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Alan Pardew heaped praise on the returning skipper after his display in the draw with Sunderland, and already knows he has a player capable of leading his side into the top four

By Andrew Kennedy at the Stadium of Light

Alan Pardew's comments that Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini's performance in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland "was like watching Bobby Moore" may need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but what those words do portray is the colossal performance by the Argentine at the Stadium of Light.

Cool, calm and collected upon his return to the side from injury, the 30-year-old repeatedly steered a team reduced to 10 men for over 60 minutes clear of danger, as Sunderland peppered the box with long balls in search of a second-half equaliser.

The Newcastle boss says his team were a "class act" against Sunderland
The Black Cats would eventually force their goal, but only once Coloccini had departed the field, and the suggestion that the hosts would not have salvaged a point had the Argentine remained on the pitch is testament to his incredible rise in stock over recent seasons.

Arriving in a deal worth over £10 million from Deportivo La Coruna in 2008, Coloccini's hefty price tag immediately raised eyebrows amongst fans at St James' Park, particularly with the club embarking on a less-than-prolific defensive recruitment policy in the seasons that preceded his arrival.

Jean-Alain Boumsong, Titus Bramble and Oguchi Onyewu were just a few of the players who failed to make the grade, resulting in defenders given less time to impress as supporters grew frustrated.

Such concern initially rang true, with the defender caught up in the spiral of negativity that saw Newcastle relegated in 2009. Despite dropping to English football's second tier, the ex-Boca Junior man elected to stay faithful to the Magpies, and enjoyed a personal revival alongside his club's.

Coloccini was named in the Championship Team of the Year upon Newcastle's promotion back to the Premier League in 2010, before going on to lead his side to a fifth-placed finish in the 2011-12 campaign - his first as captain of the club.

The personal accolades have continued to come his way - last season he was named in the PFA Team of the Year and as the North East Football Writers' Association's Player of the Year - but so has reported interest.

Liverpool, Valencia and even Manchester City have all been linked with a player capped 34 times for Argentina, prompting Newcastle to hand their skipper a new four-year deal in March to extend his stay at the club until 2016.
33/1 Newcastle are 33/1 to finish in the top four in 2012-13 with bet365

And his value to Pardew was shown none more so than during his 79 minutes on the field in Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby.

A defence that had looked increasingly suspect during his month-long absence was all of a sudden comfortable and assured. Even after Chiekh Tiote's sending off, Coloccini refused to hoof the ball long, instead intelligently retaining possession to ensure the visitors still provided a goal threat as a relief to late pressure from the hosts.

Although his team would relent through a Demba Ba own goal, his emphatic return to the Newcastle XI did not go unnoticed.

"Maybe if Coloccini had stayed on we would have seen it out. He was absolutely phenomenal today," Pardew crooned in his post-match press conference.

"I come from a famous football club in West Ham and it was like watching Bobby Moore today, he was terrific."

A point may be less than the Magpies manager had hoped for with talk of a push for the top four this season, but as Coloccini nears his 150th appearance for the club, Pardew already has a player capable of a leading a team to those heights.

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