FA Cup – 4th round
League Cup – 4th round
Newcastle United fans will look back with satisfaction at the 2011-12 season. Despite just coming short of reaching the Champions League places it was beyond what most fans were expecting as the beginning of the campaign. A final league position of fifth is still a terrific achievement and crucially the club will be playing European football again after a long wait. The campaign has seen a number of new heroes emerge while some familiar faces have raised their game to a higher level.
At the very beginning of the season there were few signs to suggest that the club would be back among the English elite. Pre-season results were not exactly encouraging while there was anger among the supporters that little of the £35m received for the sale of Andy Carroll had been spent. Most of the new signings were relative unknowns from abroad and key players from the previous season had been sold. Jose Enrique, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan all followed Carroll in departing Tyneside to seemingly further their careers and bolster their bank balances.
It was crucial that Newcastle made a positive start to the new season to avoid being embroiled in the relegation dogfight a number of pundits predicted. The team did just that by embarking on an 11 game unbeaten run until they finally came unstuck against Manchester City in November. Key to this start was the new signings immediately adapting to their new surroundings and buying into the team ethos within the squad. The most prominent of the new arrivals were French midfielder Yohan Cabaye and free transfer Demba Ba. The former provided the craft and vision that has been lacking for a long time in midfield while Ba was prolific in the first half of the season scoring 15 goals. Chief scout Graham Carr deserves a lot of praise for continuing to unearth top players at reasonable prices.
There were a number of high points across the course of the season with a 3-0 victory at home over Manchester United a particular highlight. That result and performance showed just how far the Magpies had come. Other pleasing results were away wins over Sunderland and Chelsea and a comfortable home win over Liverpool. Some of the football played in the second half of the season was a throwback to the years of the Entertainers under Kevin Keegan. The team became much more potent going forward with the signing of the explosive Papiss Cisse and the welcome return to form of Hatem Ben Arfa.
On the rare occasions when Newcastle lost it tended to be by a heavy margin with big defeats to Norwich, Fulham, Tottenham and Wigan. There was also an embarrassing loss to Brighton in the FA Cup and the club must look to amend their recent wretched record in cup competitions. Another disappointment was the naming rights at the stadium which threatened to further alienate fans towards Mike Ashley. But on the whole the sportswear magnate deserves some credit for getting the club on an even keel and just about debt free.
Manager – Alan Pardew: Pardew’s season was summed up when he was named both the Premier League and the LMA Manager of the Year. The former Southampton boss has achieved minor miracles in keeping the club challenging for the Champions League places until May. Pardew and his coaching team have managed to unite a dressing room of many nationalities into a cohesive unit.
Player of the season – Fabricio Coloccini: In truth any number of players could have won this accolade but the Argentine deserves it for his consistent displays all season. He has emerged as a true leader since being handed the captain’s armband in the summer. Coloccini was deservedly named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Turning point – the signing of Papiss Cisse: The Senegalese striker has made a massive impression since joining Newcastle in the January transfer window. After scoring a stunning goal on his debut against Aston Villa there has been no let up with 13 goals from only 13 starts. Cisse provided the momentum to keep the team’s form going in the second half of the campaign.
Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.