So I’ve been a little slack recently with my blog posts, so will get back on it today. Goal of the Week will be back next Monday, as I’ve decided there’s only one winner this week. Check the end of the post to find out who! (Not so hard to guess…)
As a Newcastle United supporter I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a sensational season for the Magpies from the comfort of St James’ Park’s East Stand.
United have made the rest of the league sit up and take notice with some virtuoso performances this year, including going undefeated for the first 11 games of the season, and now a five game winning streak which sees the side sitting 5th in the table – only goal difference separating the Mag’s and a Champions League spot.
Of course, nothing is final yet. With some tough games to come – including both Chelsea and Manchester City – this is where Alan Pardew’s side could really write themselves into the history books and make a late assault on fourth place.
At the game yesterday against Bolton, I asked the guy sitting next to me if he felt we could qualify for the Champions League this season, to which he replied: “If we beat Chelsea, we’ve a hell of a chance.”
A win at Stamford Bridge would boost Newcastle’s chances massively, but it would seem he had the same fears as myself – this is a season too early for us.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Champions League football played under the midweek floodlights of St James’ once more, but without some serious investment I worry that that extra step in quality/number of games could really hamper an already thin squad.
It would seem a bit of a no brainer at first glance: Qualify for the Champions League and you will have the money and prestige to attract the top players; don’t qualify and you could lose the players that have made such a dream possible.
In reality, though, I feel the money just wouldn’t be enough to attract enough top players to Newcastle, and the added strain of playing away on a Wednesday night at Barcelona would probably have a detrimental effect on our league performance.
As well as the Champions League, the Toon also are in the running for its sister competition, the Europa League, which could present a more realistic chance of silverware, even if the travelling would be more strenuous – with a lot of Eastern European sides quite often taking part – and the competition being that bit longer.
Newcastle would have to take note of Fulham and Stoke City’s early season blues, surely no coincidence that both sides were competing on Thursday’s and Sunday’s during that time.
I don’t want to be a pessimist, I just think we should be aware that European competition isn’t without its drawbacks.
Having said that, the basis for a top four team are there: Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Afra, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. It’s more about how those around these key players would fair.
Having witnessed the fight and togetherness in this Newcastle side this season, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did go on and qualify for next year’s competition and go on to cause some major upsets.
I think a season in the Europa League would be fantastic for United, bringing with it an allure of European football for potential signings, and a reason for those bigger names currently at the club to stay where they are.
Besides, another chance for a trophy can never be bad, right?
Goal of the Week:
Hatem Ben Arfa vs. Bolton Wanderers – Never has a more frustrating game been in need of a piece of magic to bring it to life. Bolton, battling against the drop, doing fantastically well to frustrate the home side, had no match for the genius of this goal from Ben Afra. The mercurial Frenchman beat three players on his way to goal before keeping his balance and sliding the goal passed Adam Bogdan. Messi-like.