Toon must keep the momentum going
It has been a pretty good start to the season for Newcastle United – and as the Magpies head into the festive period, fans know fixtures and the transfer window could make or break our season.
December 19th, 2013
The 2013/14 Premier League season has already delivered plenty of positives for Toon fans. Sixteen games in, Newcastle are sitting pretty in sixth – above both Tottenham and Manchester United and five points behind fourth-placed Manchester City. Furthermore, wins at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford, along with a 2-0 win against Chelsea at St James’ Park have been highlights which few expected from the Toon after last year’s dismal campaign.
Nothing is won or lost in December. Arsenal are not champions because they’re top heading into Christmas. However, the start of the season has been encouraging for Newcastle fans for several reasons – with shades of that team spirit which led to an impressive fifth-placed finish two seasons ago. It is vital that the Magpies build on this impressive start heading into January, or else victories like the historic one against Manchester United will count for little.
There are two things which could make or break our season heading into the holiday period. We’ve got four reasonable looking-games in the next two weeks. Home matches against Stoke City and Arsenal are in the middle, with visits to Crystal Palace and West Brom completing the Christmas and New Year schedule. Hosting the league leaders will be tricky – but as we’ve shown so many times, there is no easy game for the so-called big boys at St James’ Park. I would be happy with 8/9 points from the four games and that, I think, is a realistic target. The aim has to be to remain in and around the top 6-8 going into January.
The other key aspect of keeping the momentum going is transfers. The transfer activity on Tyneside in the summer was frankly embarrassing, with just one loan signing in Loic Remy coming in. At the time, Alan Pardew said he had a strong enough squad to compete, even though we all know the club was chasing another offensive player. To be fair to Pardew, the squad has done well for him, and players on the fringes such as Mike Williamson and Shola Ameobi have stepped up and done a job for the team. However, luck with injuries is something which needs to be acknowledged. The squad is still short and all it takes is an injury to one or two of our key players and the cracks begin to show.
Last January, Newcastle signed six players. In 2014, they probably need two (as long as no one leaves). One of them needs to be a striker. The future of Lyon frontman Bafétimbi Gomis will once again be the subject of constant speculation, and a move to Tyneside cannot be ruled out. There has also been talk of a loan move for Manchester United’s talented winger Wilfried Zaha – although I’m not sure where he’d fit in at Newcastle. The other position worth looking at – perhaps not as urgently due to the form of Williamson – is the centre of defence. Newcastle were closing on FC Twente defender Douglas in the summer, before new Director of Football Joe Kinnear reportedly pulled the plug. Douglas is now plying his trade at Dynamo Moscow.
As with every transfer window, Toon fans will once again be on the edge of their seats with fears of big bids coming in for top players. Will Arsenal come back in for Yohan Cabaye? Do Liverpool still want Hatem Ben Arfa? Is Tim Krul going to Milan? The speculation will continue day and night throughout January. We can’t really allow anyone to leave if we want to build on this positive start to the season.
The future looks bright. It looks black and white. It’s time to push on and make our mark.
Umar Farooq, Editor – NUFCfans.co.uk