2013/14 couldn't have finished sooner for Newcastle United. A dismal end to a promising campaign brought a cloud of uncertainty over Manager Alan Pardew. Here Sam Winter explains how the new season is a defining one for the Toon boss.
|Newcastle Manager Alan Pardew knows that 2014/15 is his most important yet|
2014/15 is a defining season for Alan Pardew as Newcastle United Manager. No longer beleaguered by short-comings in the transfer market, Pardew has the tools at his disposal to prove his managerial credentials and drive Newcastle United up the Premier League.
Our one-time LMA Manager of the Year couldn't have signed off last term on a more sour note; a quite embarrassing, how can I put it, hounding from the fans pouring out of St James' Park in the 69th (or was it the 60th?) minute of a 3-0 victory over Cardiff City. I won't delve too far into my personal take on the "protest", but I will say that, regardless of any ill-feeling toward the upper echelons of a football club, it is imperative to support the 11 wearing the Newcastle badge on the pitch for all of the 90+ minutes of play.
It had indeed been a funny old season for Pardew. A second consecutive summer of frustration on the transfer front - not helped by a bumbling idiot called Joe leaving us all fearing the worst. Yohan Cabaye's head was turned on the eve of a 4-0 thrashing at the Etihad and the most dreadful of 0-0 draws with West Ham at St James' followed. Ironically it was the now exiled Hatem Ben Arfa who got the season up and running, the little genius that he can be. By Christmas we were 6th, by May we were plain sick.
|Yohan Cabaye disrupted Newcastle's start to 2013/14; his eventual sale effectively ending a once promising campaign|
The debacle of Joe Kinnear was doomed from the start; Mike Ashley only realising his mistake after catalyst Cabaye was not replaced in January. Heads dropped all round, and once again Pardew was left to face the backlash alone. Losing your prized asset, the man who made Newcastle tick on the park, is a blow. Seeing nobody come through the door to replace them is despairing. I half don't blame Pardew for throwing a butt at the first person that crossed his path.
Life is never dull on Tyneside, the headlines are unfortunately often too close. Pardew's indiscretion on Humberside was an explosion of a build up of sheer frustration. Another transfer failing at a key time, the circus of life under Mike Ashley, another fan backlash to face - bearing the crimes of those above him. Unwanted fallings-out with Hatem Ben Arfa, a burnt-out squad with no competition for places. More derby misery.
|Newcastle's failings in previous transfer markets has hindered Pardew|
Since Newcastle United finished 5th in 2012, Pardew has arguably had it against him. Don't get me wrong he has made mistakes, but everyone does. Many fans accuse him of plain making excuses, but in my book they have been valid. His squad wasn't strengthened ahead of a European campaign and that season took its toll. Lessons weren't learned 12 months on. But now, heading in to 2014/15, the excuses are surely gone. Now it is time for the Manager to deliver. Time to remind us what you can do, Alan.
The squad is strengthened, a statement of intent from the club with signing after signing this summer. There are players fighting for every position, fewer guaranteed starters. All to play for. Siem De Jong and Remy Cabella in particular are mouth-watering prospects. Daryl Janmaat and Jack Colback also showing signs of being shrewd acquisitions. Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote will have points to prove. Davide Santon will have it all to do when he returns from injury, Papiss Cisse too.
|The addition of Remy Cabella and several other summer signings has boosted Newcastle|
A lot of critics cite Pardew's tactics as a major problem, but I would argue in saying that he hasn't had the personnel to be able to hurt teams tactically. Now he surely does, and a missing threat in the final third could be restored by Cabella and De Jong. United need to return to the swashbuckling set-up that saw Champions League almost return to St James' Park. One thing I would say is that Pardew should never have so readily moved away from that 4-3-3 set up. A naive desperation to keep Demba Ba happy the beginning of the end of such a devastating strategy.
Pardew knows he has it all do and knows the responsibility solely lies at his door now. I disagree with those that say a good start will determine his future, or the first 10 games will decide his fate. Pardew will get more time, stability still the focus at the club. Of course a good start is always important, but if Ashley wanted Pardew out he would have gone long ago. Newcastle fans want a team to be proud of again; a team challenging those European places. Perhaps it's not last-chance-saloon but it is certainly a crucial campaign for Alan Pardew. And we all certainly hope he can deliver.