Safety assured – let the summer of uncertainty begin
“We are staying up” was the chant from Newcastle fans at QPR yesterday. It’s embarrassing, but deep down we’re all relieved to see the back of this dreadful season. Now, let the summer of uncertainty begin.
May 13th, 2013
My team has gone from achieving European football qualification in one season, to surviving relegation in the next. Fans have their own views about the reasons behind this decline. In my view, the shift in fortunes hasn’t been down to one factor. We’ve had a small squad, injuries, the pressure of playing in Europe (Thursday and Sunday games), shocking tactical decisions and players off form. We even lost our top scorer Demba Ba in January. All of these factors have played a part – but thankfully we’ve crossed the line and managed to stave off the threat of relegation.
After the game, Alan Pardew said if he’d been able to put his best team out week-in, week-out, we’d be a top eight team. Sadly, he feels he’s only been able to do that on three occasions this season – which is probably true. Our success last season was based on solid defensive foundations, but this year players have suffered injuries, or been suspended. The likes of Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Tim Krul – huge players for us last season – have missed crucial games during the campaign. Crucially, Coloccini’s return to the team helped us to secure our Premier League status in the last few games. As a leader, he brought organisation to the back four during games against West Ham and QPR, and was nothing short of outstanding.
Newcastle face Arsenal at home in the final game of the season next weekend, which is a bit of dead rubber for us, but hopefully the lads will play with less pressure and try to put on a show. Beyond that, the summer of uncertainty isn’t something I am looking forward to. Speculation about players leaving is always a worry every summer, but this time, serious questions are being asked about Pardew’s future at the club. Fans are frustrated with the former West Ham boss’ negative tactics and substitutions, and feel that he’s struggling to manage a dressing room full of top players. This is not how it was meant to be. Pardew was given an eight-year deal to quash the speculation and put an end to the uncertainty. The fact that fans are questioning Pardew’s tactical nous shows how bad a season it has been.
Next month will be interesting at Newcastle. The big meeting will take place between Pardew and owner Mike Ashley – where Pardew will try and convince Ashley that he is still the right man to take our club forward. The dialogue is likely to have a significant impact on the future of some key players. Unlike last summer, we need to bring in the right players – and plenty of them – to mount a serious challenge for European football again. My concern is that any potential signings would be put off by our lowly league finish this season, which is why it is essential to keep the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa at the club. If we ditch Pardew and bring in someone like Rafael Benitez (as has been rumoured on Twitter), then that sort of manager would be able to bring some top players to the club. Sadly, he would also demand a hefty pay packet and transfer budget, which effectively rules him out.
It is time for the big decisions at NUFC. This time, we must get them right.
Umar Farooq, Editor – NUFCfans.co.uk