Xisco has been named in the Newcastle squad to face Club Bruges

Xisco: A surprise inclusion in Pardew's Newcastle squad to face Bruges

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Forgotten Newcastle man Xisco is a surprise inclusion in Alan Pardew's Magpies squad to take on Club Bruges in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.

The 26-year-old Spanish striker's arrival on Tyneside in a £5.7million switch from Deportivo la Coruna in September 2008, along with that of loan signing Nacho Gonzalez, proved the final straw for then manager Kevin Keegan, who walked out days later having had little to do with the signings.

But Xisco, who has spent much of his time at the club out on loan to Deportivo and Racing Santander and is in the final 12 months of his five-year deal, flew out to Belgium with the rest of the squad on Wednesday having scored a hat-trick for the Magpies' Under-21s team last month to catch the eye of manager Pardew.

The boss said: "I don't know how much pain he has gone though, if I am honest, I have not really sat down and spoken to him about that.

"My purpose at this football club is to try to get the best out of every individual, and I am trying to do that with him.

"I am not sure if he will be included tomorrow, if I am honest, but I wanted to bring him into the group just so he felt part of it.

"He causes us no problems, he gets on with his work and we are trying to help him.

"The future for Xisco, hopefully, is a return to playing. Like all players, he wants to play and he has not really done anything wrong other than not reach the level of the first team since he has been here."

Direction

Pardew added: "We have tried to give him some direction and some hope that he can forward his career.

"He is a well-liked player in the group."

Xisco was part of a 20-man party which arrived in Flanders on Wednesday afternoon, as were skipper Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote, who will play as they are suspended for Sunday's Premier League clash with West Ham.

The Argentinian will begin a three-match ban at the weekend after being sent off for an ugly challenge on Liverpool's Luis Suarez which drew concerted criticism from some quarters.

Pardew was swift to defend his captain after the game, and was still firmly in his corner as he conducted his pre-match press conference at the Jan Breydel Stadion this evening.

He said: "I am not bothered about anybody else's criticism. In my book, he is a fantastic captain and a player who has carried the mantle of captain here with great honour.

"One tackle mistimed, whether you think intentional or not - some angles suggest that it isn't, actually, in my view - should not stain what has been a fantastic period for him.

"That's why he is back in the Argentina squad too."