The rising spectre of unemployment on Tyneside and the love his players have for each other – those were the topics Alan Pardew was discussing on Saturday evening, after his side had won their sixth successive game, before Tottenham had lost another one of theirs.
It was difficult to know which to consider first, the love-in or the jobless, but the fact that Pardew had even stepped out of the cosseted world of football was revealing. This is not a man to jump into uncharted territories without research, either, and a Labour councillor at the back of the Newcastle media room, some time later, poured forth a pile of statistics to back up the claim.
More, though, it was a sign of his developing seniority and at the same time of keeping his finger on the Tyneside pulse. He will have listened as he travels around (at the Dunston Fed Brewery recently for a talk-in, he brought the house down) but he will also have asked questions of his Geordie No 2, John Carver, who is, as Pardew admits, his ear to the Newcastle grapevine.
To tackle such a thorny issue as unemployment and footballing escapism was the surest sign yet of his growing stature. For 15 months not many stones have been left unturned, and Saturday, charging into the top four and a potential Champions League qualification place, felt one of those moments you are supposed to remember.
The question of how Newcastle have done this has many strands, but the uniting of his players has been at its very core. Mike Williamson admitted last week that team-mates regularly cook for each other and their families. Pardew however, took it to another level, when, with the glow of a comprehensive and impressive victory still warming his soul, he spoke of the tightest dressing room he has ever come across, either as a player or a manager.
"I have played in a very good Crystal Palace [team] which finished third in this division and I had a very good side at West Ham, but it did not have the camaraderie of this group," Pardew said.
"I hope that means the players we have got all want to stay and we can do it all again next year, because clubs will look at these players now and try and take them off our hands. It might be that belief and love they have for each other which will keep them here.
"I am hoping that we get to such a point where there is not really many places above where they can go. That is what we really want.
"Momentum at this club can be a powerful force and I am lucky not to have been here when it is going the other way because playing in front of 52,000 when it is not going well must be tough, I am sure of that, but this year the momentum is with us.
"I drove in and had a coffee early this morning and you can feel the buzz. The fans were out early, getting themselves prepared for the game and you can feel the atmosphere.
"We are not going to put the dream down and throw any clichés at it, but we simply have a chance. Football is important in this city. There are a lot of people out of work and when you look elsewhere it is a tough environment for businesses and for people to earn money. But when they come to the stadium, they see a team playing like today and it just lifts you. They can take that back into the workplace.
"You can't not enjoy some of that play today, especially with the four-pronged attack. It was great."
He was right there as well. Stoke had no answer and no one comparable – and they have spent a lot of money – to Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cissé, Demba Ba and the outstanding Yohan Cabaye. Those four cost Newcastle £18m and that still feels a huge bargain. Cabaye scored twice and set up the other for Cissé. The Europa League was a distant dream at the start of the season, but that has now passed. Now it is the Champions League. That would keep a city smiling, economic difficulties or not.
Booked: Stoke - Palacios, Shawcross.
Man of the match Cabaye.
Referee A Marriner (W Midlands)
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