Newcastle United: Premier League's 4th Spot Smells Like Toon Spirit

Tony MabertContributor IApril 27, 2012

Croatia international Vedran Corluka has given his two kuna's worth on Tottenham Hotspur's alarming late-season slump this week.

The versatile defender—currently on loan from Spurs at Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen—was highly critical of manager Harry Redknapp's team selection policy as the north London club's once-firm grip on a Champions League place has loosened to the point of it slipping from their grasp.

He told BBC Sport: "I wouldn't be surprised if they finished sixth.

"They didn't rotate enough, they don't have depth on the bench.

"I watched almost every Spurs game and they played them all with the same 11, 12 or 13 players and that's why the players are now really tired."

Corluka may just be making such public pronouncements because he is seeking a permanent move away from White Hart Lane this summer. If Redknapp is still in charge, that now seems highly likely.

In any case, Tottenham's demise is more to do with Redknapp's tactical reshuffling than the number of players he has deployed.

Results since the turn of the year have suffered as, at various points, Gareth Bale has been played through the middle, Luka Modric stationed on the left and two strikers have led the attack.

Consequently Spurs have cut the figure of a dejected team low on confidence at a crucial time of the campaign, something which has contributed greatly to their downfall.

Back-to-back defeats against Norwich and QPR have left them three points behind fourth-placed Newcastle, and with high-scoring relegation-battlers Blackburn Rovers coming to town they will do well to claim a win.

Compare Tottenham's current malaise to Newcastle's run, and it is clear just how erroneous Corluka's words are.

The Magpies have used the same number of players as Spurs this season—18 have started games and a further five have been used only as substitutes.

And yet there are no signs of fatigue as Alan Pardew's side have embarked on a run of seven straight league wins that have propelled them into the box seat for a European playoff spot.

When results are going well and players are happy, there are few squad members with heavy legs or dips in form. Newcastle's side of cut-price signings are playing with a swagger and unity of purpose uncommon for a side which is hitting such heights together for the first time.

Such team spirit is vital at the business end of a season. All the talent and star quality in the world will not be half as effective in a clearly deflated camp.

There appears no danger of that happening at St James' Park—as the fans who took to the wall of the Sports Direct Arena today (reports The Guardian) still insist on calling it.

A trip to Wigan is next for the Magpies. The Latics have been great in recent weeks, with wins over Manchester United and Arsenal being bookended by unfortunate defeats to Chelsea and Fulham. However, the way Newcastle are playing, anything other than an away win would be a surprising result.

Do that, and a draw against Chelsea in their penultimate game of the season would be enough to end the Blues hopes of a top-four place, provided the west London club take all three points against local rivals QPR on Sunday.

With Tottenham faltering and Chelsea seen off, Newcastle fans would be able to feel a lot more relaxed about their team's league position, even with a final-day trip to Manchester City looming large.

If Newcastle's form and spirit remain intact, they will finish fourth, and sales of Bayern Munich shirts at club owner Mike Ashley's sportswear stores in the region would skyrocket.


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