Alan Pardew

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Alan Pardew has called on his players to be razor sharp in Russia on Thursday night - but he is sporting an unshaven look for the trip to the Luzhniki Stadium.

In the 1700s, Peter the Great opposed beards and even placed a tax on them, but Russia is famous for its facial hair and Pardew is growing some stubble of his own as a tribute.

While his whiskers are still some way from rivalling the likes of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky or Alexander III, Pardew's face will certainly feel a little warmer in the sub-zero conditions in Moscow.

And the Magpies manager has promised that he may even keep it if Newcastle beat Anzhi Makhachkala in their round of 16 first leg Europa League tie.

"We're just pleased to be here," he said. "Moscow is a fantastic city and we're really looking forward to coming and hopefully putting on a good performance against what you would have to consider as one of the favourites in the competition.

"I've even grown a beard because Russia is famous for people with great beards - not just Lenin in particular, I just think it would be nice to pay some respects when you go to certain places."

When asked if he'd keep it if the Magpies won, he smiled: "I might do, yeah. We'll have to see!"