In their first season back in the top flight of English football Newcastle United achieved what was surely their ultimate goal at the start of the season – avoiding relegation. Next season the club can incorporate loftier objectives as they look to reaffirm their rightful status as an established Premier League club. There is though the danger of the dreaded second season syndrome, which has affected promoted sides in the past. However, I feel Newcastle are a different calibre to the likes of Reading and Ipswich who previously spent one good season in the Premiership then went down the following year. So what is a realistic aim for the Toon Army next season and what do the fans want to see?
Obviously a lot will depend on the comings and goings at St James’ Park this summer to help ascertain what likely outcome is in store for the Magpies. With key players such as Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique’s future’s all currently in limbo the fans will be desperate to see three of the clubs top players tied down. Clearly there are complications with all three players and the potential of losing part of the nucleus of last season’s side won’t bode well for the stability.
Regardless of what may happen with transfers out of the club, judging on the current players Alan Pardew has at his disposal I’d be more than inclined to say there is the potential for a top eight finish, if not a push for a Europa League spot. The team should approach the new season with aspirations of European football as the main aim. It’s something the players are capable of and the fans are desperate to see returning to St James’ Park. The fans will expect to see an improvement on last season’s 12th place finish and the players will be intent on building on the foundations that were laid down last season.
The club have already started to strengthen the team over the summer with the acquisition of Frenchman Yohan Cabaye and with the return of Hatem Ben Arfa from injury there should be some real flair on offer next season. The Newcastle fans expect a certain style of football to be exhibited and hopefully next year the brand of fast attacking football that is renowned in the North East will be on show once more. Cabaye and Ben Arfa will be the main supply line of balls in to the box next season, so now all that’s needed is a quality striker to be on the end of them. The search is currently underway and remains a priority for many fans, who expect to see a large chunk of the transfer fee recouped from the sale of Andy Carroll reinvested in a striker who can bag 15 plus goals.
So is it realistic for Newcastle to be challenging for Europe next year? I think so, and after finishing in mid table the next progressive step is to push on towards Europe, although a top half finish should be the priority. A double over Sunderland and a run in one of the domestic cup competitions would add some more excitement to a season which has the prospect of being a promising one.