In December 2010, Newcastle United was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Chris Hughton was sacked, Mike Ashley was up to his typical tactics and a month later Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for more than $50 million.
Those were the dark days for the Toon Army.
Fast forward one year, and manager Alan Pardew has not only won over club supporters, but he has put together a team of talented players few expected to impact the Premier League like they have.
Newcastle United sit in sixth place, even on points with Arsenal and five points behind Chelsea. A Europa League spot is a definite possibility for this exciting team, and would be a worthy reward for a team playing in their second consecutive season of top-flight football.
The toughest test is now upon Newcastle as two of their stars, Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote, are gone to the Africa Cup Of Nations. Meanwhile, midfield star Yohan Cabaye is questionable after being stretchered off the pitch last weekend thanks to a tackle by QPR’s Shaun Derry. United’s defence has been hit with injuries for the past few months.
As the surprise package in the Premier League this season, many predicted the club to compete near the bottom of the table. Summer sales of Jose Enrique and captain Joey Barton had many expecting the worst. However, not only has Newcastle replaced those players, but the replacements have exceeded all expectations.
Now Newcastle have made possibly the best signing in the transfer window with the signature of striker Papiss Demba Cisse. After signing Ba on a free last summer they have shelled out $16 million for his fellow countryman last week. In two seasons with German side Freiburg, Cisse tallied 37-goals in 65 matches, that’s better than a goal in every other game. Cisse’s goals were the main reason Freiburg ended last season mid-table. However, the club is currently rooted near the bottom of the Bundesliga table.
Cisse’s signing should take pressure off Ba, who has scored 15 goals in 19 matches this term. Ba has scored half of the team’s goals, and Cisse should help the club from relying too heavily on Ba in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately the good comes with the bad, as Ba and Cisse are currently representing Senegal in the African tournament. The two will be gone at least until the beginning of February and in that time Newcastle will face Blackburn and Aston Villa; fixtures that the club can get results from.
Leon Best and Shola Ameobi will be called upon to replace the Toon’s hitman, and despite not being on the same level, both can certainly do the job in the short-term.
Newcastle should already be the envy of the Premier League in regards to scouting. While Liverpool has signed Stewart Downing and Carroll who together cost the club nearly $77 million, and in return have gotten five goals, four from Carroll and one from Downing; meanwhile, Downing has contributed zero assists.
Or compared with the likes of Chelsea who spent approximately $70 million for one Fernando Torres. His return of three goals in 30 obviously doesn’t warrant the price tag. Meanwhile, Newcastle only spent $22 million on Cabaye, Cisse and Ba.
Pardew’s job will become even harder at the end of the season as top teams in Europe will be after the talent Newcastle has assembled.
A European spot would be a fantastic achievement for a manager no one wanted, and a club that was in “crisis” only a short time ago.