“To make our ambitions clear to supporters and stakeholders our aim for the 2011-12 season is at least a top ten finish in the Barclays Premier League.”
Those were the words of Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias before the start of this season. Little did supporters and pundits’ alike think that as we enter November, Newcastle would still be unbeaten – let alone in third place behind Manchester United and Manchester City. There was a certain belief that when Chris Hughton was sacked as manager last December in favour of “an individual with more managerial experience” that Mike Ashley had again thrown the club into disarray.
Alan Pardew was the man faced with the task of keeping the Magpies in the Premier League, which he did – finishing a very respectable 12th. This was despite losing and not replacing Andy Carroll in the process. Even going into this season Newcastle were continually written off – many tipping them to struggle and potentially flirt with relegation, again. It was easy to see why when you look at the key names they let go – Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique.
Following a very sensible transfer policy during the summer – Yohan Cabaye, Mehdi Abeid and Sylvain Marveaux were all unearthed by chief scout Graham Carr – as Pardew said recently: “Graham’s done a great job.” Also, Demba Ba, Gabriel Obertan and David Santon were all brought in for minimal fees. Newcastle? Sensible transfer policy? Surely not.
The Magpies continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League season – which now stretches to 10 games after their 3-1 victory over Stoke on Monday night (only the second time that Stoke have lost at home in the league in 2011) – Demba Ba scoring his second hat-trick of the season – taking his total to eight goals in the Premier League.
One of the keys to Newcastle’s great start to the season has to be their ever present back five of – Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor – all of whom have started every Premier League game this season for the Magpies – perhaps a reason for Newcastle defensive solidity – boasting the Premier League’s meanest defence (just seven goals conceded). Cabaye and Jonás have also been ever present and Gaberiel Obertan, Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba have played nine games – missing just one.
This week, Alan Pardew has had to shift the spotlight off himself ruling himself out of the running for the England job saying: “it’s not for me this time.” When it comes to Newcastle’s great start to the season he speaks about restoring pride to the club: Pardew said: “Are we contenders? No. We have had a great start and shown lots of sides to our team in the last 10 games. What we have done is put some pride back into the shirt.” Seven defeats in 32 Premier League games since taking over says that Mike Ashley made a sensible decision in appointing Pardew.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Magpies take on Everton – another victory could see them temporarily go second in the Premier League. This is before facing the three teams that currently surround them – Manchester City and Manchester United away, before facing Chelsea at home. It’s hard to see the Magpies staying unbeaten after them trio of games, but they’re definitely on course to achieve the aim of a top ten finish.