It’s often said by many musicians that the second album is always the hardest to create as you now have some output to be judged against.
The same can also be said for Newcastle United under Alan Pardew after completing his first full season in charge.
Many will now be thinking, ‘How can they top that?’ so let’s reflect on how the season’s aspirations turned out and progressed.
A team that was consigned to relegation by many pundits at the start of the season somehow managed over the course of the entire campaign to avoid dropping out of the top seven.
A team that was pilloried for its successful run of 11 matches without defeat by deeming ‘they haven’t played anyone yet’ or ‘ they’ve just been lucky’.
This is also a team that had one of the tightest defensive records in the first half of the league.
Then there was a blip.
The flow of points had seemingly dried up and the press rejoiced as they appeared to be vindicated in their initial assessments of Newcastle’s fate. The festive month of December filled critics alike with seasonal cheer whilst Newcastle supporters began to expect coal in their stockings.
A new belief in the New Year gained momentum when Manchester United was put to the sword in one of the most outstanding performances of the season. Ba was the thorn in their backside as Cabaye orchestrated their destruction.
Heavy defeats interspersed narrow victories and it was then thought that Newcastle wouldn’t face a relegation battle but they would be lucky to stay in the top ten. The icing on the cake for those willing us to falter was a demoralising defeat away to Tottenham.
Surely that was it for plucky Newcastle.
They had finally played a team with value and the luck was gone. The only thing left for Pardew and his men were to stagnate in mid-table obscurity such was the nature and scale of the defeat and the result against Wolves when a 2-0 lead was thrown away highlighted that the good times were over.
But something wonderful happened.
Shola scoring an injury time equaliser against the nearest and dearest.
An injury time winner scored by Arsenal in one of the most exciting games of the season didn’t lead to any thoughts of woe. If anything is showed that there was still a desire in this squad to compete. There was going to be no fetid stench of stagnation.
A six game winning streak brought us right back into contention for a Champions League place. No-one would have thought this possible come the start of the season but there they were in 4th place.
After the Wigan debacle, the chance to ensure that the club would finish above Chelsea was available to keep the club in the run-in for elite European football presented itself and was duly taken by Cisse with two outstanding strikes and some resolute play by the whole team.
Man City came and were forced to up their game to win and finally Everton finished off the season and hopes of playing in the Champions League.
Straight after that final whistle Pardew was adamant that next season, the club would be better. He stated he’d identified the reasons the season curtailed off and was actively going to find the solutions to rectify them.
Back to that first question, ‘How can they top that?’
I haven’t a clue but trust in Pardew and Carr is at an all time high and with the upcoming Europa league, the retention of the majority of key staff and perhaps the acquisition of a few choice players this upcoming season could make next season one of the most memorable in the last decade.
Its one hell of a task to top but it’s going to be one hell of a ride to enjoy.
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