Alan: Lomy So Vital

Alan Pardew says that having Steve Lomas back before the end of the season has been a huge plus for the club.

Steve played on Saturday against Coventry after missing the Crystal Palace game in the light of having played two days previously against Derby and is now on course to play in the last three games of the season - and hopefully six, including the playoffs.

"The young lads' energy is going to be important but as I said six or seven games ago the senior pros will see you home," says Alan.

"Having Lomy back is obviously a massive boost for us and it will be important to keep him in and around the team for the run-in.

"Hopefully he will steer clear of knocks, and if he does that his leadership on the pitch will be invaluable - as it has been in the two games he has played in.

"He is now at a level where his fitness isn't a problem and he can do nothing but help us.

"The type of players Steve is, is very difficult to find; I honestly think Nigel Reo-Coker has got those leadership qualities but he is 18 and that is a big, big difference.

"Lomy is a player that brings a team together and becomes the lieutenant out on the pitch.

"He has shown that and, apart from everything else he can do, that is a major asset to any team.

"Norwich were promoted this week and you would say Malky Mackay does that for them - which is a major reason why they have gone up."

Could Nigel be the pretender to Steve's crown?

"I hope Steve stays around long enough for it to be a long wait for him," smiles Alan, "but certainly he has the potential to do that which is why I brought him to the club."

Speaking ahead of the Stoke game, he adds:

"This is a key game; our away form has really dipped lately but our fans will be travelling up there in force as usual.

"We need to show them that we can do it away from home again and what better opportunity than now?

"They are a dangerous side, but they all are in this division, as we have found out; Watford beating Millwall and Crystal Palace beating Sunderland just goes to show you the depth of talent is quite widespread.

"People think it is mediocre and poor - but I don't agree with that.

"Every team is organised, proficient, and has players that can win games - it makes it a very, very difficult league to win and get promoted out of."

Reputation, says Alan, counts for little and he adds:

"You look at the names we have and think how can teams compete with the likes of us, but you can't look at it with that attitude.

"This is where we are at and the emphasis is on us to be better than anyone else because we are the big draw in this division.

"We haven't done it this year but we have still got a chance of being promoted and that is what we have to cling to and focus on between now and, I hope, the end of May."

After 12 away league games without defeat, it is now six away without a win, and Alan says:

"We have had some really tough games and I don't think we have had too much go for us in terms of sendings off, suspensions, and so on.

"Maybe that run has come to an end - I really hope so."