They say that being apart only makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s definitely the case in regards to Newcastle United and the Premier League. A season in the Championship has only made Newcastle hungrier to do well in the top flight, and I think it’s fair to say that in their first season back they’ve made a pretty good fist of it.
With relegation never anything more than a fleeting fear, Newcastle go into their final match of the season with the opportunity to finish in the top half of the Premier League table. That represents a pretty decent return, but of course football fans always want more. Next season a top 8 finish will be on the agenda at St James’ Park, but is that a real possibility?
There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of room for improvement, you only have to look at the starting eleven against Chelsea on Sunday to see that. Newcastle’s squad is desperately thin in some places and worrying short of quality in others. With £35 million to spend Alan Pardew should have plenty of funds at his disposal, right? Wrong.
I reckon that the best case scenario is that Pards is allowed to spend about half of that. The worst case scenario is that Newcastle have to replace an out-going Jose Enrique, too. The nightmare scenario is that Cheik Tiote is snapped up by one of the Premier League’s big boys as well, but we won’t even contemplate that.
Either way, Newcastle have a lot of players to buy and the summer should be a busy time, hopefully. But am I just being greedy? Should they be happy with what they’ve got and just consolidate next season, strengthening here and there? After all, there have been plenty of positives to take from this season.
A certain Ivorian midfielder has most certainly been one of those, giving us one of the best moments of the season – the equaliser in the 4-4 draw / comeback against Arsenal. He has been a revelation in what has been an impressive midfield quartet with Barton, Nolan and Gutierrez.
Also, despite a lack of strikers, on the whole Newcastle haven’t had too much trouble scoring goals, and are likely to only finish behind Manchester United in terms of goals at home. This shouldn’t and won’t mask the fact that Newcastle need one, if not two, quality strikers to come in. And no, Carlton Cole doesn’t fit that bracket!
At the start of the season I said Newcastle needed to do five things to stay up – keep last season’s team spirit, learn how to bounce back from defeats, make St James’ Park a fortress, keep faith in Hughton, persuade Ashley to spend big in January. Well, they’ve only managed the first two of those five and they’ve survived fairly comfortably, so imagine how well they’d have done if they managed them all!
So, Newcastle face West Brom on Sunday in the battle to finish top out of the promoted teams. A win would be a nice way to end an enjoyable season, which has contained plenty of highlights and only the odd lowlight. Win or lose, one thing’s for sure; it’s great to be back and Newcastle aren’t going anywhere!