As the Premier League season draws to a close, the biggest and most unlikely success story has been the rise and rise of Newcastle United. Doom and gloom was de rigeur from supporters of the club, disappointed with the direction owner Mike Ashley was taking: a viewpoint hardened when the £35 million received from the Andy Carroll transfer looked to be disappearing into the club’s coffers.
Newcastle’s story this season has been one of shrewd investments, a manager who seems to have found the right environment and an impressive consistency achieved by the playing staff. Very few, if any, predicted Newcastle’s surge up the league table and, while they’ve been helped by other teams having inconsistent seasons, there is nothing to take away from the club’s league position. As they say the league table doesn’t lie.
…Champions League football is a reality,
At this current moment in time, Newcastle United is fourth, ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Liverpool, and just three points behind Arsenal with a game in hand. Going for third place would seem to be a bit beyond them but given the way they’ve been playing this season it would be tough to rule them out. Champions League football is a reality, one that was far away from the minds of supporters who would have been happy with a mid-table finish or even a place in the Europa League. Now sits the bonanza of the Europe’s premier footballing competition, harking back to the last prolific team that Tyneside produced, Sir Bobby Robson’s attack-minded team that claimed a draw in the Champions League at the San Siro and played Barcelona.
The praise should be generously doled out to the playing staff, management and the scouting system irrespective of the club’s final position. If the big-boys of English football are compelled to buy the biggest, most talented players with their riches then Newcastle have gone about the business quietly: building up a scouting network that’s allowed them to procure young footballers for a fraction of a big money signing (compare Papiss Demba Cisse’s goal impact to Andy Carroll’s). The club’s chief scout Graham Carr has identified and monitored players recruiting Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote and Demba Cisse, as well as bringing in more mercurial talents like French international Hatem Ben Arfa, a player who’s had a difficult time in France and Demba Ba: a footballer who seems to overcome the worries of his past knee injuries.
…steely and combative…
The management have created a strong, identifiable core, one that’s steely and combative but can also play football and come up with a touch of the flamboyance. Injuries to the squad have affected the team but considering how small their squad is, it is a surprise that it hasn’t affected the team in a more significant way.
With Alan Pardew they have a manager that’s well travelled in English football although he can seem surly, pensive, antagonistic even, but like his team he seems to be motivated by pushing above his weight, doling knockout punches on the big boys (United’s win against Manchester United in January), and getting rid of any excess cargo, less it disrupts the team’s fluency (Joey Barton’s magnanimous exit from the club). It points to a club that’s focused, driven and could be returning to the glory days of yore when Newcastle were involved in titanic clashes – challengers not also-rans.
…one of the brighter stories…
They still have to negotiate their remaining fixtures but Newcastle United’s rise is one of the brighter stories from the Premier League. If they can keep this up then who knows what’s in store for the club and its fans in the coming years.
Image courtesy of Mike Brown