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Arsenal is main priority for Alan; Derby fall-out is firmly consigned to the past.

ALAN Pardew was absolutely spot on when he chose to ignore Martin O'Neill's post-match comments following the Tyne-Wear derby.

Instead, Pardew refused to get drawn in by the Irishman's comments and simply moved on to the next game against Arsenal.

By wasting no energy responding to O'Neill's views on the Tyne-Wear derby, Pardew emerged with respect and sent out the right message to Newcastle supporters by simply saying nothing and focusing on taking on the Gunners.

Now it's very much about taking on Arsenal tonight at the Emirates Stadium.

This Newcastle observer notes the signal coming out of the club's Benton base was that local bragging rights were left firmly intact and the claims that Pardew originally branded "unsavoury" in his post-match media briefing were shrugged off. And while O'Neill was still clearly not happy about the events during and after last Sunday's game, Pardew made light of the situation adding that a handshake would be on offer the next time he sees the former Celtic boss.

It's a move that was typical of Pardew. The Londoner has quickly learned just how much emotions can hit boiling point in the North East, and will have acknowledged Newcastle's excellent derby record does the talking with just one loss in 15 games, a stat that Sunderland must focus on trying to improve - with at least a five-month wait for that to happen.

For now, the black and white roadshow moves on to the Smoke to take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Ironically in Arsene Wenger, Pardew will come face to face with the Frenchman he once exchanged words with back in 2006 as West Ham boss, when the duo had to be pulled apart after a late winner from Marlon Harewood.

Such fireworks may or may not be repeated this evening, but if they are it might certainly wake up sleepy Arsenal fans.

A pre-match gee up by the Gunners PA announcer ahead of their last game against AC Milan resulted in nothing but polite applause by Arsenal followers the other night.

And it took the Wenger boys to go 3-0 up for any hint of excitement to filter around a stadium that is simply too comfortable for fans to generate a real old-school atmosphere.

This is a situation that Newcastle must look to take advantage of tonight. It's not like Arsenal fans don't have form for this either is it? Remember the Highbury Library? United have suffered some bad days out at Arsenal down the Premier League years but they go into this one having won last time out and picking up a famous victory in the process.

That day the United following was fantastic - and they'll be praying for more of the same.

Tonight Newcastle fans will do their usual bit and be singing from start to finish.

This was something that was also noted by Pardew in Newcastle's last London visit White Hart Lane when incredibly the Toon Army were out-singing Tottenham fans even at 5-0 down resulting with the United manager heading straight over to salute them at the end.

Pardew will hope to be doing that again this evening but with a positive result to boot.

And if he does, it will be because rather than spend time getting into a slagging match with the manager of previous opponents, his time was spent analysing Arsenal and preparing for the task in hand.


BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY Newcastle United fans will be descending on Arsenal's Emirates Stadium this evening
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2012
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