switch midfielder Vurnon Anita into the right-back slot.
In fairness, the Dutchman hardly put a foot wrong, but after failing to recruit a full-back despite chasing Mathieu Debuchy and Gregory van der Wiel for the majority of the summer, Newcastle's defensive resources are already severely stretched.
“I don't think we've got a massive problem there,” countered Pardew. “We lost Ryan one day before (the transfer window closed) and so the opportunity to get a player good enough for us was very, very slim.
“We've got great replacements. Anita went back in there and probably saved a point with two great headers at the far post – and his quality going forward helped us.”