ALAN Pardew’s counting on another strong defensive performance from Fabricio Coloccini – despite his captain’s keenness to leave Newcastle United.
Coloccini is looking to quit the club in this month’s transfer window and return to his native Argentina.
The 30-year-old is set for talks with Pardew and United’s hierarchy next week.
In the meantime, Coloccini will lead Pardew’s side out against Reading at St James’s Park tomorrow.
Coloccini has become unsettled on Tyneside over what Pardew has called a “problem in his life”.
However, Coloccini – whose form has dipped this season – performed well in last weekend’s goalless draw at Norwich City.
And Pardew feels the pitch is a “sanctuary” for the experienced defender, who signed a new four-year deal late last season.
“Nobody’s more important to me than the captain,” Pardew said.
“It’s a position we need to sort out next week, and hopefully we will in a positive way.
“His performance against Norwich was good.
“I’ve had players with bigger problems than Colo’s got, but the sanctuary is the football pitch. That’s where you get the release.
“If you went out and played tennis with your son, you’d forget about all of your troubles.
“I’ve had players who’d lost relatives two days before the game and been the best player on the pitch.
“I’ve had those examples, and Colo proved last week that what’s going on isn’t affecting him on the pitch too much.
“He can focus for 90 minutes and get us a win.”
Meanwhile, Pardew has assured Newcastle fans that everything will be done to ensure the game goes ahead amid forecasts for more snow over the next 24 hours.
“We are going to have terrible weather,” he said. “Our fans – who probably don’t feel too great at the moment – will be freezing.
“I’ve already made sure we have enough staff on, and the council have been well informed that this game goes on.
“We must have it on, and we have to win.
“The only thing that will warm up our fans is our performance.”