Life as a Newcastle United fan is never dull. There is always something going on, whether it be new signings arriving, results going against the form book or a fans-versus-owner confrontation.
This season has seen a combination of managerial naivety, bad luck and a lengthy injury list culminating in a poor season for the Magpies.
It’s hard to pin Newcastle’s lack of success on one of these specific issues, due to fans disagreeing about what exactly has gone wrong at St James’ Park. Some believe Mike Ashley is to blame for not releasing the funds to sign new players in the summer, while others think manager Alan Pardew’s tactical decisions were the reason behind Newcastle’s recent close shave with relegation.
However, there was one major change that galvanised the Magpies and acted as the catalyst for their surge in form.
As soon as the New Year turned, Newcastle’s transfer business swung into top gear, with Mathieu Debuchy signing in the first week, days after Demba Ba confirmed his future by signing for Chelsea.
The swift arrival of Debuchy, a full six months after he was initially close to a move from Lille, gave fans the faith that the Club knew they had to spend to survive. A fortnight after Newcastle’s new right-back had joined; four signings in four days further brightened the mood around Tyneside.
Finally, the areas that needed investment had been strengthened and Newcastle had gone from a threadbare, young squad to one with international level players throughout.
The signings were the major change that needed to happen.
Had Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran not arrived from Ligue 1, life on Tyneside would have been unbearable for the rest of the season. If the squad were forced to continue as they were with no new blood in their ranks, relegation was becoming a distinct possibility.
But after the signings came and they instantly hit the ground running, Newcastle can now focus on Thursday’s Europa League clash with Anzhi Makachkala with a hope of silverware this year. It’s been 43 years since Newcastle lifted the Fairs Cup, but with the current squad, they could have a serious go at the Europa League.
If Newcastle finds Anzhi a step too far, it won’t go down as a failure. Pardew’s side aren’t one of the favourites for the tournament and any further progress will take a series of special performances against some of Europe’s biggest boys.
But, with their domestic form all but safe, they can now almost make the European challenge their primary goal. On the league front, Pardew is counting down the days until he can start again in the 2013/14 season, so why not have a go in Europe?
His new-look, Gallic-tongued squad will be a force similar to that of last season when the new campaign kicks off for sure. But for now, we’ll learn just how good they are when the week is out.