NEWCASTLE UNITED manager Alan Pardew believes his squad is now better equipped to mount a challenge on the Premier League’s top four after a fruitful summer in the transfer market.
Back in May, after the Magpies had rounded off a largely disappointing campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, Pardew said: “I understand that I need to come back better and stronger and I will do.
“This club needs to recruit well in this period. We have bought some good young players but we need, offensively, some quality to come in and hopefully we can secure those and give our fans something to really hang on to for the preseason.
“I just think we’re a club that in the first half of the season were very, very competitive and had form for Europe to a degree. The second half we weren’t good enough and the reasons are shared by us all, including myself. I wasn’t good enough.
“We need to show them we’re back to where we were in the first half of this season.”
At that stage, it appeared Pardew’s relationship with the club’s fanbase was irreparable, but three months on there is a sense of optimism on Tyneside after an unfamiliar summer of spending.
Nine players have signed on at St James’ Park - newest recruits Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles are likely to go back to Nottingham Forest on season-long loans - and Pardew finally has the players he hopes will make up for the departures of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy.
Certainly, the capture of international attacking duo Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong will offer the Magpies some much needed creativity, while strikers Emmanuel Riviere and Facundo Ferreyra will hopefully supply the goals.
Pardew hopes to sign another goalscorer before the transfer window closes and the Magpies boss feels he now has a squad that can play his preferred system.
“We’ve always maintained that we will watch the window until the last hours,” Pardew said.
“We’ve done some terrific business and I think it must be exciting for Newcastle fans that we’ve got some terrific, offensive players.
“I feel much more comfortable with the team and we can play a brand of football which is expected of us.
“I think we could really trouble teams, which is something we didn’t do in the second half of last season.”
When Newcastle hit trouble towards the end of last season, a reliance on Loic Remy was exposed.
It isn’t completely out of the question that the French striker will return to St James’ Park this summer, but Pardew feels the squad is capable of challenging the top four.
He said: “It is very difficult for the teams outside of the Champions League money to compete. But we are trying to do it in an educated manner.
“We’ve been accused of not spending the money we bring in, but now we have spent it and we can hope to get as close as we can.
Certainly, offensively we are definitely stronger. There is no doubt about that.
“Siem de Jong should be okay for Sunday’s match with Real Sociedad. Add him in the mix, we could really trouble teams.
“That’s something we didn’t do in the second half of last season. We haven’t had a lot of time with Remy (Cabella), Moussa (Sissoko) or Daryl (Janmaat). But we are looking much stronger offensively. It was nice the guys got their goals.”
COMMENT by Paul Fraser
THIS time around, there are no excuses for Newcastle United. Alan Pardew wanted new signings and he has been handed them, now it’s down to him to make sure they become a team.
The basis of a good side was already at St James’ Park last season. E ven after Yohan Cabaye had been sold to Paris Germain in January, the Magpies should never have embarked on such a dreadful run of form in the second half of the campaign.
But all eyes were on Pardew in the final few weeks because of the dismal results, particularly when the club’s regular contingent of travelling support turned up the heat on the manager by demanding his removal.
There is almost an acceptance on Tyneside now that Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, will not be going anywhere. The fact that he has actually gone out and spent around £30m on the squad this summer, regardless of the cash raised from sales, even suggests he wants to build on signs of promise last season.
But with creative talents such as Remy Cabella and Siem De Jong drafted in to bring a bit of a buzz to Tyneside before the start of the campaign, Pardew will know the attention will soon turn back to him if Newcastle do not start well.
Ashley has shown in the last eight months alone that he does not want to replace his boss. He could have done that in the aftermath of Pardew’s embarrassing head-butt on Hull’s David Meyler last February and then again when many supporters chanted for his sacking.
With the backing from the boardroom and a relatively successful summer transfer window behind him, Pardew must prove his worth.
Newcastle fans will not settle for a bottom half of the table finish, they believe progress needs to be made and a surge towards the Premier League’s top eight is required.
Anything other than that and the former Crystal Palace winger could soon feel the wrath of the Geordie public again. He could argue that he has not really had the injection of players with the experience of the English league he had hoped for, with the exception of Jack Colback.
But Pardew has got more new players at his disposal than many Newcastle fans would have expected - even if they had hoped for such an influx at the start of the summer. Now the manager will know he needs a promising opening to the new Premier League season.