Newcastle United show why self-respect now reigns on Tyneside
Pardew's side have come a long way even if taking on the champions-elect proved a step too far
No one left. That made it a lap of honour, not appreciation, when Alan Pardew and his men walked slowly around the side of a still full and still vibrant stadium following defeat.
There was another story yesterday at St James' Park, one that was easy to lose sight of, coming just outside of the slipstream of Manchester City's most significant step yet towards glory. Moments earlier, Vincent Kompany had led his players towards the City supporters, high up in the Gods at the back of the Leazes End. Truly, they now stand on the brink of salvation, of ending 44 years of title agony, but in its own way Newcastle's story is more unexpected, if not nearly as historic. Their shot at finishing third remains intact, somehow, despite defeat, although its odds lengthened. Arsenal must lose at West Bromwich Albion next Sunday, Spurs must draw at home to Fulham and they must win at Goodison Park – but that it is still a possibility is huge.
There has been a regaining of pride in a football team for the people of Tyneside over the last three years, and more has come this season. Going toe to toe with such a powerful side from a very rich football club within touching distance of the title was ultimately to prove the step too far, but there was no shame in that, not with such talent dressed in blue. City have mixed resolution (Kompany, Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry were immense) with the sprinkling of gold dust that Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Touré offer.
"The most important thing was we've brought some respect back to this club," said Pardew. "We have tradition and history and some clubs have not got the fabric we've got. We unveiled the Sir Bobby Robson statue today. Now we're back competing up there it must feel good to the supporters. I really hope next year we have the same sort of season and we're competing for a Champions League position again.
"For them all to stay behind and pay their respects to us as we did to them was great," he added. "It wasn't a shallow effort with the T-shirts [saying thank you to the fans], it was a genuine thanks because I don't think we would be in this position without them, I really don't. Our home form has been terrific and they're a big part of that.
"It was a terrific game, you have to say that. You could sense on the touchline it was a real tight, tense affair and we'd probably done our homework on each other. We were stopping them doing what they do well and they were stopping us doing what we do well. One goal was going to change the face of the game and it needed a bit of quality to do that. Yaya Touré, unfortunately, came up with it.
"Arsenal and Spurs both need to win now and that's pressure that could help us. Arsenal only need a point to finish in the Champions League position but they need to win because fourth is not guaranteed because of Chelsea. They've got to win, really, in case Spurs finish above them. That could be significant."
Up to third, or down to sixth; that is the range of swing for the final week of Newcastle's season. Their supporters would have grasped such a scenario when at the season's start. That they had remembered was pleasing. Manchester City had squeezed the life out of their side. Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé faced as good a central pairing as there is right now. Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tioté battled manfully in the heart of midfield and Fabricio Coloccini, a rock at the back, was their best player. It was not enough for victory, or to be a spanner in the Premier League title spokes. But it was enough for their supporters.
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