SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - Alan Pardew insisted Newcastle have been galvanised by a close-season of turmoil as they lifted the gloom with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at bitter rivals Sunderland.
A return of four points from their opening two games more than justifies Pardew's assertion that the spirit in the Newcastle camp remains high.
Newcastle were rocked in pre-season by the departure of skipper Kevin Nolan to West Ham, a troubled tour of the United States, and the transfer listing of their influential midfielder Joey Barton, who accused the club's multi-millionaire owner Mike Ashley of lacking ambition.
Their troubles were compounded by the departure of defender Jose Enrique and the seeming failure to re-invest, as promised, the £35 million received in January from Liverpool for Andy Carroll leaving fans fearing the worst.
But those fears have not been realised so far, and the Newcastle's mood was further enhanced by a stunning winner from Ryan Taylor at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The stand-in full-back curled home a 20-yard free-kick after the break to earn local bragging rights against 10-man Sunderland, who had defender Phil Bardsley sent off late on.
Newcastle had already held Arsenal to a 0-0 stalemate on the opening day of the campaign, and Pardew said: "To get four points from our opening two games, with clean sheets in both is a real achievement.
"We've got some new players in the side but we've not lost that spirit because there were times when we had difficulties and we came through.
"Monday to Friday, we beat ourselves up, that's a tradition at Newcastle, but Saturday is all about the game and I thought we were magnificent."
Pardew made sure he savoured the victory which stretched Newcastle's impressive record on Wearside to just a single defeat in 31 years, and he added: "My staff are looking forward to going into town tonight to enjoy that with the fans, and I might join them for a couple as well."
It's a different story for Sunderland, who have just a single point from their opening two games, a disappointing return given the 10 signings made by manager Steve Bruce in the close-season.
Asamoah Gyan's shot clipped the bar, but that was as good as it got for the hosts, who were fortunate that World Cup final referee Howard Webb failed to spot a blatant handball on the line by Seb Larsson before the break.
Bruce said: "In a big game like this, with the dominance we had, we needed to score. At this level if you don't take that chance then you're always open to the sucker punch and rightly enough we've been caught.
"We moved the ball particularly well in the first-half but to be fair to Newcastle they changed their shape to try and stop us.
"Losing this game is unforgivable to some fans and we understand that. We have to win them back."