Newcastle’s Genuine Top 4 Assault.

Posted on April 19th, 2012 | 36 Comments |

Newcastle United - Ben Arfa scores.
The fall and rise of Newcastle United?
It is certainly fitting of Newcastle’s unexpectedly successful season that, on the night of the 12th March, after a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates, they trailed the 4th placed Gunners by eight points.

It looked like the wheels had come off the North East bandwagon and they would slip into the mid-table mediocrity that had been predicted after a summer of unrest at the newly named “S_____ D_____ A____.” However, under the stewardship of manager Alan Pardew, what has followed has been remarkable: Five straight wins means they close the gap on a now third-place Arsenal to three points, and have moved level on points with Tottenham Hotspur who occupy the last of the four Champions League spots.

It is a million years away from the negative talk that had been prevalent last summer when Mike Ashley jettisoned the outspoken Joey Barton, let captain and scorer of 12 goals for the previous season, Kevin Nolan, go to West Ham for £4 million, and shipped the talented left-back, Jose Enrique, out to Liverpool after he voiced concerns over the running of the club. The irony of that particular episode could not have been given a more prescient portrayal as the Spaniard ended up farcically playing the last ten minutes of Liverpool’s recent 2-0 defeat at the hands of Pardew’s team in goal, following Pepe Reina’s dismissal.

Enrique’s forecast that the board axis of Ashley and Llambias lacked ambition was understandable. As the £35 million recouped from the sale of Andy Carroll – now looking each day like the most ludicrous of transfer dealings – weren’t being invested in a manner to ensure success for the coming year, Enrique thought he was leaving a side in backwards transition to join an ambitious one. Liverpool had spent over £50 million on acquiring Stewart Downing, Luis Suarez, Charlie Adam and Carroll to make a significant claim for the top 4, and on the surface it would have taken a very brave man to bet against that coming true. However, Enrique’s Liverpool currently sit three places below Newcastle in the table, languishing with a 13 point deficit.

While alarm bells rang as the St James Park exit door turned quicker than a controlled evacuation, Pardew kept a quiet dignity and entrusted his faith in his scouts who unearthed the battling midfield talent of Yohan Cabaye for a relatively small £4 million fee from French champions, Lille. He also took a gamble on Demba Ba, deemed a medical risk by Stoke. Newcastle gave the green light to a free transfer and the Senegalese hit man has repaid the faith with a tally of 17 goals. Davide Santon came from a gifted youth set-up at Italian giants Inter Milan to replace Enrique while the two Frenchmen, Sylvian Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan came in for just £3 million combined to provide depth to an already impressive wide area. The criminally underrated flair of Hatem Ben Arfa and the ferocious tenacity of Jonas Gutierrez also gave a successful balance either side of Cabaye and Cheik Tiote, another bargain from mainland Europe, who graft away in the midfield engine room to provide a platform for the attacking players to shine.

That was before the January signing of Papiss Cisse, arriving for a fee of up to £9 million after a fruitful first half of the season at German side Freiburg with 9 goals. Newcastle closed in on the Senegalese striker to bring him to the North-East. It was another superb Pardew scouting success as the 26 year old has displayed predatory instincts verging on the remarkable, justified by his 9 goals in 9 games since scoring on his debut against Aston Villa. His run of form has, rather fortunately for Pardew, coincided with fellow countryman Ba’s goal drought since that game with Villa, but one must mention the quality of the link-up play that Ba provides. Indeed it was at its most deadly as the triumvirate of the two Senegalese and Ben Arfa rampaged through West Bromwich Albion to gain a 3-1 away win. Shola Ameobi has also provided his worth from the bench, setting up Cisse for his goal against Bolton on Easter Monday, whilst Leon Best, currently injured, made valuable contributions early on to Newcastle’s superb season with valuable winning goals against Fulham and QPR.

The defence, despite shipping the highest number of goals in the top eight, has survived injury crises enough to provide Newcastle with a solid backbone embodied by the resilience of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor who were a rock-like pairing in the first half of the season. Blighted by injury, Mike Williamson and James Perch have both given solid cover in recent weeks, which have seen just the one goal conceded in the run of five straight wins post-Arsenal. Tim Krul, the 24 year old Dutch goalkeeper, has emerged as one of the best in the league and is now attracting interest from Chelsea as they seek a long-term replacement for Petr Cech. The spine of the team is infallible and it is cultivated brilliantly by the skilful creative flair that was on show with Ben Arfa’s spectacular solo run that managed to break down a dogged Bolton on Monday.

Their run-in still consists of a trip to Chelsea and hosting Manchester City but this is an ambitious Newcastle side that will be looking to win those games to gain a Champions League spot, something that looked like the craziest of dreams at the beginning of the season. As the media tried to make a story of owner Ashley’s decision to rename the stadium and other off the field issues, Pardew, a strong manager of the year contender, held it together to give them a superb chance of qualifying for Europe for the first time in six years and it is a testament to him that everybody is talking about what’s happening on the field with Newcastle once more. So often the mocked, self-defacing club, the new era of sporting achievement has been ushered in with a quiet integrity and the papers will have to look elsewhere for a controversial story, they won’t find it in Newcastle anymore.

This is a guest ‘blog from Adam Gray, who is a writer at

The Fall and Rise of Newcastle

NUFCBlog Author: footandball footandball has written 1 articles on this blog.

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36 Responses

  1. Excellent article Adam – well done mate!

    Genuine top 4 assault indeed – although I’m still hoping for top 3 8)

  2. Dylan says:
    April 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    “Hats off to Cashley.”

    Dylan, hats off to Cashley for bringing in people like Dennis Wise, being a congenital liar, getting us relegated and changing the name of St James’ Park? Or hats off to the football people like Chris Hughton, who brought in people like Graham Carr, Hatem ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote, and Alan Pardew for carrying on the good work and having an excellent second season in the Premiership? That’s not to mention the assistants such as Carr himself, and people like Colin Calderwood and John Carver, and perhaps most of all, the players themselves.

  3. Gooner here.
    Seeing Newcastle up in the top 4 is refreshing, it’s where a club like yours belong! They seemed doomed last summer, but credit to Pardew and the team, played well and kept going. You have some fantastic players (switch Cissé & Ben Arfa for Chamakh and Park?!? ;)
    Truly hope you make the last CL spot (behind us of course), and make sure Sp*rs and Chelsea end up in Europe League where they belong! Good luck!

  4. V says:
    April 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    “Gooner here.
    Seeing Newcastle up in the top 4 is refreshing, it’s where a club like yours belong!”

    Thanks alot V the Gooner. However, I would have thought the last thing your lot need is another genuine top four contender since the rise of Chelsea, then Man City as well as your fierce rivals from North, North London etc… It’s getting a bit crowded for Arsenal.

  5. Wow Adam: I usually see the glass as half full but your cup runneth over.

    We have had many flat games this season that a lot of people on here attribute to poor backup players, insufficient investment and Alan Pardew (all valid points in my opinion).

    I fear you are jumping the gun a little and we are not the team you think we are.

    If we finish 4th I will take this all back and applaud your superior wisdom.

  6. V:

    I remember a journalist earlier in the year, I think from The Mail, mocking Arsenal and asking how many of your players would get in the Spurs team. He decided it was one.

    Its funny how things work out.

  7. Ashley has had his critics, whilst hughton and pardew have recieved widespread praise. But let us not forget the real hero of this story, who has been quietly but consistantly grafting away behind the scenes for little (if any) appreciation by the majority of fans.

    There is only one Derek Lambias

  8. Hebburn Mag:

    I don’t think Pardew is bad at all. In fact, I have been on here defending him quite often.

    It is the nature of blogs for opinion to swing wildly. Pardew was a genius after the Man U game and a fool after Spurs.

    For the most part I think Pardew has been good for the club. Others would disagree – step forward AndyMac.

  9. GS says:
    April 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    “It is the nature of blogs for opinion to swing wildly.”

    GS, It is the nature of most people to swing wildly, to “blow in the breeze.” The better ones tend to see things in the longer term, keep their heads and hold on to their convictions without becoming obstinate or carried away by success or failure at any particular time. That’s just the way the world is.

  10. WORKEY
    Where did you find this guy, let me guess, in a creative writing course, that emphasises a particularly flowery presentation, or perhaps in the NUFC PR dept.
    Oh there it is “a writer yet” from “”
    Perhaps the club should hire this guy as a Pardew, speechwriter, though, whether he could get his tongue around some of the more flowery statements, is questionable.

  11. Goodoldjimgold

    Hey Jim, we will give him all the credit he deserves (wor Derick) just tell us again, what it was, he’s been grafting at ?

  12. chuck says:
    April 19, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    “Perhaps the club should hire this guy as a Pardew, speechwriter”

    Chuck, if you look at Pardew’s last two State of the Union addresses, it isn’t very hard to conclude that he already has a speechwriter.

  13. pardew in an interview today said he firmly believed 3rd was achievable and was stupid not to think it is possible.

    top 4? pfft

  14. Workey
    Yeah, but mindless sound bites as opposed to flowery prose, i suggest AP could do better with Adam.

  15. hebburnmag says:
    April 19, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    “Worky, just remind me who appointed hughton, pardew etc?”

    I seem to recall that they didn’t have many alternatives, as most top managers wouldn’t have touched the club with a bargepole at the times they were appointed, hebburnmag. Mike Ashley’s a gambler, sometimes he will seem like a genius when he’s on a roll, and other times the opposite.

  16. Hate to point this out but we could finish 6th and still not qualify for europa. this is how:
    Top 4 as they are now
    Everton 5th
    Newcastle 6th
    Chelsea and Liverpool beneath us
    The 3 Europa league would go to Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool.
    Unlikely I know but I just wish that you lot would stop bragging about champions league. If you don’t think that we can lose 5 games on the trot you haven’t been supporting NUFC as long as I have.

  17. With the last five games in the schedule, coming up, we could be in trouble for a Euro. spot.
    Stoke? never an easy game, big guys, route one, physical.
    Chelsea? coming into form as we speak, last chance for the long in the tooth side.
    Everton ? another tough game.
    Citeh ? be lucky to collect any points from them.
    Wigan ? last two wins were against Man. U.& Arsenal, what does that say?
    Not IMO a good run in.

  18. york geordie

    we might be able to lose 5 on the trot but everton need to also win every game.

    and if you have been sat watching Man u run riot for as long as i have then you will know, they wont give Everton anything on sunday.

  19. York Geordie,
    Also if we lose every game Chelsea would have beaten us and we wouldn’t finish 6th even if the loose all their other games.

  20. Sorry if any of you insomniacs or Yanks out there tried to make a comment whilst the WP comments were disabled. Just messing around with stuff (and buggering it up) in the wee small hours.

  21. Worky, I’m kind of stuck for something to say while you are messing around with stuff but how about this…

    It’s very hard, not being a gambling man, to know what kind of discussion is being held behind closed doors at SJP these days, save to say that Mike Ashley is no doubt feeling pretty good about being spotted in and around the city once again. My best guess is that he and Derek are waiting to see whether we do actually qualify for the CL which, if we do, will stir the financial pot considerably as well as being the perfect cue for Mike to get his shirt off once more, providing he is not feeling a little less of a lad without his former belly to now flaunt. Anyways, with a European spot one way or the other more or less guaranteed, I am sure they will only be selling any of the current flair players for an extortionate price that is simply too good to refuse. Other than that, I think they will be quite content to keep most of the current squad as well as splash a little cash for a couple of the players now being ear-marked by their good lad Alan. The only remaining question is will their jubilee be cause for some of the sterner Toon fans to resume their love affair with Mike and his “horrible” cohort, Derek, or do we need to see silverware before that can ever happen? Oh, and change the name back, of course.

  22. Hmmm. Haven’t posted in a while but have been keeping up from time to time on the comments. I just have to say, though, that this article seems to be the perfect catalyst for reaction of all sorts, but especially those who can still find it in their hearts to be deprecating when an upbeat appraisal of things NUFC this season is posted. Chuck, it must not be great to be you sometimes you’re a real half-empty guy, attacking the writer of the article for being positive! To ‘support’ a club means being disposed to optimism, motivated to urge the team on despite adversity. OK, constructive and insightful critique is the aim of the blog, and it would be pretty dull without controversy, and if all were in agreement – but you tend to warm to the negative a bit too much for me to say you ‘support’.

    Just to be clear, I still mark Mr A and Mr L with suspicion following their deceit over Keegan, their steamrollering the fans; sensitivities especially regarding SJP, and their disdain for any kind of PR, but they have at least started the mending by turning the business around where it matters first – in the dressing room and on the pitch. I wait with reservation to see how their tenure unfolds over the next few years, but for now some of the critics with an agenda, namely those who are desperately trying to shore up and justify all the rubbish they prematurely spouted at the beginning of the season, should maybe hold their counsel and speak of purely footballing matters for a bit, instead of prolonging their own agony by biting the hind quarters of the club they claim to cheer on.

    Well, I thought it might kick start another boring day. ;)

  23. Must admit I sit back in amazement sometimes when I see some of the OTT negative stuff about Pardew on here.

    He obviously has the support of his players. He obviously has sussed out a working relationship with a very difficult owner and board. When interviewed on the telly he talks eminent sense and holds his hands up on the occasions he has got it wrong.

    We’re joint 4th and gunning for the CL. What more do you detractors want? What more can Pards possibly do to convince you of what is obvious to everyone else – ie that he’s doing a good job!

  24. Sadly I think some on this blog won’t be happy till we go back to playing in clodhopper boots and long baggy shorts, I’d imagine they are the same people wanting KK sacked when we lost the title to Manure as he couldn’t take us to the next level

    Fatty and owl heed made some very poor decisions especially around appointments, in fact I’d go so far to say they were a joke – KK, JK,AS were useless and coupled with the likes of Dennis Wise and his spanish youtube crew was like throwing money down the drain

    Some of the debt we have is purely down to the above and having to pay them all off as well as fat sam payoff, the players brought in such as Xisco and that other bloke who never played were terrible and on huge wages – one of which we’re still paying for!

    The relegation seemed to have flicked on a switch in Ashleys brain as fatty got rid of shearer but kept a strong core of the team when we went down and gave CH the job full-time (something the fas were very against) – although we obviously lost money that season it enabled us to walk away with the championship.

    I’d say since then (other than the SDA episode) fat man has done okay, we’ve invested in the squad, got rid of the older players who wanted long term high wage contracts and got in international quality players – bizarre that we sit joint 4th with 5 games to go and people are slagging off pards

    IMO Pards has done a great job, although as ever some people on here won’t be happy until we’re hovering around mid table but with a geordie in charge and half the team from benton and wallsend –

  25. @yorkgeordie – no chance of everton 5th and us 6th mate – that would mean ourselves, spurs and chelsea would all have to lose almost every game left!

  26. “something that looked like the craziest of dreams at the beginning of the season” ! – and has made ALL pundits (including us bloggers) look useless.

    This team have shown that bar-room experts like me know twice the square root of frack all about modern football – and I an happy to humbley admit it.

    When we were 4th I thought it was a fluke and we would end up a fair 8th – but they have battled their way back up to a deserved joint 4th – with europe in sight!

    I thought some of our players were not good enought to wear the B&W – how wrong I was ! And I have allready appologised on here for slagging them off.

    Likewise Pardew – I have criticed him & his tactics relentlesly but he has proved himself right – well done.

    5 games to go! I’m writing this propped up in bed suffering from a sore hip & leg – so be gentle with me lads against Stoke cos every time I get excited & jump about and punch the air its absolute agony – so please try & keep the score down to a reasonable 3-0.


  27. I don’t like to think of myself as a pessimist..but.. I am so used to this clubs hierarchy falling at the last fence that I struggle to get carried away with our current success, and I hate myself for it! I stillhave this niggling fear that our position is false and due mainly to other teams failing to perform! That’s how uncertain this management has made me!

  28. i remember a few weeks back i had my sights firmly on 3rd or 4th.

    i said chelsea had the potential to lose out on 18 points
    i was branded a fool.

    yet again im proved right. there is no reason why we cant reach for 3rd. it would be foolish not too.

    we can achieve this with ease. results have gone our way and this season is are best opportunity to make sure we reach the dizzy echelons of the top 3 and CL football.

    i still think 3 or 4 new signing will be all we need.
    i still think next season we will have a stronger team than this year even if we keep the team we have.

    players like Vuckic, ferguson, samiobi and tavernia all that little bit older and more experianced.

    why waste millions on replacing players on the fringe who may or may not leave when we can promote from within.

    team for cup


    Tavernia Williamson Perch Raylor

    Marvaux Vuckic Ferguson/gutierez

    Samiobi Best shola

    looks good to me.

    team for the league


    Simpson Taylor Collo Santon/gutierez

    Guthrie Tiote Cabaye

    benny Cisse Ba/best

    add 4 players to strengthen and you have an extra team for europe


    simpson taylor collo Pieters(1)

    Hiolet/dyer(2/3) Tiote Cabaye

    Benny Cisse De jong(4)

    you tell me with the players we have why we need to sell our best players just to compete?

    dont under estimate the great players we have. all getting older and wiser and who have been getting great reviews out on loan.

    lets look positive not negative.

    today Tiote has said he wont be going anywhere in the summer.

    so i think he has sent out a clear message to the board where he wants to be and where they can stick there “silly money”

  29. Chuck,

    I see Lambias as the Chiek Tiote of our administrative staff; an understated and modest individual who goes about his work with every action carefully considered and expertly executed. and..

    York Geordie,

    Where in York do you like to watch your football. Catch most of the tellivised games down the ‘Mire myself.