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Newcastle United: The real success story of 2011/12

While many of the headlines at the end of this remarkable Premier league season have been about Manchester City, the major success story has to be Newcastle United.

The shock sacking of Chris Hughton in December 2010 with Newcastle sitting comfortably in eleventh position made all Newcastle fans confused and angry as to what owner Mike Ashley was trying to achieve with their football club. This was even further highlighted when it became clear that Alan Pardew was one of the favourites to take over. Just 1.8% of fans backed Pardew in a local newspaper poll.

The board pressed on with this appointment only to face more of a fans backlash when they sold star striker Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35 million in January 2011 and failed to replace him. Newcastle ended the season twelfth, which was a respectable showing for their first season back in the top flight.

Many pundits predicted a similar finish this season for the club after a summer in which they seemed reluctant or unwilling to spend the money they had made by selling Carroll, Jose Enrique and Kevin Nolan. Little was known about Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye or Sylvain Marveaux, who all arrived for under £5 million. Whilst Gabriel Obertan arrived after a unimpressive spell at Manchester United and Demba Ba on a free from relegated West Ham.

The transfer policy of buying affordable young talent from abroad has worked incredibly well for Newcastle though. When you compare it to Liverpool’s strategy of buying young British talent, the Tyneside club have found better players for a fraction of the price that the Reds paid for the likes of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.

Demba Ba has proved the bargain of the season. He had scored 15 goals by the time he left for the African Cup of Nations to propel Newcastle into contention for the Champions League places. He also won Player of the Month in December and was also voted signing of the season by Premier League managers in March. Newcastle again unearthed a superstar with the signing of Papiss Cisse from German side Freiburg for around £10 million in January. The Senegalese hitman proved a revelation with 13 goals in just 14 games this season including a couple of contenders for goal of the season in a 2-0 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Whilst these two strikers have grabbed the headlines the contribution of Yohan Cabaye must not be overlooked. Four goals and six assists in his first season means that the France international has become the man that makes Newcastle tick and dictates the tempo of their play.

Alan Pardew must be credited with the way he has organised the team and turned them into one which is very difficult to break down. The spine of their team is very strong from Tim Krul in goal to Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson in defence. Cabaye and Check Tiote give steel and creativity to the centre of the park whilst Ba and Cisse guarantee goals. Added to this strong core are the hard working Jonas Gutierrez and the mercurial talent that is Hatem Ben Arfa.

Pardew has rightly won the Barclays Premier League Manager of the Year and followed it up with the LMA Manager of the Year voted for by his fellow managers.  Pardew has proved himself to be a passionate and tactically astute manager and it was no surprise that this has led to speculation linking him with the England and now the Liverpool job.

Newcastle may find it more difficult next season as teams rise to the challenge of playing them. This summer will be another test for the Newcastle board. It will be crucial for them to hold on to their big players and add more depth to the squad, with the added games in the Europa League next season. If Pardew’s men can do this then they will certainly be in contention for the top four again next season.

By Chris Newman

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Manchester City, Newcastle and the biggest Premier League winners of 2011-12

A fantastic last day of the season capped off one of the most memorable Premier League seasons in the recent memory. 2011/12 has had it all; a topsy-turvy title race that literally went down to the wire, a bitter battle for the top four, heroics in the Champions League and a breathtaking relegation battle. Now that the dust has settled, here are Ninety Minutes Online’s top five winners of 2011/12.

Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City mindgames

An incredible title race has been consisted of champions and perennial favourites Manchester United being confronted by cross-town rivals Manchester City, with the noisy neighbours claiming victory on a captivating last day. The Etihad Stadium outfit looks almost unstoppable at the start of the season, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men struggling to keep up at times, before the Red Devils recaptured the advantage and found themselves eight points clear at the summit. After a derby victory for City, the battle went down to the last day, with two goals in stoppage time by Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero against QPR unbelievably giving the Citizens their first top-flight title since 1968.

Ferguson is usually the king of managerial mindgames, but on this occasion the imperious Italian has seemingly got into the United players’ thoughts, and City provide worthy winners of the 2011/12 Premier League.

Alan Pardew and his Newcastle team

Despite missing out on the top four with a last-day defeat by Everton, Newcastle have been exceptional under Alan Pardew this season, and have defied the odds to be in the race for Champions League qualification. The likes of Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have proved to be astute signings, whilst the January acquisition of Papiss Cisse has resulted in a new number nine hero for the Tyneside club.

Pardew and his side must be given credit for finishing above the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool this season and providing some exceptional football at times.

Newly-promoted sides

Norwich, Swansea and QPR faced an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League this season, and many prophesised a speedy return to the Championship for the trio. However, all three sides have proved that they are good enough to cut it in the top-tier, and will look to push on next term. Swansea have been one of the teams of the season, and an 11th place finish, with a stylish brand of football to boot, is an exceptional achievement. Norwich, led by talisman Grant Holt, were not far behind in 12th and also claimed some scalps this term.

Meanwhile, although QPR escaped the drop on the last day, the Loftus Road club have beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool to show their worth. All three will provide motivation to Southampton, Reading and either West Ham or Blackpool for next season.

Roy Hodgson

With Fabio Capello’s decision to walk away from the England manager’s post, a media frenzy has brewed over who the man to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2012 would be. With Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp the frontrunner and favourite, the press had us believing that it would be a matter of when and not if the White Hart Lane supremo took charge.

However, Roy Hodgson’s excellent achievement of lifting West Brom to 10th in the table has been recognised, and the Hawthorns man will now lead England to Ukraine and Poland.

Football

Football has been a massive winner this term, as the 2011/12 Premier League season has been the most competitive, spell-bounding and enthralling campaign for many a year. Whether it was the race for the title, five teams slugging it out to stay in the division, the heroics of the new boys or the quality of the sides in the top six, 2011/12 will take some beating next season.

Honourable Mentions

  • Roberto Di Matteo – The Italian has completely rejuvenated Chelsea since taking over from Andre Villas Boas, and after winning the FA Cup is 90 minutes away from lifting the Champions League crown.
  • Paul Scholes – The ageing veteran came out of retirement to show that he still has what it takes to compete at the top level despite his age. Rumours are circulating that Roy Hodgson will take Scholes to Euro 2012.
  • Arsene Wenger – Many had lost faith in the French manager at the start of the campaign when the Gunners lost four of their first seven games, but Wenger has led the club to a third-placed finish despite the criticism.
  • The FA Cup – With the emergence of the Champions League, over recent seasons the FA Cup has had to take a back seat, but some enthralling games between the nation’s best teams have been a joy to watch this season.
  • David Moyes – The Scottish coach continues to overachieve despite a shoestring transfer budget at Goodison Park, and leading the Toffees to seventh place is an excellent return.

Published – Soccerlens

Can Alan Pardew hold onto his Newcastle superstars this summer?

2011-12 has been a memorable season for Newcastle, who have exceeded all expectations to be in the running for a Champions League qualification place with a handful of games to go. Despite a 4-0 defeat to Wigan on Saturday, the Tyneside club are still in the mix for a top four finish, although they have a number of difficult games still to play. However, as with any overachiever, bigger clubs have taken notice, and Alan Pardew may well find it difficult to hold onto his key men this summer. Here are five that will attract plenty of suitors.

Demba Ba

Arguably the signing of the season, Ba moved to Newcastle on a free transfer last summer, and especially in the first half of the season, has been a star at the Sports Direct Arena. With 16 goals this season to date and a reported £7 million release clause in his contract, Ba will be one of the hottest prospects in this summer’s transfer window.

Suitors: Tottenham, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain

Tim Krul

An excellent shotstopper who has grown in stature over the last 12 months, Tim Krul has been a key reason for Newcastle’s rise to the top four this term. The 24-year-old has made the number 1 jersey his own over the last couple of seasons, with excellent performances pushing him into the Netherlands international set-up. Despite recently signing a new contract, Krul may well get some attention from north London when the window reopens.

Suitors: Arsenal, Tottenham

Yohan Cabaye

The assured midfielder has been the heartbeat of the Newcastle team this season, with composure in possession, an eye for a pass and unrelenting work-rate making him a Toon favourite. Cabaye reportedly cost Newcastle a mere £5 million, and the star midfielder is likely to be part of the France squad that travels to Euro 2012.

Suitors: Manchester United

Cheik Tiote

Despite missing six weeks of the season on African Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast, Cheik Tiote has been integral to Newcastle’s strong defensive record this term. A battler and enforcer in every sense of the word, the African holding midfielder has protected a changing back four this season, with Tiote’s energy and combativeness catching the eye.

Suitors: Chelsea

Fabricio Coloccini

Similar to Krul, skipper Coloccini has recently penned a new deal at the club, but may well be a target this summer. A shaky start to his time in England has been discarded, as the Argentina international has shown more confidence and better organisational skills under Pardew’s tutelage this season. An unsung hero, especially given Steven Taylor’s long-term absence from the side.

Suitors: Liverpool

Published – Bleacher Report

Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea look to move a step closer to finishing fourth in the Premier League on Wednesday

With as tight a race for Champions League qualification as in the recent memory, Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham all have three games left to play to ensure a top-four finish. The Blues have the FA Cup final on Saturday and their Champions League finale clash with Bayern Munich coming up, but are the form side of the three. The Tyneside outfit have put an excellent string of results together of late, however were comprehensively beaten 4-0 last time out by Wigan. Spurs have had an end-of-season wobble, and are not looking like the side that were challenging for the title three months ago. The race is set to go down to the wire.

Chelsea’s resurgence under Roberto Di Matteo has saved their season, as the Italian interim boss has led the side through a winning run, with only one defeat in 16 games in charge. With the final of the Champions League to play on May 19th, the Blues have a second chance to compete in Europe’s top tournament next term even if they do not finish in the top four, and potentially end one of their rivals’ dreams.

Currently in sixth and a point behind the other two contenders, the west London outfit host Newcastle at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Chelsea won the reverse fixture 3-0 earlier in the season, and will look to build on a 6-1 victory over QPR from their last fixture. Fernando Torres scored a hat-trick in the rout to back up his strike against Barcelona from the game before, whilst Daniel Sturridge also got back on the scoresheet. Roman Abramovich will demand inclusion in the Champions League next term, and Di Matteo will need to ensure this to stand a chance of keeping his job on a permanent basis.

Newcastle’s heroics this season are well-documented and the praise afforded to Alan Pardew’s men fully deserved, but the Tyneside team are now starting to realise that they deserve their position amongst the country’s best. The likes of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote have played out of their skin this campaign to delight the Sports Direct Arena crowd, whilst Papiss Cisse’s 11 goals in 11 games for the club have given the Toon faithful a new hero.

The game against Chelsea holds extra importance for the Geordies due to their tricky end of season fixture list; Pardew’s men still have Manchester City and Everton to play. A draw would be a good result for Newcastle to keep them above Chelsea, but a defeat has the ability to end their Champions League ambitions.

Tottenham’s capitulation over the last two months has seen the north Londoners slip from having a comfortable and dominant grip on third, to risk slipping all the way down to sixth. The White Hart Lane outfit have been adversely impacted by the speculation over Harry Redknapp’s future, but with Roy Hodgson having being appointed England manager the club’s fans will hope the side can refocus.

Spurs travel to take on Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Wednesday, and will face a side struggling in the bottom three and desperate for points themselves. With Fabrice Muamba also expected at the game despite his health concerns, the Trotters will be motivated to get a result for their ill midfielder. However, should Spurs get a valuable three points they would open the gap between themselves and at least one of their two rivals, and move to within a point of third-placed Arsenal with Aston Villa and Fulham to play.

Teams’ fortunes are decided at the business end of the season, and Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham are only separated by a point in a tight and tense final battle. The London sides seem to have an advantage in the race, but the side to eventually finish fourth will become a bit clearer after the midweek fixtures.

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