ALAN Pardew says he won’t stop Newcastle United’s players dreaming of a return to Europe.
But Newcastle United’s manager’s determined that their immediate focus doesn’t shift from domestic football.
Pardew’s side will take on Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium tonight knowing a fifth successive win could take the club into the top four of the Premier League.
United’s form has raised hopes of a repeat of two seasons ago, when the team finished fifth and qualified for the Europa League.
Pardew, mindful of the toll injuries and suspensions could take on his squad over the hectic festive period, has been keen to dampen expectations on Tyneside in recent weeks.
But he admits the pre-season goal of a top-10 finish could be revised upwards.
“You kind of reassess it every game, really,” said Pardew.
“For this game we will be confident, whereas we might not have been that confident four or five weeks ago.
“There’s that confidence, and you start looking at the table and you start looking at results.”
Newcastle moved up to fifth last Saturday after beating West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at St James’s Park, though the following day’s results saw them end the weekend in sixth place.
And Pardew says there’s an “excitement” in his dressing room.
It’s a feeling he’s keen to harness.
He said: “I’m sure my players were looking on Sunday to see if anyone was going to jump above us. Southampton ... were they going to win at Chelsea?
“I can’t say that isn’t the case. There’s an excitement about it and of course as the manager, I want to breed that in and drive that on, of course.”
For his part, Pardew – whose side were knocked out of the Europa League at the quarter-final stage by eventual finalists Benfica - is still refusing to talk himself about the possibility of a return to European competition.
“I am not even going to think about it a this stage,” he added.
“This is Newcastle, we like to raise our expectations, way beyond the realism of where we are at times.
“But it’s great at the moment. Our fans must be enjoying it – I hope they are because I think the team is playing with a commitment and a style that’s good.”
United’s gruelling European campaign last term took a toll on the club’s domestic form.
Swansea are in the competition this season after winning the Capital One Cup, and they have already played seven more games than Newcastle.
Manager Brian Laudrup has lost the likes of Michu, Wilfried Bony and Angel Rangel to injury.
And Pardew – who lost a series of players last season – is just glad that he has a fully-fit squad, with Ryan Taylor, a long-term absentee, the only player not available.
“Top 10, top six, top five, whatever, for a club like ours, we can’t suffer injuries to key players,” said Pardew.
“Last year, we did. This year, we haven’t so far, and touch wood, I hope that continues.
“But there will be injuries come, there’s no doubt about that, and I think we are in a little bit better position than whenever I have been here in the last three years to cope, and I hope that’s proven.”