Newcastle United have surprised everyone this season and sit third in the league going into the November international break, with Alan Pardew putting together a hard working, talented side that are confident of beating anyone in the division. 25 points from 11 games is a stunning return from the side that sit just one point behind the Champions and are comfortably in the Champions League places.
A summer of signings and speculation was captivating for a neutral as St James Park was once again the home to controversy and negativity. The summer began with the shock departure of captain and former top scorer Kevin Nolan to Championship side West Ham as he once again linked up with former Toon boss Sam Allardyce. The fee is still undisclosed but though to be around £5million, Nolan went cheap in the Geordies eyes and doubts began to fill the supporters’ heads.
The outspoken midfielder Joey Barton was the first to slam the club for this transfer policy and he soon found himself in the reserves and not having a future at the club after comments made about the clubs hierarchy. Pardew made his feelings clear, that he wanted Barton to stay in the reserves until he felt he was committed to the North East club once again. After seemingly been forgiven, Barton played in the opening game of the season against Arsenal and was once again in the thick of the action.
Just days later Barton was released formally on a free and with interest high in the aggressive midfielder, QPR snapped him up on a five-year-deal and his time at Newcastle was at an end. The Geordie fans clearly appreciated what Barton had done for them and gave him a standing ovation when Newcastle travelled to QPR just weeks later.
Both Barton and Nolan were considered two of the best players in the Newcastle side last season, hard working, goal-scoring midfielders that are not easy to come by in the English game. However, the attitudes of the players and the ego that was building around them could have been a valid reason for Pardew getting rid of the players during the summer.
Nolan scored 30 goals in his 91 games for Newcastle, making him a valuable member of the side who on to be captain when they returned to the Premier League two years ago. His top moments will have been lead by a hat-trick against rivals Sunderland in October 2010. Nolan publicly criticised the clubs sacking of much loved manager Chris Hughton before Pardew came in and this may have been a point that Nolan did not let go of in the summer.
Barton became a first team regular last season and the supporters loved his aggressive, passionate attitude that was clear for all to see. His off the field comments and actions did not go down well with the club’s board and management however, and he was often getting into trouble with the FA about his controversial posts on Twitter. It was eventually them comments that left him looking for a new club.
The former West Ham and Charlton manager, Pardew, has built his reputation on gathering hard working, team players that will work 100% every game causing minimal fuss along the way. Taking West Ham from a mid table Championship side to Uefa Cup football in three years, bringing in Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano on the way, it is fair to say Pardew has been successful in his fairly short managerial career.
His shrewd transfer business has been the main reason for his success; both at West Ham and now at Newcastle, as the departure of Andy Carroll in January followed by Barton and Nolan in the summer have proved a catalyst for great results, form and team spirit. The need to replace such players was obvious and fantastic signings such as Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have come in and been excellent in the first quarter of the season, with Ba’s goals firing the side up the table and Cabaye’s composure in midfielder taking over the role of Barton and to a degree Nolan too.
The team spirit at St James Park is clear to see and the unbeaten Magpies will look to extend that run after the international break when they visit Manchester United, Manchester City and host Chelsea in the space of three weeks. Tough games that will really show the quality and spirit of Pardew’s side, but even if the results do not go to plan, Newcastle will still be above their expectations going into the busy Christmas period and January transfer market, where do not be surprised if two or three more shrewd deals happen at St James Park.
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