ALAN Pardew has challenged captain Fabricio Coloccini to get back to his best - and lead Newcastle United out of trouble.
Coloccini’s form has been the foundation on which the club has built success in recent seasons.
But this term the defender has wobbled as injury-hit Newcastle have struggled in the Premier League.
And 15th-placed United, beaten 7-3 at Arsenal after a error-strewn defensive display, take on Everton at St James’s Park tonight in desperate need of three points to pull away from the relegation zone.
Pardew is confident Coloccini, influential on and off the pitch, can find an extra “10 per cent” and shore up his back four.
“I thought he did well (in the 4-3 defeat) against Man United,” Pardew said. “He was unfortunate for one of the goals - he got smashed in the face just before they scored.
“I don’t think he’s been particularly fortunate in some situations.
“But I do think he can play better. Like everybody, we know he’s not far away.
“If we can get another 10 per cent out of him, and have (Vurnon) Anita and (Mike) Williamson back in the team, I really don’t think we’re far away.”
Pardew hopes to sign a central defender in this month’s transfer window to compete with Coloccini, Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor.
“I’d just have to choose what I think are the best pair, and stick with it,” he added.
“I think it’s very important to have continuity with the back four. I haven’t really had any options there - no Ryan Taylor or Steven Taylor.
“I haven’t had the luxury of giving Coloccini a rest in the odd game. We got from week to week with the same back four.
“They’re going to get tired. They worked so hard at Manchester United - they were spent.
“We couldn’t really get tight to anyone in that last 20 minutes - I felt sorry or them. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wear that result. It’s history.”
Pardew’s jaded players have done little in the way of on-field training ahead of the Everton game, with most of the work having done inside on the chalkboard given the need to protect his squad from further injuries - and rest weary legs.
“It’s neither here nor there now - it’s about Everton,” said Pardew.
“For two days, this team, trust me, won’t do hardly anything.
“They’ll do it all on the board, as we can’t afford to lose anyone in training. More importantly, we need the rest.”