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Storm Clouds Gather Over Newcastle United

As pre-seasons go, Newcastle United's has not been the smoothest.

Storm clouds gather over Newcastle as Alan Pardew plots purist path First their opening friendly at Darlington was scarred by crowd violence, then three players were denied visas for a tour of the United States and those who did cross the Atlantic endured a punishing travel schedule involving nine flights in 10 days.

Back in England, Joey Barton's frustrations erupted on Twitter and a tentative peace deal appears far from formalised. Meanwhile Cheick Tioté is stuck in Ivory Coast waiting for his UK visa to be renewed and Hatem Ben Arfa remains at a sports injury rehabilitation centre in Paris having a troublesome ankle assessed.

So it seemed somehow symbolic that the club's dress rehearsal against Fiorentina at St James' Park on Saturday was abandoned goalless after 64 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch.

Indeed, it was tempting to regard the apocalyptic storm as a microcosm of wider turmoil. Although Mike Ashley's retail business has recently boomed and its staff have received generous share windfalls, the current international financial crisis has led to £200m being wiped off the stockmarket valuation of the Newcastle owner's Sports Direct empire.

Such a plummet is hardly likely to encourage the man ranked the 655th richest in the world to hand Alan Pardew the bulk of the £35m received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll in January.

Instead Newcastle's manager – who appreciates Ashley has invested £286m in buying and then keeping Newcastle afloat during his first three years at St James' – accepts he must make do and mend.

While Pardew is close to completing a £3m deal for Manchester United's Gabriel Obertan and has been promised the funds to buy another striker this month, he knows he cannot spend his way to success.

"People have to buy into what Newcastle United is all about," said Pardew, whose side entertain Arsenal on Saturday. "We don't have the riches of other clubs. That is obvious. Sometimes you have to accept things and work as hard as you can with what you have got.

"Since I've been here that's what we've done and that's how it needs to be every game; every player needs to be focused on trying to overachieve because, if we don't, we won't be good enough."

At least in Yohan Cabaye, a £4.5m France international summer signing from Lille, he looks to have identified the playmaker Newcastle have long craved. Cabaye shone against Fiorentina and seems poised to prove integral to Pardew's increasingly purist blueprint.

"Cabaye is central to my vision of how I want us to play," said Pardew. "Last season I don't think we had control of games, especially at home. He will give us that. His passing and grasp of the ball will be significant for us. We have a very good player on our hands."

Cabaye is destined for deployment alongside Tioté in central midfield and the club are confident their Ivorian enforcer will receive his new visa in time to face Arsenal. "Tioté will probably be here on Wednesday," said Pardew, wryly aware that, at Newcastle, it rarely rains but invariably pours. "He'll definitely be available for Saturday."

It is possible that Barton, currently isolated from the first‑team squad and still available on a free transfer, could also feature against Arsène Wenger's side. The right‑sided midfielder is scheduled to discuss the future with Derek Llambias, Newcastle's managing director, this week when his removal from the transfer list is possible.

"We're all taking a deep breath, having some time out and seeing where we go with Joey," said Pardew. "I want my best players playing for the club but Joey needs to buy into what we're doing. If he doesn't, he'll probably go. We'll assess it on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Me and Joey will have a couple of texts and take it from there."

José Enrique, Newcastle's left‑back, remains in limbo, too. Enrique is desperate to leave but Pardew hopes to inspire a volte face. "There's been no bids for José and I want him to stay," he said. "I keep looking at him and smiling. He smiles back but he hasn't signed the contract yet and that is a problem."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Louise Taylor, for The Guardian on Sunday 7th August 2011 22.01 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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