ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Newcastle United
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Newcastle United
Posted by Marc Duffy on 05/30/2012

We are ahead of schedule.

Not many of us foresaw our fantastic 5th placed finish and only a few more people predicted the meteoric rise in the popularity of our manager. In a pre season note that I wrote last summer for 442 magazine, I said that a 7th placed finish for 2011/12 would have been a fantastic season - but where now after a season in which we massively exceeded expectations?

In my end of season 'awards' blog I asked you to comment on your expectations for next season. As ever, the response was mixed with some concerned about the number of games we will face as we embark on a Europa League campaign and others looking to push onwards and upwards into the top 4.

Alan Pardew has been looking to play down expectations: “Expectations are going to be higher,” Pardew said. “People will be aware of us and that is one of the biggest challenges we are going to have next season. We are going to find it harder.”

I have to agree with the boss.

The squad as it stands is not big enough to cope with the demands of a possible 50+ game season. Llambias suggested that a big name or two might head out of the door, as well as the likely departures of Simpson, Guthrie, Lovenkrands, Smith and Best. Yes there will be incoming players - Amalfitano has already arrived from Ligue 2 Champions Reims, but we badly need cover - not least at RB (we need a starter there, not just cover), CB, CM and up top should Best find a new club.

Other richer clubs will strengthen too.

We finished above Liverpool - they're still in a little bit of turmoil seemingly looking at about 15 different managers to take them into next season. Whoever gets the nod is unlikely to produce results as poor as 'King Kennys' and it's very unlikely that their signings will be as bad.

Chelsea, who we beat with relative ease at Stamford Bridge in May, are also looking for a new manager. They've lost Drogba but have already strengthened with the fantastically talented (if not annoying) Eden Hazard. Whoever takes the hot seat there is likely to have more Russian oil money to burn. If Abramovich gets that appointment right not only will Chelsea be back in the top 4, they'll be title contenders.

Arsenal are an interesting opponent. If they stay unchanged we can challenge them in terms of league place next season, even if they keep Van Persie. However I think that keeping Van Persie might be indicative of extra investment in the playing squad and they've already been linked with some very good players.

Spurs look favourites to sign Vertonghen but the future of Modric is less clear. I have no idea what to expect of them next season. Their fans aren't unanimous in their support of Redknapp and many of them think that their collapse from 'mind the gap' had as much to do with his tactical deficiencies as the England job link. Finishing 4th but missing out on a Champions League spot due to Chelsea's success in that tournament is a huge blow for Spurs planning. They'll be strong, but no more than they have been this year.

From the top two, City will once again chase the title. They're too rich not too. United on the other hand are saddled with massive debts. Will their immense power mean that they can continue to strengthen on the park or will they have to look to cheaper alternatives? We took 4 relatively easy points from them last season but Ferguson, possibly the greatest manager of all time, has them over achieving. We can definitely close the gap on them.

As for the rest - Everton have no money, Villa are stumbling about Liverpool-esque but worse and our friends down the road have a ridiculous turnover/ salary ratio that they need to trim before they can buy.

All things considered, where do I think we will finish? 6th/ 7th. Dropping a place or two would be no great issue for me. Like a band releasing that 'difficult second album', Pardew has a very tough job on his hands. Anything above that and a good crack at the cups would be great.

Last season’s unexpected fight for a top four finish until the final day meant that we could not risk playing the youngsters too often. We have some fantastic prospects and the season ahead will surely give us the chance to watch the likes of Tavernier, Abeid, Ferguson, Vuckic, Sammy and maybe even Streete (though it may be too soon for him) on a more regular basis.

I'm looking forward to Euro 2012, but the second it is over I will be counting down the days until Newcastle United are back on the park playing competitive football again.

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Posted by Jonnie Pearson on 05/30/2012

Totally concur with all of the above! You really have put into perspective what our last season and forth coming season is all about , well done.I hope we get an extra striker , as it looks like Demba Ba will be leaving on that 7m release clause, we could use a versatile midfielder and a couple of centre halfs...other than that...long reign Alan Pardew

Posted by Mark on 05/31/2012

Lol you belittle United too much. The Glazers are in massive debt, not United. Our profits mean those debts are serviceable.

While our team is not extraodinarily strong, we finished the season equal on points with City. Does that not mean that all other teams below us are 'underachievers as well?'

NUFC did fantastic this season, yr 2 strikers are revelations, but don't make the mistake of writing of ANY of your opponents lest you find 5th becoming 15th. It has happened you know. =)

MD: A couple of points - the Glazers (as you know) own 'United'. Therefore their debt is intrinsically tied to the club. Secondly, I said you over-achieved, not under-achieved.
Finally, let me know which opponent I 'wrote off' - thanks for your note!!

Posted by Darren on 05/31/2012

We may have something of a paradox next year, if we're supportive when everything goes wrong (which for a time it will with so many games) I think we'll finish 7th.

If we turn on the manager and the team when things go wrong and add yet more stress I think we'll finish 10th.

As long as everyone remembers this year greatly exceeded expectations and that a top 10 place is a decent result I think we'll do really rather well.

Hopefully with the extra TV funds, the higher premiership position, the promise of Europe we'll be allowed to open the kitty enough to buy 5-7 players. A starting right back, a backup striker, a backup defender, etc etc.

MD: I totally agree - If we hit a difficult patch we MUST remain supportive

Posted by Blef on 05/31/2012

I think most Newcastle fans are realists despite southern-based media portrayal otherwise. We have all been blown away by both the performances and final league position this season. I would be delighted with a decent showing in the Europa League and anywhere around 7th or 8th. Hopefully the weaknesses in the team, for example a CB, and cover for the outgoing players will be forthcoming.

MD: I agree, though many can be quick to turn when things arent going so well. Thats true everywhere though. The Liverpool fans are generally accepting Rodgers with open arms, but a few defeats and they will be calling for Rafa.

Posted by Mark on 05/31/2012

Good read. I'm not a Newcastle fan but have friends who are, so I take an interest in it.

I've heard that Santon is going to be switched to right-back in the event that Simpson goes, which would leave left-back open - Ryan Taylor again, or Ferguson to step up? As for needing new centre-halves, Mariappa was linked in January...any thoughts on this move being revived in the summer? He wouldn't be an improvement on Coloccini, but he could provide ample cover for Steven Taylor, and competition for Williamson.

MD: Good point on Mariappa - I'd forgotten all about him! Havent heard him linked since

Posted by Patrick on 05/31/2012

I for one agree completely with your analysis. I feel it is inevitable that someone might come in with a big money offer for one of our players that we will end up taking. However, if our scouts can keep finding the gems, Im not overly worried. However, I agree that our spine needs the most reinforcements. Another stalwart defender, and midfielder must be of serious priority. Finally. would be fine with any form of a top ten finish, and more important for me personally, 1 or 2 exciting cup runs. What I really hope is Pardew and Co. go for it in Europe next year. All in all, it is truly amazing where we are just 2 years after combing back to the PL.No better reward for sticking with your team through the dark chapters.

Posted by Damon on 06/03/2012

It certainly has been an impressive 11/12 season.

The areas we seriously need cover for is defence, especially CB, and versatile players(e.g. R.Taylor, J.Perch) who can play at CDM/CB/LB/RB. Pieters,Rosales,Debuchy(Cabaye's former Lille teammate),Douglas(Marveaux's former Rennes teammate) are a couple of names mentioned.

Cover for attack is vitally needed as well, perhaps an all-rounder who can play CF/LW/RW, someone who is strong to hold up the ball well, has a strong header, and can play down the flanks as wingers. The Bundesliga, Serie A, and Primeria Liga have got some good strong strikers to scout for (e.g. KieBling, Gilardino, Nilmar). A dream signing like Neymar may be too unrealistic.

I can't wait to see more of S. Marveaux down the left flank, combining well with Ben Arfa and Cabaye next season 12/13.

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Marc Duffy Marc Duffy is a National Account Manager in the alcoholic drinks industry - a career in alcohol was obviously the natural step after following Newcastle United for all of his 32 years. Marc blames his father for his obsession with Newcastle United - since attending his first game at the age of 4 Marc has endured many ups and downs, and despite the lack of silverware remains positive that a trophy will be won at some point in his lifetime! (Wait, does the Intertoto cup not count?) Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSDuffy

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