Stunning attention to detail, a day spent paint-balling and a squad meal at a Chinese restaurant have been the key to Newcastle United's flying start to the Premier League season.
That's according to columnist Simon Bird, writing in the Mirror.co.uk, about how The Toon have managed to defy the odds and sit fourth in the league table after seven games.
And make no mistake about it—Newcastle United have enjoyed an epic start to 2011/12, conceding just four goals in seven matches and racking up 15 points, which puts them ahead of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, among others.
They're also unbeaten, having won four and drawn three, and have the fourth best goal difference in the Premier League behind Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, the three teams above them.
To put Newcastle's start into perspective, only three other teams currently remain unbeaten in the top-flight—the two Manchester clubs and Aston Villa.
Having only scored nine goals, it's clear Toon manager Alan Pardew has created a ruthlessly efficient side, as proven by the statistics.
The Premier League average for converting goalscoring chances this season is 12.3 percent. Demba Ba, who has four league goals to his name this season, has converted more than triple the average, scoring 40 percent of the time he has taken a shot on goal.
Another Newcastle striker, Leon Best, who's scored three this term, converts chances into goals 30 percent of the time, also way above average.
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Rewind to the summer and such a scenario would've been deemed unimaginable, considering the club had just sold their three best performers from last season in Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique.
Fast forward to the present, and it's a different story altogether. So, what's the secret to the success Newcastle United are currently enjoying?
As Simon Bird writes, the squad bonding exercises are having a profound effect on the team.
"Newcastle United's players had a day out paint-balling last week, followed by a squad meal at a Chinese restaurant."
"It all looked like good fun, the outfits were certainly realistic, and there were bruises to show for it the next day."
"Later, at the meal, when it came to settle the bill, [Managing Director] Derek Llambias turned up. He said a few words of encouragement and paid the bill... as a thanks for an excellent start to the season, before leaving the lads to their night out."
"It was the kind of gesture that raises eyebrows among players and... was warmly received."
"Llambias' gesture shows that Newcastle are getting the small details right now. And it is making their thin, yet capable squad, collectively stronger than the sum of its parts."
Footing the bill for a meal may not seem much for players who earn tens of thousands a week anyway, but it seems even multi-millionaire footballers hate paying for things (e.g. David De Gea and the Krispy Kreme doughnut).
According to Bird, he once witnessed an England international and two teammates splitting the bill three ways after a meal at Pizza Express, chipping in their coins despite collectively earning £130,000 a week.
So for a member of staff to pay for the whole squad's meal, it clearly must mean something to the players. But it's not just good management which has brought Newcastle United success this season.
The real banker is Alan Pardew's tactical acumen, and his meticulous eye for detail on the training ground.
"On the training pitch, he conducts the sessions from the centre circle, blowing up to stop play and tweak formations, and suggest to players where they should be standing or which runs they should make", Bird writes.
"Pre-match, he puts on detailed tactical presentations on how he wants to play, and how the opposition want to play."
"There is a separate defensive presentation the evening before the game too. No one leaves without knowing their precise job at set-pieces and in open play."
So if nothing else, it appears Newcastle's flying start has been down to three things—paint-balling, a director footing the bill for the players, and a ridiculous amount of hard work on the training ground.
To read Simon Bird's column in the Mirror.co.uk in full, click here.