It’s been another eventful season on Tyneside.
Results have ranged from the sublime (a 5-1 Tyne & Wear derby victory over Sunderland), to the ridiculous (losing 3-1 to lowly Stevenage in the FA Cup), to the sublime and ridiculous (February’s 4-4 comeback draw against Arsenal). Newcastle fans have had plenty of reasons to cheer this season, and you’d be hard pressed to find any serious complaints about their all-round performances.
Things haven’t been so smooth behind the scenes, but Newcastle have done well to take the departures of Chris Hughton and Andy Carroll in their stride. Goals may be harder to come by without Carroll, but results have hardly waned since Hughton departed and the St. James’ Park side are still 10th in the league.
Such continued success has stirred whispers of something unthinkable at the start of the season. Manager Alan Pardew has recently spoken positively of his side’s chances of European qualification, and with good reason. Though just five points from the relegation zone, Newcastle are only four from a Europa League place.
While qualification is almost certainly too lofty a goal for Newcastle this year, it must be seen as a realistic goal for the next couple of seasons. Solid performances in their nine remaining games will provide the Magpies with an excellent platform to build on, but ensuring a European return will be far from easy.
Newcastle haven’t competed in Europe since the 2006-7, but there are a few things Ashley, Pardew and Co. can do to get back among the elite. Here they are.