Seven games in to the 2013-14 campaign, and sporadically at least, Newcastle United have given their loyal fans reasons to be cheerful.
Four wins, including two in the League Cup that have seen the Magpies progress to Round 4 of the competition, suggest that a repeat of last season’s struggles might well be avoided.
So ahead of their clash at Goodison Park on Monday evening, we look at six reasons why the Geordie faithful can look forward with more than a hint of optimism.
There are few players in the Premier League who can light up a game quite like Hatem Ben Arfa, and the Frenchman’s early form has been typically dramatic.
The fixture with Fulham at St. James’ Park at the end of last month summed the 26-year-old up perfectly, where an otherwise frustrating afternoon was enlivened with a stunning winner four minutes from the end.
This was followed by a man-of-the-match performance—and another goal—in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa a fortnight later.
His ability to influence against the division’s top teams will be put to the test over the coming weeks, but all signs point to the former Marseille man being a pivotal player for the Toon this term.
Amid frenzied talk of formations, strikers and ambition at Newcastle United over the summer, Vurnon Anita’s welcome transformation from bit-part player to central figure has taken many by surprise.
The Dutch international struggled to make an impact at St. James’ Park following his £6.7 million arrival from Ajax last year, but this season the storyline is different.
Having won a place in the starting XI thanks to Cheick Tiote’s injury and uncertainties surrounding the future of Yohan Cabaye, the 24-year-old has been a revelation in the Magpies’ midfield.
His slick passing and simplistic approach have had a calming effect so far this term and given manager Alan Pardew a real selection headache in the process.
As Newcastle United’s only senior signing this summer—and a loan one at that—the pressure was on Loic Remy to deliver the goods from the word go in a black-and-white shirt.
And after just three appearances, and two goals, it’s fair to say the Frenchman has kept his side of the bargain.
On the left of a front three, Remy has balanced Alan Pardew’s attacking trio alongside Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa and brought a much-needed sense of urgency to the Magpies’ play.
His first goals for the club against Hull City last weekend showcased his skills as a playmaker and a poacher, and he’ll be relishing the challenges that lie ahead.
At the end of what had been a difficult summer off the pitch at St. James’ Park, the Yohan Cabaye saga was in keeping with the sense of gloom that had seemingly enveloped the club.
But once his supposed move to Arsenal failed to materialise and the transfer window closed, the 27-year-old, who had refused to play in Newcastle’s opening pair of fixtures, had some reconciling to do.
His return to the fold against Fulham prompted a mixed response from the terraces, but his importance to the team was there for all to see.
And as a hugely influential figure in the dressing room as well as on the pitch, the former Lille man’s comeback has been a major positive for Alan Pardew and Co.
Sammy Ameobi (left) and Paul Dummett
There are few more satisfying sights in football than a former youth player making an impact in the first team. And against Leeds on Wednesday, Newcastle United paraded two.
Local boys Paul Dummett and Sammy Ameobi are both products of the Toon’s academy system, and both had games to remember in the League Cup in midweek.
Playing as a pair down the left, Ameobi created both of the Magpies’ goals while Dummett produced a mature display at full-back in what was often a hectic cup-tie.
In a season where Alan Pardew’s lack of options have been openly questioned by many of the club’s fans, the emergence of Dummett and the form of Ameobi have been a big plus.
After making a dramatic entrance to life in England in January with a flurry of goals, Moussa Sissoko went off the boil as last season reached its nail-biting climax.
This term, however, the former Toulouse star seems to have found his feet in the Premier League, and has added a degree of strength and guile to Newcastle United’s midfield.
His attacking instincts were on show against Hull City last Saturday, where his driving run and cross in the first half led to Loic Remy’s opening goal.
Much like Vurnon Anita, Sissoko’s early form has handed manager Alan Pardew a dilemma, and all eyes will be on United’s team sheet for Monday’s clash at Everton.