Many were unsure about the Magpies going into last season, with some even tipping them for relegation, but there was no such worries as Alan Pardew led Newcastle to a fifth place finish – above Chelsea, to qualify for the Europa League. Eyebrows were raised initially when Pardew replaced Chris Hughton in November 2010 and was given a five-and-a-half-year deal, but now it looks like an incredibly sensible move as he has brought some much needed stability to the club.
The Magpies began last season with an 11 game unbeaten run, before a disastrous run in November and December where they went six games without a win. This season, it will be much harder for Pardew to top fifth place particularly while contending with the demands of the Europa League, which will have the club playing Thursday/Sunday should they make it through their qualifying game and into the group stages.
It has been a rather quiet summer at St James’ Park – there has been more business out of the club than in with Alan Smith, Peter Lovenkrands and Danny Gutherie all being released, while Leon Best and Fraser Forster have been sold to Blackburn and Celtic respectively. Pardew has made three summer signings ahead of the new season, with a view to making more: Gael Bigirimana has arrived from Coventry, along with Romain Amalfitano and Curtis Good. The Magpies continue to look for a striker, though – Andy Carroll has been mentioned but no serious bid has yet been registered. Newcastle do still remain in the hunt for Mathieu Debuchy. A larger squad will be needed for the Europa League and Pardew already has the benefit of that – one thing to note is that they will be losing the likes of Demba Ba Papiss Cisse and Cheik Tiote in January to the African Cup of Nations.
This will be a make or break season for Pardew now that expectations have been raised among the Geordie faithful ahead of targets set by even the likes of Mike Ashley and Derek Lambias. Newcastle found themselves with two out-and-out goalscorers last season in Demba Ba (16) and when Papiss Cisse arrived in January and Ba was pushed out wide, Cisse scored 13 goals in 14 appearances. Newcastle will be hoping for another high finish, pushing for the European places once again. Opening fixtures? Tottenham and Chelsea, the two clubs them finished above and below the Magpies last season. No pressure, then.
Opening five fixtures: Tottenham (H), Chelsea (A), Aston Villa (H), Everton (A) and Norwich (H)