sport

Pards plays down top-four bid

Alan Pardew played down Newcastle's hopes of securing Champions League football after they closed the gap on fourth with victory at West Brom.

Goals from Papiss Cisse (2) and Hatem Ben Arfa enabled the Magpies to move level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League before Shane Long's second half consolation effort.

But Pardew believes Newcastle are not well enough equipped to overhaul one of the top four.

Pardew said: "Are we Champions League contenders? I don't think so. The last 10 games are the most important ones in any season and we've won the first two of those.

"There are a lot of games left, a lot of points. But I don't think we've got the depth of squad to challenge for that (a Champions League place).

"I get told the fans might be thinking 'this is on' - but not me."

Ben Arfa, who set up Cisse's two goals, was the official man of the match and Pardew believes he is a reformed character worth a place in the France squad.

He said: "There are not many players who can do what he can do and it might be a nice wild card for France to have him in the squad.

"He really has knuckled down and there is a much more controlled person in his manner and the way he is around the training ground.

"I can say that publicly so it registers with the French manager.

"In the past in France there was some reputation that he was an 'enfant terrible' but not here.

"He has been immaculate and especially this season he has really kind of focused and got his mind set in a good place."

Pardew confirmed Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini will miss next weekend's clash against Liverpool with a hamstring injury.

But Albion head coach Roy Hodgson could be without midfielder James Morrison for a much longer period after he limped out of the action with a knee ligament injury.

Albion had to finish the game with 10 men as they had already used their three substitutes.

Hodgson said: "It's knee ligament damage. He will have the scan tomorrow and we will see what brings.

"The initial prognosis from the medical team is not good. We have to see what ligaments in the knee have been affected."

Hodgson insists his stance has not changed regarding the England job after his remarks in a radio interview yesterday.

He has been the subject of speculation linking him as one of the candidates to replace Fabio Capello.

Hodgson said: "I can give you verbatim what I said. The radio guy said to me 'if you were offered the England job, would you take it?'

My direct answer was: 'It would seem to me as an Englishman, you would need a very good reason to turn it down.' That's what I said.

"What I've said all along is that the FA are going through the process and I just happen to be one of the people caught up in the speculation about what they are going to do.

"I find myself having to answer questions which really and truly don't have anything to do with the job you are doing at this moment in time.

"My stance hasn't changed at all. It is an important job, I wish the FA every success with their appointment."