I Love Surprises
By Paul Marsden
Wednesday 22 Feb 2012 10:57:00
Browse all Paul Marsden articles

Prior to kick off this season the doom and gloom surrounding St James’ was almost unbearable.   The all-round opinion was that Mr Ashley had been up to his old tricks, which I still believe he has.  It was thought that Pardew had given us false hope in the transfer market with promises of a centre forward and his intentions to keep our best players.  Whether there was any chance of any of his promises coming true I doubt but I suppose we may never know the truth.   From the outside it appeared to be a summer of struggle, with positives so hard to come by.  I myself will admit to being amongst the most negative. 

From where I was sitting it seemed that the heart of our club was being ripped out.  It felt like Mike Ashley still had this club by the balls and was just twisting away.  In terms of how the club is being run this theory of mine remains intact, despite obvious positives financially.  Whether that be for the club or the fat man’s back burner is another question that needs to be answered.   Once you have conquered the mountain that is seeing past Mike Ashley and look to our on the pitch fortunes you will see that quite surprisingly we have had the most outstanding start to the season.   I never really expected us to struggle, just didn’t believe we had the ammo to progress in the way that we have.  I wanted squad improvement over the summer.  All that I saw was replacement, filling the gaps with similar or maybe even inferior players.  How wrong could I have been?  Although I don’t see this new bunch of black and whites as better players than what we had I do believe that the adversity and the gulf between boardroom and dressing room has galvanised the squad, creating a team spirit that in many ways is allowing players to play beyond themselves.  Ryan Taylor, Danny Simpson and Jonas are three players that spring to mind.  They seem to have an extra yard, an extra belief and extra determination.  

Huge credit for this tremendous start must go to Alan Pardew.  I do think that everything I have said about him in the past was correct and I still believe it all to be true.  In Pardew I don’t see a man that has proved me wrong but a man that has changed.  When taking the job at St James I believe he thought he knew what he was getting into.  Obviously friends with the top brass and in desperate need for a big opportunity.  At the time, when his reputation was struggling and Mike Ashley needed somebody he could control, it was a match made in heaven.  At least for the parties concerned.  What has happened over the last few month has surprised me but we are all the better for it.  Mr Pardew now appears to be taking the Chris Hughton idea, he has taken the side of his squad, he is letting the blame go to the board, he has people on side and he is doing a fantastic job.  When Pards first arrived he thought that being the lap dog would be easy, he came for the long contract and the stability whilst taking the hit knowing that he would not have any power.  This is where I have spotted the change.  I think the piss taking and the undermining of the manager has gone way further than he ever imagined.  First Carroll, then Nolan, Enrique and Barton.  I don’t believe Pardew wanted any of this.  He has, as anybody would, although he expected it all become fed up with being made to look the fool.  With the success that Pardew has had in the most difficult of circumstances he has earned himself a little bit of power.   He has realised that he doesn’t just want to be the lap dog and in getting fans on side he has realised there is a lot more to this job than stability, he is slowly falling in love with the club and the city.  He has been given the power to stand up for himself and this is a mentality that he has passed on to our new black and white army.  Long may it continue.

Times have changed for Newcastle United in recent years and much like our power in the transfer market I feel like we are more than ever labelled as underdogs.  Game after game the worst is expected, yet we are performing better than we have for years.  On paper you would not give us a chance but please tell me, why the hell, based on this team spirit can we not go on to have one of our greatest seasons in recent memory? Maybe even ending in a day out at Wembley.  When I look at our squad, the spirit and desire we have, it draws me to comparisons with glorious underdogs of the past.  Cloughies forest, Wimbledon’s FA cup winning side of the 80’s, the Greek European champions in 2004, Pompey only a few years back.  On paper you would not have given any of them a chance and look what they have achieved.  Team spirit and good man management can go a long way.  Why can’t we do it?? A few squad building signings in January and that striker that we all crave could see us go far.  I said this at the end of last season and reiterate it after the start that we have had.  We need to build on the situation we find ourselves in.

I will never be a fan of the Mike Ashley regime but if Pardew and the lads on the pitch keep pulling up trees the way that they are then we cannot complain.  As I have always said, the on pitch goings on are what I care about.  If putting up with Mr Ashley and his tribe means us finally realising some potential and finding the success we all really want then so be it.

Having been given a few weeks now to make a much more clear judgments on the signings that we have made and the progression of existing players I must admit I am quite impressed with a few.  Yohan Cabaye has the potential to become a stand out midfielder in the premier league.  My early reservations towards a Frenchman quickly settling in have been quashed and he has already become one of our big players for the season ahead.  The success of his combination with Tiote is one of the main reasons we have been so solid.  Demba Ba also appears to of found his feet.  I have been up and down with my reviews of this chap.  When he first arrived I was over the moon.  Great signing, his performances for West ham last year promised so much although in his first few performances in black and white he was border line terrible.  Whether this was due to religious fasting, fitness or just confidence he appears to in recent weeks of turned it around.  He is getting goals and putting in a good shift for the side week in week out.  I still believe that a top draw front man alongside him could be the making of our side.  Players like Marveux, Gosling, Santon and the returning Ben Arfa have really struggled due to our success to get a chance in the side although in the glimpses of the first three I have seen they could do well.  We know all about Ben Arfa's magic and our start to the season has allowed us to wrap him up a little and bring him back slowly.  There has been no need to rush him back and this will be to his and the clubs benefit.  He is a class act and will one day be a hero in black and white.

So here’s to carrying on what we have been doing.  Credit where credit is due.  Newcastle United are doing us proud at the moment and long may it continue. 

Let’s all just have a little chuckle at that unwashed rabble down the road!!!!!

Follow me @paulmarsdenNUFC

Paul Marsden


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