Alan Pardew could hardly be more delighted with the way his decision to appoint Fabricio Coloccini as Newcastle captain has paid off.
The 29-year-old Argentina international was perhaps a surprise choice to take over the armband when Kevin Nolan left the club for West Ham, but has led his side to an encouraging start to the season despite the madness that has gone on around the squad during yet another eventful period in the club's recent history.
Coloccini's style maybe a little different to some of his predecessors, with the former Deportivo la Coruna defender happy to lead by example rather than making his voice heard on and off the field.
However, as he prepares to send his side into battle once again against Fulham on Sunday, Pardew has paid tribute to the way his new skipper has risen to the challenge.
He said: "You have to be very impressed with him as a person.
"He's taken it almost as a mission in terms of coming to talk to me and understanding what I am trying to achieve, understanding what the club is trying to achieve.
"I have been very impressed with him, and not only his leadership, but his playing as well, which has been of the highest order so far."
Coloccini, a #10.3million signing during the summer of 2008, has been one of the Magpies most dependable performers in the last two seasons after emerging from an intensely difficult start to his career in England.
But he has now established himself to the extent that he has become a cult hero on Tyneside.
Indeed, his form during the opening three games of the new campaign has scaled new heights, and his performance in the 1-0 derby win at Sunderland last weekend in particular was exemplary.
Asked if the captaincy had brought even more out of the South American, Pardew said: "I think that's fair to say.
"He has taken on a responsibility for the team, for the club, I have certainly felt that in conversations with him.
"Some players, you sense, will grow with the captaincy, and he is certainly one of those."
Ryan Taylor is likely to continue as an emergency left-back after scoring in each of his last two games, but Pardew will have to find a replacement for Barton on the right side of midfield, with Dan Gosling among the candidates after starting Thursday night's 2-1 Carling Cup win at Scunthorpe.
Fulham manager Martin Jol has urged his side to find a route to goal and admits the Cottagers "need a result" at St James' Park.
The west Londoners have yet to score in the Barclays Premier League this season, having been held to a goalless draw by Aston Villa on the opening day before succumbing to defeat at Wolves last weekend.
Fulham also failed to net in Thursday's Europa League play-off clash against Dnipro, although they progressed to the group stage 3-1 on aggregate despite the 1-0 defeat in Ukraine.
Jol has made no secret of his desire to bolster his ailing strike force in recent weeks, but wants his current crop to get a result on Tyneside tomorrow.
"We have to do better," he said. "We have to play to our strengths and of course we could say we have got a lot of defensive qualities.
"The second half against Aston Villa and Wolves showed we are capable of scoring goals.
"But you have to do the business - score the goals and get the results. If you don't do that, you play for a 0-0.
"Thursday, of course, was over two games so we were okay but to lose a game away from home was not what he wanted.
"For the confidence of the team, it is always better if you score a couple of goals and win these games.
"But we didn't so it is still a worry but hopefully we can score against Newcastle because that is what we need. We need a result."
Jol saw a bid for Birmingham striker Cameron Jerome turned down earlier in the transfer window, while the Dutchman has also been linked with a move for West Ham's Carlton Cole.
Senegal international Papiss Demba Cisse is reportedly one of Fulham's main targets and Freiburg chairman Fritz Keller says the club are considering three bids for the striker.
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