Last week Newcastle United confirmed their preseason schedule for the season 2014-15, the club announced that they would be playing a total of eight games from 15th July to 10th August across two different continents.
This means that the club will be playing eight games in 27 days which equates to almost 2 games every week. A tough schedule by anyone’s standards especially when you add the amount of air miles that the club will be clocking up flying to Australia and Germany and back.
A tough preseason is exactly what the team needs in what is expected to be a very important season for the club from many points of views.
One of the major reasons is the fact there is going to be a major overhaul of players in the summer United have already released nine players and many more are to follow for one reason or the other. You could make a case against all of Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Jonas Gutierrez and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Even some of the top performers like Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko may not be at St. James’s Park come the start of the campaign on Saturday 16th August.
This means that there could be as many as six to ten new faces at the club depending upon who goes out. With a likely turnover of up to 20 players it is imperative that the new faces gel with the players that are already at the club and come the start of the season are ready to challenge as a team. A preseason where the Magpies will be playing some of the top teams like Schalke, Malaga and Real Sociedad who have Champions League experience will allow the players to integrate well and raring to go on the opening weekend of the season.
The club had a miserable run of form at the end of last season losing 14 of the 18 Premier league matches, having been sixth on Boxing Day the club ended up finishing 10th. That kind of form would have seen the club relegated finishing bottom.
There was a second consecutive 3rd round FA cup exit as well which did not help the confidence one bit. The football played in the last 4-5 months was some of the most dire and uninspiring seen at St. James’ Park. The confidence was at a new low. A tough preseason like this can restore some of the lost confidence and reinvigorate players. The best thing is that games are not about results so players can play freely and express themselves.
Last time the Magpies had such a tough preseason was in 2011 which included a trip to America, that season the club went 11 Premier league games unbeaten in the league only losing to Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup in Extra time before losing to Manchester City in November. That season club finished fifth and ended up qualifying for Europa League.
The next two preseasons have been poor in terms of the quality of the opposition faced and have been put together haphazardly or so it seemed. That has showed in the performances on the pitch, this season the club won only three out of first nine league matches although there were two victories against lower league teams in the league cup. Last season the club won only six out of the first 22 games including the ones in Europe, clearly a correlation.
From the manager’s point of view too it is important, different formations with different players were tried at the end of last season and all of them seem to backfire. An eight game preseason would allow plenty of room to experiment and coming up with a style to play with. Given the pressure Pardew is under it is imperative that he nails all the aspects required to be successful on the field. Failure to do so could be fatal for the second longest serving manager in the league.
I am personally very excited with the caliber of teams that the club will be facing but there is a lot at stake for the club and failure to get started on the front foot could leave the club with a lot of catching up to do. However there is a lot to gain and a tour is exactly what the club needs.