Newcastle United stunned the Premier League last season with their fifth-place finish after being promoted to the top flight just 12 months prior to that.
Yet for all the amazement and surprise that Alan Pardew's men provided in 2012, it would have nothing on the drama and tension the club would provide in 2013.
Their glory and success in the previous season would be replaced with injuries, inadequacies and inefficiencies. They would slip outside of the European positions, outside of the top ten and into the middle of a fierce relegation battle once more.
It seemed almost ridiculous but the same Newcastle United that had stunned the league in 2012 would now be fighting for their survival in the top flight in 2013.
Heading into the January transfer window and a formidable away fixture to Norwich City, the news was not at all positive for the Magpies.
Star striker Demba Ba had been sold to Chelsea or a meagre £7 million—leaving the club to now operate without their best attacking weapon for the remainder of the season. Which, when you've lost nine of your last 11 league matches, isn't an ideal position to be in.
The Magpies hadn't won on the road all season (a fact that still is true right now) and they hadn't been that impressive at home either. A normally formidable venue, St. James' Park had seemingly lost it's life and it's determination—much like Newcastle United had done throughout the current season.
Newcastle were simply not as strong as their opponents nor as consistent.They were drifting aimlessly without direction or purpose.
Their squad had been crippled with injuries throughout the year and Pardew could not find the quick-fix to their problems, regardless of how hard he tried.
That was, until the January winter transfer window rolled around and the Magpies' manager was able to move decisively to bring in some new talent. He recognized the need to solidify their defensive unit and rebuild through the middle of the pitch, and tried to make amends for it in the transfer window.
Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa would be the first to join the club. He would be soon joined by fellow French defender Massadio Haidar from Nancy.
Much like he did with Papiss Cisse in the January transfer window last season, Pardew then brought in a new forward in Bordeaux's Yoan Gouffran to offer the club some new attacking options and creativity—something that has certainly been left wanting of late.
Recently, midfielder Moussa Sissoko also announced that he would be leaving Toulouse to join the Tyneside club (per The Daily Mirror), with captain Fabricio Coloccini confirming that he too will be remaining at Newcastle United until the end of the season.
In essence, Newcastle United have signed two midfielders, two defenders and a forward, and that's without landing Yann M'Vila or Loic Remy either, whom the club were believed to be interested in signing over the winter transfer window.
The brilliance of Pardew once again to recognize his team's needs and use the transfer window to fix them will be the thing that the Magpies will remember this season by. For it will surely be the thing that helps them avoid relegation from the league this year.
They are only a handful of points away from the drop zone, but given their newfound strength and creativity, it's hard to see Newcastle going down now.
Especially with further clarity on their vision for the rest of the year—something that was seemingly lacking from their opening half of the year.
Pardew has instilled a confidence and a vision for survival in the new recruits—something has been spoken about a lot from the club's latest signings. They genuinely believe that this club belongs in the top league in England, and that their involvement can ensure the Magpies remain there in 2013.
Haidara said after signing that it was the "club's ambition to strengthen the whole team so we can improve our league position" that appealed to him.
Gouffran commented that he was "not worried at all" by the club's league position, and that he would do everything he could to ensure a strong finish to the year.
"Newcastle isn't in the position it should be in the league. Whether it's myself or the other players in the team, we are going to try our utmost to make sure we can climb up the league to where we should be. I think with the players Newcastle have, we can realistically be aiming to finish at least in the top eight..."
Even Pardew himself is preaching the vision and direction for the club at the moment to believe that they can genuinely avoid relegation this year.
"It's not life or death if you go down, but it's life-changing for a football team and employees. If you look at the signings closely there isn't a quick-fix in there which is what some teams have tried to do in the past when they are in a relegation position.
"We've been bold, we've got players who have to understand the Premier League is different, [but] they've got to settle quickly.
"There is a vision from these players, they're not going to be moved on in the summer, they are here for the next three or four years..."
And it surely that legacy of vision and belief that will keep the Magpies from dropping down to the Championship at the end of the season.
The Magpies are simply too versatile and have too good a squad on-hand to allow something like that to take place this year. But perhaps even more importantly, they finally believe they are strong enough to stay up in the top class.
Much like he did last season, Pardew has reinvigorated and revitalized Newcastle United over the January winter transfer window—only that this time the club are in a far different position to that of last year and thus require different needs.
He has strengthened their defense, consolidated their midfield and replaced Demba Ba, but most importantly, he has helped Newcastle to believe in themselves, their ability and the club they play for with a brand new self-belief.
And it will surely be that belief that carries them safely through 2013.
Will Newcastle United survive relegation in 2013?
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