It goes without saying that the 2012/13 season will go down as one to forget for North East football. In the end, finishing 5 points above the relegation zone, it makes it sound like we had very few troubles; but in reality we all know that we were nowhere near our best.
The question which now needs to be answered is what went wrong? After finishing an astonishing fifth just 12 months earlier, we somehow managed to scrape Premiership survival, all of this coming after talk throughout the previous Summer that we now had to ‘kick on’ and ‘push for that last Champions League spot’.
Unfortunately, none of this happened. What did happen was a bucket load of mediocrity – which is being kind for some parts of the season – and a lack of ambition by the board to establish a decent first team to consolidate our European spot for yet another season.
Granted, we were unfortunate with injuries. A stat released by the Twitter handle @PhysioRoom yesterday showed that Newcastle had over 1,700 days lost to injury. To put that into context, Wigan were second in the league with 1,281. This undoubtedly played a part in our disappointment. But, there were still times when we were able to field our ‘strongest’ XI, and yet failed to live up to
The buck needs to stop with someone and in football this is often with the manager. Pardew never was a particularly popular appointment, and some would argue little has changed. The bloke still divides opinion in pubs throughout the Bigg Market, but this last season, more than ever before, it feels as though the pressure is starting to really show.
Pardew currently has the lowest win percentage out of any manager in the history of the club (or as far back as Wikipedia tracks, anyway). His seemingly sheer arrogance to alter with the same drab tactics that we, as fans, have had to suffer through is starting to take its toll. The lack of nous when it comes to any dead ball routine is Sunday-League-like and his substitutions are baffling at the best of times.
But, here evaluate whether Pardew and co can actually turn this around?
‘Football is a funny old game’. It’s a term that’s been thrown about for years now. But it’s never been more apt than at Newcastle United it would seem. Pardew definitely has what it takes to turn the club around and establish the team as a top half Premier League club; which let’s face it, is where we should be. We overachieved last season to finish 5th; massively so. But it shows it can be done!
The club needs to learn from the mistakes last season. We missed a trick by not investing in the summer and ultimately paid the price. Whether this was because of Ashley’s determination to not splash the cash and get away with the current squad or whether we instead made genuine attempts to sign players but were unwilling to spend over the odds just for the sake of getting bodies in.
The “French Revolution” that seems to be taking place is something that I, personally, am not a massive fan of. Past players have come out and said that this sort of geo-targeting for players often causes cliques within the dressing room and this can only be a negative in my eyes. But this rant can be saved for another article.
I would assume most fans believe we need at least 4 or 5 quality additions to the squad, with a striker being top of the list. There’s a lot of dead wood floating around as well, which, if dealt with in the right way, will inevitably free funds for acquisitions.
More importantly though, Pardew needs to sure up his ship. As is often pointed out, ‘it’s easy to criticise from the stands’, but what went on for the most part of last season, tactically, was borderline shocking.
I think I speak for most fans when I say we aren’t expecting the champagne football that the Keegan years brought us. The days of beating (or even playing) Barcelona are a long, long way away. The record breaking transfers simply aren’t going to happen. We get all that, we do.
But we expect a certain level of passion, drive, determination, love of the club and even ability in our players that was missing this term. All we ask, Mr Pardew, is for our team to continue to improve. The (financial) infrastructure is there now. There are no more excuses!
Author: Jonathan Askew, and online marketing and website designer, and the editor of WithinSport.com