NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley IS willing to bankroll a renewed European challenge next season, according to manager Alan Pardew.
Ashley will be at St James’s Park tonight to see Pardew’s side take on Everton.
The billionaire, rarely seen at the stadium in recent seasons, has watched the club’s last two fixtures against Crystal Palace and Fulham.
Many fans fear the summit of Ashley’s ambition for Newcastle is a healthy balance sheet and a top-10 finish, with the club having failed to make a permanent signing in the last two transfer windows.
But Pardew, having spoken at length to Ashley, is adamant he retains a passion for football – as well as financial figures.
“We’re very much looking forward to planning in the summer to take the team forward,” said Pardew.
“There’s no doubt we need to replace (January departure Yohan) Cabaye, and we need to get ourselves one or two strikers that are going to give us a chance of European football.”
Asked if discussions had taken place already ahead of a summer of transition at the club, Pardew said: “(They will take place in) a couple of weeks time.
“In terms of the scouting team, we know what we’re doing.
“You’ve got to manage the squad in terms of where their contracts are, but there’s no doubt we need to bring some offensive players into this group, particularly a Cabaye replacement.
“Really and truly, the chat with Mike will be about finance rather than actual targets.”
Pardew, who will serve the final game of his three-match stadium ban for headbutting Hull City’s David Meyler tonight, said earlier this month that his relationship with Ashley was stronger than ever.
Ashley, pictured watching the Palace game in the directors’ box with public relations specialist Keith Bishop, backed him after the altercation with Meyler, for which he was fined a total of £160,000 by the club and Football Association and banned, in total, for seven games.
“Mike was at Fulham, he was at the last one, and he’s going to be at the Everton game too,” said Pardew.
“I hope our fans see that was in support of what happened to myself. I appreciate that from Mike.”
Pardew insists Ashley - now one of the wealthiest people in Britain - still retains a “passion” for football.
“He loves his football, he really does,” said Pardew. “He was absolutely delighted that we scored (against Palace) on Saturday. He felt we deserved it.
“Our fans shouldn’t under-estimate the passion he has for football.
“Although, at times at this football club, it’s been tough for him, he still loves the football.”