What's gone wrong at Newcastle United?

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew claims club have been exposed by failure to build on last season's momentum and admits they are facing serious problems

The dressing room of a team falling down the Premier League is never one for a faint heart. Newcastle had lost at Fulham, a defeat that had moved them down to 14th in the table, a far cry from an outside shot of a place in the Champions League, as had been the case just six months earlier during a campaign where everything went right. Defeat against Martin Jol's side was the ninth time in 11 games that Newcastle had not won. Words were said, forthright opinions were exchanged between senior players as to why the club were failing and who was not pulling their weight. It needed the calm head of Shola Ameobi to launch an impassioned speech, a call to arms for everyone to unite quickly in order to save a season that few had predicted would head towards a relegation fight.

Yet that is exactly where Newcastle now find themselves.

Eight months after finishing fifth in the Premier League, Newcastle head to Norwich City tomorrow fighting to stay out of the relegation zone. Brighton, for the second year running, ended their FA Cup run at the first attempt last weekend. They have won just two of their last 16 games and whilst the eight year contract that Alan Pardew signed in September has given a club infamous for its unpredictability a degree of stability, concern grows over their form and serious questions have been raised about the lack of investment that took place in the summer.

Then, when Pardew had pocketed both the Premier League Manager of the Season and the LMA Manager of the Year award, Newcastle had genuine momentum.

Under the eye of head scout Graham Carr, the 68-year-old former Northampton manager, they had recruited well. Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cissé had enjoyed exhilarating campaigns. Cissé, a January signing for £9m had proved the catalyst for an outstanding end to the season. The Senegalese forward scored 13 goals in 14 games, and they went into the final game of the season with an outside chance of a fourth-place finish. It didn't come. Investment didn't come.

Newcastle held firm on deals for Mathieu Debuchy and the FC Twente centre-half Douglas. They saved in the short term (the final price for Debuchy, who signed last week, was £2m cheaper) but the effect of not building on the wave of momentum that was created last season has been huge.

Senior players were unhappy that the only major signing in the summer was Vurnon Anita from Ajax, for £6.7 million. It was a squad that always looked ill-equipped to deal with both a Premier League campaign and the Europa League.

"We do need players," said Pardew today. "It's been obvious on this run, we've had an extended injury list, but even without that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to rest players when they needed to. Therefore, we accept that we didn't do enough in the summer and we need to do it now. We've made it clear we regret that.

"You lose confidence in terms of faith in what you are doing to some degree, but you have to stay strong. For me, sometimes I look back on periods, good and bad, and we keep a record of everything we do. Every training session is kept. I do worry about putting too much info into the players because when you win you don't have to do that. We need to show that desire on the pitch to satisfy our fans, but not push them over the edge, like Shola getting sent off [at Brighton] which was an uncharacteristic moment for him.

"We're going to have some tough decisions in the summer. We've got 17 games and at least two in the Europa League to go. I'll have a lot of questions answered about what I think is under the first team here, because at the moment, what has been under the first team at the moment hasn't produced as I hoped it would.

"The players who should have developed from the Under-21s, I can't even begin to explain the frustration. The frustration of our fans, the trust we built up last season, has started to erode away and we need to repair that over the second half of the season. For me it's been very frustrating.

"My mentality towards it is to make sure everybody is doing their jobs 100 per cent, keeping on top of my stuff, trying to lift my players and kick a couple of them up the bum in terms of the responsibility they have here. Particularly one or two of the younger players, the work ethic needs to improve and they need to improve as individuals. Those younger players have not produced what I wanted them to produce so they're going to have to work harder or they are going to have to leave this football club."

It is unimaginable that Newcastle could be dragged into a serious relegation scrap the season after qualifying for European competition for the first time in five years. The potential loss of their talismanic captain Fabricio Coloccini would be a huge blow. Demba Ba has already left after Chelsea activated the £7.5m clause in his contract and Newcastle can ill afford their most senior player to depart. However Coloccini has told the club he must leave over what his agent called a "personal matter". Pardew needs a striker to replace Ba and a central defender. And that is before the Coloccini situation.

On the plus side, Newcastle have been linked with Valenciennes' left-back Gaëtan Bong. Moreover, Cabaye, the man who sold the club to his former Lille team-mate Debuchy, is back in the squad for the trip to Norwich tomorrow. He is not quite 100 per cent fit after recovering from a groin operation but his influence on the squad is now so great that Pardew was desperate to have him travel. He may make the substitute's bench. If Coloccini leaves, Cabaye is the captain in waiting.

Ben Arfa could also return sooner than expected after a serious hamstring injury. Steven Taylor should be back by the start of next month. Cissé will return at Carrow Road, too.

Pardew needs them all back at the top of their game. As Ameobi, a Newcastle player for 13 seasons knows only too well, it is a football club that needs unity more than just about any other in the country.

Miserable Magpies: Toon in trouble

15 Goals conceded by Newcastle in their last four matches.

5 Wins in 22 matches in all competitions since Alan Pardew signed his contract extension.

20 Points from 21 games, three less than the same stage in 2008-09 – when they were relegated.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain