Our friend John over at Coming Home Newcastle was kind enough to answer some questions. Might want to get comfortable, it gets a little lengthy.
I’d love to say it was due to our incredible poise, skill, consistency, and talent... but it simply wouldn’t be true. The calling card for many a commentator this year has been, “Do not confuse Premiership parity this season for anything other than mediocrity.” Chelsea’s Champions League run aside, I think English performance in Europe this season does lend some truth to that sentiment. The Manchester teams have obviously been a class apart, but the ensuing gaggle from #3 (Arsenal - 58) to #15 (Aston Villa - 33) truly aren’t separated by all that much on a given match day. The eight point drop between our two squads (#6 NUFC with 50, #7 Liverpool with 42), is perhaps more significant, but teams like Liverpool, Everton, Fullham, WBA, and even the Scum have shown astounding flashes of form from time to time in this wacky season.
That being said, I do think it’s a little bit more than “luck of the draw.” Newcastle have been relatively lucky with injuries this season, with only two major ones to speak of. One came in the preseason (Marveaux, who was untested anyway), while the other was far more significant (Steven Taylor), but not season-threatening. Newcastle have also done a wonderful job this year playing to the level of the opponents, which can be seen as a bad thing sometimes, but has worked masterfully for us. When we put our best foot forward, this Magpies side, as currently built, can hang with the best of the Premier League (see: Newcastle 3-0 Man U) when we show up. We lay duds sometimes (see: Newcastle 0-5 Tottenham), but overall we’ve been pretty good at showing up. Alan Pardew also has had a wonderful season as manager, making the locker room a happy and committed place, and bringing calm sanity to a club that is infamous for disorganization and chaos.
5 goals in six appearances for Papiss Demba Cisse. New Newcastle hero, and isn't it illegal to have two strikers with the name Demba?
Tim Krul has turned some heads this season. The real deal or just a freakish season?
I also think it’s worth noting that I believe, currently, that Krul will emerge as the best keeper from the current young goalie crop of the Premiership. Hart, De Gea, and Szczęsny are all absolutely class, but they also play for teams where the environment is one of constant pressure, little patience, and full coiffures for another keeper if needed. Newcastle are overachieving incredibly right now, and if Krul produces a dud (like he did at White Hart Lane), there isn’t that huge surge of rage that can crush so many young keepers into oblivion (see: Kraft, Thomas). With that security and support, he can easily continue to produce incredible results. I also think he’ll be getting national attention over Maarten Stekelenburg and Michel Vorm for the Netherlands with the absence of one Mr. Van Der Saar. Flying Dutchman for Euro 2012, baby!
Alan Pardew had a great season with West Ham after bringing them up from the Championship, but then found himself quickly on the scrap heap. Why won't that happen now?
That being said, I do think there is a more concrete rationale behind the idea that AP is going to be at Newcastle for the long haul, and it has a lot to do with the slow but steady maturation of owner Mike Ashley, which we’ll cover in the next question. I think that the Newcastle managerial structure looked at clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United and saw what stability can do for a club. Our owner, Mike Ashley, and Managing Director, Derek Llambias, have never once wavered in their support for Pardew. It seems that AP truly was the man they wanted for the job. Together, the team have formed a lovely (and thus far successful) three-headed beast of managerial prowess we at CHN affectionately named Cerberus.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point two other, under appreciated pieces of our puzzle: Head Coach Steve Stone, who runs the training ground with an efficient iron fist, and Chief Scout Graham Carr, who is doing wonders with Pardew at the helm in finding diamonds in the rough.
Do Newcastle fans still throw things at owner Mike Ashley?
Is the season already a success, or do Newcastle have to secure at least a European place for it to be?
I really really really really really really really really want to have the team I love playing in Europe again, and we’re so friggin’ close to guaranteeing it happening, that I’d be totally lying if I said I would be completely crushed if we end up in 6th with nothing to really show for it. After such a roller-coaster of a season, it’d be an incredible heartbreaker for us not to play in at least Europa next year... but if there is one thing the Toon Army totally understand, it’s heartbreak.
*I think this might be the first time a CHN contributor has openly said the “C” word when it comes to European competitions. Because we’re all so fervently focused on the Europa spot right now, the fact that we’re just five points behind a shaky Tottenham squad, with only a heavily distracted Chelsea standing between us, has been totally overlooked. Is it wishful thinking? Totally. Would Newcastle stand a chance in the Champions League? No... we’d get destroyed. Are we close, though? Yes. Is that enough for now, given recent history? *Deep Breath and shit-eating grin* Toooooooooootally. Life is very, very good for the Toon Army.
Prediction for Sunday?
It’s late season... it’s Newcastle-Liverpool... it’s got the taste of Europe hanging over it... it’s at Sports Direct Arena... awwwww, screw it! 4-3 Newcastle!!