Expectations grow faster than salaries at Newcastle

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The Independent Online

Rarely has there been a terrace song so regularly updated. At first, directed at the Liverpool defender who left Newcastle for better times, it went like this, "Jose Enrique, we're in the top six." It was a gleeful reference to his comment (shared by some on Tyneside at the time) that the club he was leaving would not achieve such a position, and the team he was joining (Liverpool) would. Then it was the top five. Then it became, however briefly, the top four.

Initially, it was about Liverpool, but since it has become about Newcastle. That it could potentially end in the top three is a fitting tribute to the work done in a corner of the North-east, but what it means to Alan Pardew now cannot be underestimated. This summer, when a player goes to see Pardew and talks of his desire to move to a club with more lofty expectations, there is less oxygen for his argument.

"If you take away the salary, he [Jose Enrique] probably thought Liverpool would have a more successful season than us and I don't think they have to be honest," said Pardew. "Therefore we've crossed one bridge, but the salary, I don't think we are going to cross that if I'm honest. But to be in the group we're in now if we are in and around the right figures with a player, they can't look me in the eye and say I want to leave for European football as they can get it here.

"We are competing with those clubs now. At the end of last season we couldn't say that, we finished 11th or 12th. We had some good results, but so have Norwich and Wigan this season. We weren't competing with the top teams, but we've been competing with them all year.

"That's what we have got to try and achieve next year. European football helps you attract players and it helps you keep them. For some of our players the European profile is bigger than the Premier League profile.

"I want Demba [Ba] to stay. He has a situation but at the moment he is a Newcastle player and that is all I'm focusing on. Mike Ashley is a difficult seller of players – his record shows that.

"Expectations are going to be higher next season. People will be aware of us and that is one of the biggest challenges we are going to have, although I've not given it too much thought yet. I've not reviewed this season yet, so it's difficult to get my head round a little bit, but I accept we are going to find it harder."

Confirmation of Pardew's rising star came on Friday, when he was named Barclays manager of the year. Newcastle, by nature of finishing in the top five, have already achieved success. Third – still do-able if they win and Arsenal lose and Spurs draw – would be extraordinary.

"I think our real fans would not be disappointed if wedidn't finish in the top four. If we qualify for the Champions' League it will be a massive bonus," added Pardew. "To finish above Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa – all these teams – and Sunderland, who spent a lot of money, it's a fantastic achievement. I don't know if we can step up – I just want to compete in this group."

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