Newcastle perfectly primed for unlikely run at Champions League

Pardew's side have found momentum at key time of season with European places still up for grabs

Cheick Tioté tackled the question with the same fortitude that has made him one of the most eye-catching midfielders in the Premier League. "Why shouldn't we be thinking about the Champions League as well?" he repeated when asked. "Who knows, it could happen."

It would have been some comment to utter back in August, when there was genuine uncertainty about how Newcastle would fare after a summer of sales and signings. Eight months on, and with seven games of the season remaining, there is an outside chance that Alan Pardew could lead his side to Europe's top table, a competition they have not played in since 2003.

Much has changed on Tyneside in the nine years since Milivoje Cirkovic slipped a penalty past Shay Given at the Gallowgate End in the third qualifying round of that very competition; owners, managers and a phenomenal amount of playing personnel.

Newcastle, then, were not expected to finish in the top four of the Premier League, as they had done for the two preceding seasons, but Sir Bobby Robson, who had inherited a side fighting relegation, turned to his blue-chip players to forge a team spirit that would fight for each other on the field of play (and sometimes with each other off it).


Pardew has done much in his 15 months in charge at St James' Park but forging a work ethic and finding an ability to tap into the men on the fringes has been key to their impressive season. Behind the headline-grabbing displays of Demba Ba, Papiss Cissé and Hatem Ben Arfa (28 Premier League goals between them) has been an emergence of those players whose futures looked uncertain. Ryan Taylor, James Perch and Mike Williamson were not even regulars when Pardew took over, and yet they have proven to be vital cogs this season. Taylor has signed a new deal, Williamson's importance was highlighted in a period where Newcastle did not have back-ups at the heart of their defence and Perch's recent form has been revelatory.

Ben Arfa has similarly bought into the work ethic and there was a nice touch from Pardew when he substituted the player in injury-time on Sunday, offering a huge high-five before playfully grabbing his face to ensure the smile matched his performance.

It is that spirit which will ensure this fight for a top-four finish will go on for as long as it is mathematically possible. If Tottenham have shown anything this season, it is that they do not like to be chased; witness the dramatic manner in which Arsenal hauled back and then overturned a 12-point deficit, and much though Harry Redknapp would not like it to be an issue, his continued link to the England job is a definite distraction.

"We expect to win every game we play at the moment," added Tioté. "We are in a very confident mood throughout the team. We are not just about one player at the moment, we are about the whole of the squad doing well.

"We can't be worried about what the teams around us, like Tottenham and Chelsea, will do, we just have to concentrate on ourselves. If we win every game between now and the end of the season, it won't matter what the other teams do.

"Getting into Europe is the biggest thing for us now and it is very important for us as players and for Newcastle as a club. There has been a long time where we have not seen Newcastle in European competitions and we want that to change. It will be a big thing for us to play in Europe next season. The first target is obviously the Europa League, but..."

In such uncertainty lies an unlikely shot at the Champions League, and the huge riches that come with it. Newcastle have rediscovered their momentum at a key stage of the season, winning their last three games. The five-point gap may well prove insurmountable, but what Pardew and Tyneside are guaranteed, is that the current group of players will not give up without a fight.

Fight for top four

Arsenal: 8 April Man City (h), 11 April Wolves (a), 16 April Wigan (h), 21 April Chelsea (h), 28 April Stoke (h), 5 May Norwich (h), 13 May WBA (a).

Tottenham: 7 April Sunderland (a), 9 April Norwich (h), 21 April QPR (a), 29 April Blackburn (h), 2 May Bolton (a), 6 May Aston Villa (a), 13 May Fulham (h).

Chelsea: 7 April Wigan (h), 9 April Fulham (a), 21 April Arsenal (a), 29 April QPR (h), 2 May Newcastle (h), 6 May Liverpool (a), 13 May B'burn (h).

Newcastle: 6 April Swansea (a), 9 April Bolton (h), 21 April Stoke (h), 28 April Wigan (a), 2 May Chelsea (a), 6 May Man City (h), 13 May Everton (a).

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit