Pardew puts faith in Ashley
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is confident owner Mike Ashley has seen with his own eyes what is required to take the club forward.
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The sportswear tycoon has been conspicuous by his presence at the club's games since Pardew's ban, initially from all stadiums and now from the touchline, for his head-butt on Hull midfielder David Meyler.
Ashley has witnessed something of a meltdown on the pitch with the Magpies having lost four of the five Barclays Premier League games they have played since an eventful afternoon at the KC Stadium, the last three of them depressingly convincingly to Everton, Southampton and Manchester United, with injuries having bitten deep into the manager's squad.
But as he plans a summer rebuilding project, Pardew, who takes his team to Stoke on Saturday, is hopeful that the owner is well versed in what will be required.
He said: "I think that's been a positive, that he sees we need a bit of quality in the group, that the players are doing their best, but we do need more quality if we are going to impact the top of the league.
"We have played three teams - I know you could argue Southampton weren't above us at the time, but three teams in that top half.
"We have another one on Saturday and I think it's fair at the moment that we have been a little bit distant from them and we need to close that gap."
The renovation of the squad which has faded so dramatically since Christmas is likely to be extensive with January departure Yohan Cabaye yet to be replaced, Loic Remy and Luuk de Jong only on loan, and question marks hanging over the futures of Fabricio Coloccini, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sammy Ameobi, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan among others.
Pardew would dearly love to secure a permanent deal for Remy, but is well aware that his 13 goals for the club to date this season mean the Frenchman will be a hot property.
He said: "It's important that the squad is balanced and has a certain level of quality that represents this club. There's no doubt after the loss of Cabaye that we need to add quality to this group.
"We have the Remy situation that we need to resolve one way or the other. That needs to be addressed because we certainly need a player of his quality."
In the shorter term, Pardew will concentrate on the task of ending a run of three demoralising defeats, although he will attempt to do so at the Britannia Stadium without Remy once again despite his return to training following a calf injury.
Asked if the France international would be available, Pardew said: "No, He won't make this game, but he's training and we'd like to think he will make the next game."
Goalkeeper Tim Krul could return after missing two games with a knee injury, while full-back Mathieu Debuchy is hoping to resume training next week following a groin problem, although midfielder Moussa Sissoko is some way behind him in his recovery from a hamstring strain.
It is all a far cry from the last time Newcastle met Stoke on Boxing Day, when a 5-1 rout against a team which finished with only nine men left them on the fringes for the race for Champions League qualification.
Pardew said: "We found ourselves that night in a great position and the team really had momentum.
"But these are football seasons. No one season runs smoothly, there is always a setback - you can look at Chelsea at Crystal Palace last week - so it happens.
"We know that we are a little bit off a top performance at the minute and we have got to try to find a way of getting a result."