One of the major points of interest from last season was the enigma that was Newcastle United. Operating on signing bargains and utilising home-grown talents, they’ve impressed and pleasantly surprised us all. My dad is a passionate Newcastle fan; he’s seen the highs and lows along with the heroes and the villains that have come with Newcastle over the years. However as they say, the spectator sees more of the game so allow me to cast off the shackles and examine Newcastle United with a fine-toothed comb.
Last year will have been marked off as a good year to be a Newcastle United supporter. A fifth place finish and teetering on the brink of Champions League qualification has to go down as a great season considering where they were three years ago. Playing in the second tier of English football after what can only be described as a disastrous 2008/09 season, not even the great Geordie legend Alan Shearer could restore pride on Tyneside.
However, times have rapidly changed and with smart investments and good solid management from Alan Pardew, Newcastle look to be back where we all feel they belong. Papiss Cisse has become an instant hero with the Magpies faithful and there seems to be no disharmony between owner Mike Ashley and the fans. Generally all is well at The Sports Direct Arena or as we all know and love it as St. James’ Park, but one question still remains. Where does Newcastle United Football Club go from here?
With the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United showing intent already in the transfer market looking to strengthen with some high-profile signings it’s hard to see how Newcastle can go forward and break into the top four. Pardew has made some inspired signings but the bargains can’t go on forever. Sooner or later they’ll have to break the bank if they want to join that elite group of clubs who grace the Champions League stage. Spending power is a big part of the modern game now and clubs have to spend if they want to compete. It’s survival of the fittest in the Barclays Premier League, swim or sink and if Newcatle are not willing to spend they shall sink, and the big sharks in the water such as Man City, Man United, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain to name a few will sink their teeth into them, and snare their star players.
If we’re looking at Newcastle progressing as a club I think the first thing on their agenda has to be silverware. The Capital One Cup might be known to the majority of us as ‘the Micky Mouse cup’ but it could provide real momentum in making Newcastle a force again. Every player wants silverware and if The Magpies can prove they have the goods to deliver, high-calibre players will soon take notice. They have all the tools to be a success: a solid, young goalkeeper, a commanding captain in the shape of Fabricio Coloccini, a vastly underrated central midfield paring of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote and a forward in Cisse who looks to be the real deal in front of goal. Twin that with the likes of Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and a few more key signing in key areas and the Geordie outfit can really make huge strides towards a bright future.
Pardew seems to have brought out the best in all of his star names and got them playing attractive football; the transformation has been quite superb. Suddenly we’re all watching this go getting, attacking and at times devastating team. The balance in midfield is perfect, Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez hug the touchline whilst Cabaye pulls the strings and Tiote plays the midfield enforcer; breaking play up and stopping the opposition midfield playing. This team is exciting, vibrant and full of ideas and the manager is solid.
Mike Ashley finally seems to have got his act together which can only mean good things both on and off the pitch. He and his “Cockney Mafia” as they were branded, seem to have taken a back seat from the limelight and are letting Mr. Pardew get on with his job of winning football matches, and long may it continue. The fans hear very little rumblings from the boardroom nowadays, well, other than the stadium renaming fiasco. Ashley hasn’t made any friends with his decision making and his actions and attitude, however his notorious reputation seems to have subsided recently. Unfortunately, you always get the sense that a controversial act is always round the corner, ready to send shockwaves and reverberations around the Tyneside area.
Whilst talk of bringing players into Newcastle is exciting, the real test will be if they can keep hold of all their key figures. It’s impossible to have success if you sell the backbone of your team and that’s what Newcastle has to be wary of. All the best teams have great strength in depth and I for one am not convinced Newcastle have that. I don’t think Shola Ameobi is anywhere near good enough to come in for Cisse or Ba should they have a lack of strikers, and as for depth at the back, for me there are still question marks over Mike Williamson. This strength and quality in depth has to be addressed if the Tyneside team are to make significant strides in the right direction. Pardew has made two signings so far but nobody to really catch the eye, my fear is that Newcastle hit their peak last season and will always be limbering between the Europa League places and their big players like Cabaye, Ba and Cisse will seek employment elsewhere in pursuit of regular Champions League football.
On the other hand, to detract away from my pessimistic thoughts I do feel that 2012/13 season is a phenomenal opportunity for the black-and-white-striped men to make their mark on the Premier League. Expectations are always challenging to meet but Newcastle United has the quality to rise to the occasion and surprise us all for another season and who knows, with a few key signings and the same quality of performances we saw throughout the majority of last season, Newcastle United Football Club might go one better and bring home some silverware for the Geordie faithful. Portsmouth did it; this is football and anything can happen.