Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes 2011-12 has been one of the finest seasons in the club's history - regardless of the fact that their bid to secure a top-four finish ultimately proved unsuccessful.
That target was still attainable as the Magpies went into yesterday's Barclays Premier League final-day clash against Everton at Goodison Park.
But, after being beaten 3-1, they ended up staying fifth and outside the Champions League spots.
Newcastle's hopes of playing in Europe's elite competition rested on the outcome of other games yesterday as well as their own - plus, potentially, that of the final of this year's tournament - and as it turned out, with fourth-placed Tottenham and third-placed Arsenal both winning to hang onto their positions, even a victory would not have been enough for the Tyneside outfit.
That came as some comfort to Pardew who, although disappointed his side had missed out on the top four, was nonetheless delighted with their efforts over the course of a campaign he thinks is up there with very best the club has had.
The Magpies, who were only promoted back to the Premier League two years ago and finished 12th in 2010-11, now have Europa League football to look forward to and their boss - named the top-flight's manager of the season on Friday - said: "We have made a huge leap this year.
"Even just to compete with these top teams, and to finish above the great teams that we have, the players can be very proud.
"It is one of the finest seasons at this club."
Newcastle were undone yesterday by goals from Steven Pienaar (16), Nikica Jelavic (27) and Johnny Heitinga (65). Tony Hibbert subsequently scored an own goal (73) which proved little more than a consolation for the visitors.
The Magpies were unquestionably second best but Pardew felt his side did their utmost to try to salvage something from the game and admitted their failure to do so meant that in the end, he was actually pleased that Spurs and Arsenal had won.
He said: "At 2-0 down we still gave it a right go.
"Unfortunately it wasn't enough, but I'm pleased Arsenal and Spurs both won, because it would have hurt more."
A good day for Everton - who finished seventh, one position higher than Merseyside neighbours Liverpool - was marred when their substitute Tim Cahill was sent off after the final whistle having appeared to grab at the neck of Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye.
Referring to the incident, Toffees boss David Moyes said: "He (Cahill) says he was called something by Cabaye. I don't know what happened after that."
Cabaye was shown a yellow card for his part in what happened and later issued an apology on Newcastle's website, saying: "I would like to apologise for the cross words I exchanged with Tim Cahill.
"It was unnecessary and, regrettably, the result of frustration and disappointment, all in the heat of the moment. It is out of character and for that I am sorry."
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