Despite a 5th placed finish and Alan Pardew winning both Manager of the Year awards last season, the prevailing view among so-called experts is that Newcastle United cannot repeat their success.
I disagree and believe we will be even better and achieve even more than last season.
Newcastle were handed one of the toughest starts in The Premier League yet a respectable five points from games against four teams who have been ever-present in The Premier League era including The European Champions is a good haul.
Add qualification into The Europa League group stage and results so far represent a solid start and a springboard for greater things.
Winning is a habit and Newcastle demonstrated last season that it is one they have gotten used to.
A winning start versus Spurs proved they had remembered that winning feeling and how to achieve it, and battling draws after coming from behind against Aston Villa and Everton, twice, show a never-say-die mentality at the club.
This spirit and the quality found throughout the squad—as the Goodison Park draw, a feat Man U couldn’t pull off a month earlier, was achieved without key injured personnel—bodes very well for the season.
As Tiote, Krul and Collocini all return from injury along with the belief that was in evidence in the second half performance, Newcastle will go from strength to strength in all competitions.
Newcastle have closed the gap remarkably on the established group above them and are genuine contenders.
With Alan Pardew expressing that his priority is the Premier League with an aim of qualifying for the money-spinning Champions’ League, then don’t bet against Newcastle achieving it.
In Krul, Taylor, Collocini, Tiote, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Ba and Cisse, Newcastle possesses eight of the League’s best players, and with a talented supporting cast desperate to get involved, anything is possible.
Demba Ba was the form player of The Premier League for the first half of last season with an amazing return of 15 goals in his first 16 games.
He signed off for The African Nations Cup with a brilliant goal and dominating performance against Man United as Newcastle won 3-0 in January.
When he returned, he was not the same player.
Whether through exhaustion due to not having a Winter break for the first time or the arrival of Senegal teammate Papiss Cisse and a different role at Newcastle, he only managed 2 goals in the 2nd half of the season.
Yet with Senegal looking likely to miss the AFCON this January, a full season of goal scoring on Tyneside—if he stays—could see him win the golden boot.
It was 1969 when Newcastle last lifted a major trophy—The Intercities Fairs Cup (predecessor to The UEFA Cup)—and it's high time the Gods of Fortune smiled on the black and white club again.
With a first team that can beat anyone home or away on their day—Exhibit A Man U 3-0 at St James’ last season; Exhibit B, Chelsea 2-0 away last season—Newcastle are a dangerous proposition in any game or knock-out competition.
Alan Pardew has stated repeatedly that The Premier League is his priority, yet he—and owner Mike Ashley—would love to be the men who ended The Magpies' trophy drought.
Rarely one to put his cards fully on the table, expect a change of strategy from Pardew—and money for players in January from owner Mike Ashley—if Newcastle progress to the later rounds of the three Cup competitions.
Newcastle’s creative inspiration is the man who is making The Magpies tick this season.
Stating in The Chronicle that he believes Newcastle can challenge for the title, Ben Arfa is setting about making it happen.
Having won and scored a late penalty vs Spurs, he dragged The Magpies back into the Aston Villa game with the Goal of the Season so far and has been a constant threat.
His critics say he hasn’t got the attitude to sustain his early form, yet this is a changed man who has added consistency and maturity to the godlike ability with a football skill he already possesses.
Expect him to collect the individual plaudits as Newcastle lift silverware in May.
Alan Pardew has expressed his priority is the Premier League and will not play his main stars Tiote and Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Cisse and Ba in the majority of the competition.
Yet Newcastle’s second-string will be led by one Shola Ameobi who will be desperate to seize his chance to prove his worth and win a trophy for the beloved Geordie fans he counts himself among.
Newcastle’s Moneyball squad contains some of the most talented young players in Europe such as Sammy Ameobi, Romain Amalfitano and Haris Vuckic who will use the competition as a platform to display their own talents and play their way into the 1st team reckoning.
Pardew may be forced to rethink his priorities if Newcastle get to the Final Stage in April and a chance of lifting a major trophy is at hand.
Thanks to Gary Devlin for the illustration.
Cult hero striker Shola Ameobi has bided his time on Tyneside behind no less than 30 strikers ranging from local lads Alan Shearer and Andy Carroll to foreign stars such as Patrick Kluivert and Obafemi Martins.
Yet 'The Mackem Slayer' as he is known for his scoring heroics against arch-rivals Sunderland has rarely been first choice on the Newcastle team-sheet despite impressing under Roeder in 05/06 when he was first team.
Now this is about to change with him set to start every game as Captain of The Magpies as he leads his home town back into European competition.
Ameobi Senior is already Newcastle’s 2nd All-time Top Scorer in European competitions and will be looking to the find the goal scoring form that struck in The Champions’ League in Barcelona to add to his tally of 12 Euro goals.
Expect a decade of injury and bench frustration to be unleashed as he stamps his experienced authority all over the Europa League. Its Shola-time.
If Newcastle achieve all of the above then Alan Pardew is a shoe-in to win World Manager of the Year.
Yet if he secures a Top 4 place and wins a domestic or European trophy on a shoestring compared to other managers, he is at least deserving of retaining his awards from last year.
Opinion polls on Tyneside when he arrived showed only a 2% fan approval rate, yet Pardew is as shrewd a boss as there is in The Premier League and has transformed both his reputation and The Magpies.
Along with Chief Scout, Graham Carr and right-hand man John Carver, he has fashioned a Newcastle side who play the right—and winning—way and Newcastle are a force to be reckoned with once more.