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Newcastle United 2013/14 Review: A Beacon Of Hope Into A Season Of Shambles

Friday 16th May 2014
Newcastle fan Thomas Richardson looks back at the 2013/14 season and offers his suggestions on what chances could be made for next season, do you agree with his suggestions?

It's fair to say that the 2013-2014 season is not likely to be remembered fondly by many Newcastle United fans. What began as a season of hope, that we could rebuild and get back to the kind of form that saw us finish above Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool in 2011-12, finished in ignominy and with fans clamouring for the incumbent manager to be dismissed.

In terms of results, there were good times and bad. After an inauspicious start, from November until January, the team won seven of ten games, defeating Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United during that period and we were only denied a point against Arsenal thanks to one of the most curious (and that is being kind) refereeing decisions of the year to disallow a thunderous Tiote goal for ‘offside'.

That means on the 1st January 2014, Newcastle lay in 8th place in the league, ready to push on and add to a squad that seemingly had the ability to once again, make a realistic challenge for a top six, perhaps even a top four spot.

Yet if one move defined Newcastle's season more than any other,  it was the decision to sell crucial midfield lynchpin Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain for a fee believed to be in the region of £19m.

Since then, the team has struggled to find a replacement for Cabaye and his influence on the team has been sorely missed. Similar to when the club sold Demba Ba to Chelsea, replacements for these players from within the squad have just not been anywhere near as talented or productive.

The net result has been a shocking loss of form since the turn of the year.  Out of 19 games in 2014, the club has won just five, (against West Ham, Aston Villa, Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City), drawing one (Norwich) and losing the remaining 13 games.

Since 1st January, we have scored 14 league goals in 19 games, conceding 35 in the process and while our position in the table only fluctuated from 8th to 10th,  the fact we were clear of the relegation battle by Christmas was the only solace Newcastle fans had throughout 2014.

Problems were compounded further by rumours of squad disharmony over the inclusion of Hatem Ben Arfa in the team. The Frenchman's perceived lack of effort eventually seeing him effectively banished from the first team squad and unlikely to be wearing a Newcastle shirt again.

Then in one of the few relatively bright spots of 2014, when we were recording a thumping 4-1 victory at FA Cup Finalists Hull City, Alan Pardew's hotheaded temper got the better of him when he aimed a headbutt at Hull City's David Meyler. The result being a £100,000 club fine, a £60,000 FA fine, an official warning from the club, a warning from the FA as to his future conduct and a seven game ban, the first three being a stadium ban.

The season ended with Newcastle fans demanding Pardew's sacking, the manager admitting that his position with the Newcastle faithful was precarious and a walkout at the final home game of the season with thousands of Newcastle fans leaving their seats during the 3-0 win over Cardiff to protest at the direction the club is taking under Ashley and Pardew.

So what needs to happen to ensure that Newcastle United face a brighter future when the 2014-2015 season kicks off?

  • Pardew to Leave – Newcastle owner Mike Ashley seems to take great delight in doing precisely the opposite of what most Newcastle United fans want and already there have been murmurs that Pardew's job is safe at the club. Unfortunately, the relationship between Pardew, the fans and perhaps some players, is beyond repair. If Pardew is in the hot-seat at the start of the new season, Newcastle's problems only seem likely to continue. The man for the job is David Moyes, but any appointment seems highly unlikely at the moment with Pardew still enjoying the support of the owner.

  • Squad Overhaul – It's fair to say many of Pardew's signings have not worked and his player sales have proved disastrous. It's time for some major changes at St James' Park this summer, with some key players likely to leave once again. Pardew, or a new manager, needs to bring in fresh faces and players of real quality to have Newcastle fans believing the club is progressing rather than stagnating. Whether Newcastle have the financial or pulling power to sign this type of player, remains to be seen.

  • Key Players to Stay – It's already common knowledge that Fabricio Coloccini wants to head home and that many top clubs are coveting Tim Krul. It is vital that Newcastle hold on to their key players in the face of competition from other clubs. However, the lure of Champions League football, or heading back home, could prove too tempting for the clubs better players and this again will leave a void that the manager will find difficult to fill.

  • Ben Arfa must go – As talented as the Frenchman is, his lack of effort and seeming unwillingness to play a team role is undermining the manager and the team. A divisive player, no matter how talented, is never a good thing for a squad. Ben Arfa must be sold and another creative, talented midfielder signed in his place.

The future of Newcastle will likely take shape over the next few days when the club announce what is happening regarding Pardew's future. When that is resolved he, or the new manager, will face a stiff test in removing the deadwood from the squad and putting together a team capable of improving on this season.

That may be a tall order given the climate at the club at present and the quality of player likely to be available to Newcastle, even with a purported £60m war chest to spend
Thomas Richardson
Big Newcastle United fan but even bigger fan of anything about the beautiful game. Englishman living in Scotland and currently taking plenty of stick for it. Best football moment Gaza celebration Euro 96, worst Kevin Keegan rant 95/96 season and eventual outcome.

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