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Pardew enjoying fight for places
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has revealed he has had players knocking on his door desperate for a chance to force their way into his in-form team.
A run of four successive Barclays Premier League victories has left the Magpies sitting inside the top six heading into difficult trips to Swansea and Manchester United over the next few days.
That deluge of points has coincided with a consistency of both performance and personnel which has left the likes of Steven Taylor, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez and Papiss Cisse, several of whom would have been regarded as certain starters just a few weeks ago, sitting on the bench.
Pardew returned to his desk at the club's Darsley Park training headquarters on Monday morning to assess Saturday's 2-1 home victory over West Brom and begin preparations for Wednesday's trip to the Liberty Stadium, and found the path to his door a well-trodden one.
He said: "I have had a few knocks on my door this morning from players who want to play.
"Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Vurnon Anita, Jonas Gutierrez are all not playing at the moment, and they are desperate to play.
"We have got - which we didn't have last year - real competition for places, and that does bode well."
Taylor is being kept out by the excellence of Mike Williamson, who was handed his chance by injuries to the former England Under-21 skipper and club captain Fabricio Coloccini and has not looked back, while Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has also provided sterling service.
Fans' favourite Ben Arfa too has been left kicking his heels despite his status as a potential match-winner, and that has given Pardew genuine options on the bench, something he did not have last season.
However, he can understand the likes of Taylor, Ben Arfa, Cisse, Yanga-Mbiwa and Anita wanting to play, and has no problem with them heading for his office to stake their claims.
He said: "Absolutely. I would be very disappointed if I didn't have one or two this morning saying, 'Any chance, Gaffer?'.
"I have empathy for them, but at the minute, they have got to wait for their chance.
"I wouldn't call them fringe players by any stretch of the imagination. I would class them as first-team players who are actually out of the team at the minute.
"They have an opportunity and like Williamson has proved, if you get an opportunity, then I will show faith and keep picking the player. Everybody has got an opportunity, an equal opportunity.
"It's the same for Hatem as it is for Steven Taylor, frustrating. Steven came out of the side through injury and now he is finding himself blocked in.
"Mapou has done unbelievably well, in my opinion, and was left out. I was so disappointed to leave him out, and yet in front of him is Williamson, who has been terrific, so it's very, very difficult for players.
"You have just got to hope that the chance comes and you take it, and that's why you have to work hard on the training ground - like we have this morning - with those guys so they are ready and when their chance comes, I can show faith in them because the team keeps winning."
Pardew will celebrate three years at the St James' Park helm next week, although he may have little time to reflect upon his eventful tenure to date as the busy winter programme slips into top gear.
He said: "The three years seem to have flown by. Sometimes when I sit down, it feels like 30 years.
"But I am sure there will be - hopefully, if we get a couple of good results this week - a glass of wine and a reflection in my own time."