NEWCASTLE United’s players have the bit between their teeth – and are determined to give the club’s fans a happy Christmas.
Alan Pardew’s side are seventh in the Premier League ahead of Saturday’s home game against Southampton.
Newcastle go into the hectic festive programme buoyed by a run of five wins from their last six games.
They beat Manchester United 1-0 at the weekend to end a 41-year wait for a success at Old Trafford.
And Pardew senses a “determination” in the dressing room to build on their recent run over the toughest few weeks of the campaign.
The challenge now is to stay in the running for European football, with Pardew having admitted there’s an “opportunity” in front of his team given the results across the league so far this season.
“The players have proved to me that there’s a real determination to have a great season,” manager Pardew said.
“We’ve set ourselves up for a great Christmas programme. Let’s hope we can follow it through.”
Pardew – who took charge at United three years ago – had a spell in charge of Southampton, and the fixture has an added significant for the 52-year-old, who was dismissed by the club’s chairman, Nicola Cortese, just five months after they won the Football League Trophy at Wembley.
“That’s my old club, and I’m desperate to win,” added Pardew, who will be without the suspended Yohan Cabaye.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s home game against Aston Villa on February 22 has been chosen for live broadcast by Sky Sports (5.30pm).
However, should Manchester United be scheduled to play in the Champions League on February 25, the game will be put back a day to February 23 (1.30pm kick-off).
l NEWCASTLE United’s home game against Aston Villa has been chosen for live broadcasting by Sky TV.
The match on Saturday, February 22, was originally due to be a 3pm kick-off. It will now take place at 5.30pm, for screening in Sky’s teatime slot.