After last year’s dream of a season Newcastle United will be looking to continue their success in the top-flight of English football, Pete Sharland however, remains skeptical of the Magpies’ finishing in the top five.
I know others who rate this man very highly but I must be honest before his role at St James I was less than convinced by Pardew’s attributes but I was pleasantly surprised last season as he proved me wrong by leading the Magpies to 5th place in the Premier League ahead of Chelsea. Under Pardew Newcastle were extremely tough to beat at home and away as he organised their defence well into not conceding goals at all. Tim Krul, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon were impressive at the back whilst the midfield was superbly marshalled by Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote. Up front January signing Papiss Cissé banged in 13 goals in 14 games and he is surely key to Newcastle’s hopes both in Europe and the league. If Pardew can keep the big Senegalese firing then the Magpies will once again be a big threat to those around them. As for the new men some English fans will know of Gael Bigirimana or the ‘Boy from Burundi’. He rose to prominence with Coventry City last season by winning apprentice of the year. The playmaker has shown maturity beyond his years and his harsh up bringing in the country of his birth has given him the willingness to learn and a fantastic professional attitude. He made 26 appearances for Coventry last season after pestering their academy for a chance as a 12 year old. The player has been likened to African legend Michael Essien and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops under the tuterage of another in Tiote.
Romain Amalfitano will be less well known to Geordies as he has spent his whole career in France. The attacking midfielder is the younger brother of Morgan who plies his trade for Marseille but if Newcastle’s chief scout Graham Carr’s record in Europe is anything to go by then Newcastle fans shouldn’t be concerned. Carr has proven himself to be excellent at picking up talent on the cheap and Amalfitano will probably lift the burden on the injury prone Hatem Ben Arfa.
I predict them to drop out of the top five this season (being replaced by Chelsea) mainly because I have my doubts about this squad’s ability to manage domestic and English football. It won’t be easy for them especially as this will be the first time that a lot of these players will have played in Europe so it’ll be interesting to see if they can cope.