I think we can all hold our hands up and acknowledge that Alan Pardew has worked wonders with the players he inherited, plus those he brought in himself with the help of Graham Carr and associates.
Pardew’s mindset appears to be on cementing a close knit group of players that are manageable without anyone being left by the way side and his concentration on what he has at his disposal is full on in every aspect from fitness, diet, attitude and the dressing room spirit. He appears to have brought out the qualities of a lot of players that most of us fans didn’t know they possessed.
Hatem Ben Arfa came to this club with somewhat of a moody reputation and as a potential hothead that could have upset the apple cart if things didn’t go his way, but although we have seen small, minute glimpses of his little moods, it appears that Alan Pardew has worked on him and made him realise that attitude channelled in the right direction can reap rewards and I think we are seeing that on the pitch with him now.
Many fans were worried about the small squad we had at he start of the season and were rightly worried about us sustaining injuries in the wrong areas of the pitch, which happened when we lost Steven Taylor and for a short period, Fabricio Coloccini. Throughout the season, we have been tested to the limit with injuries to key players in all areas of the pitch and we wondered just how a small squad like we have, could cope with the rigours of a full on Premier League season plus cup games.
Naturally at this stage of the season, the questions have been answered and answered in a way that none of us would have believed was possible when you looked at what we had on the injury table and what we had in reserve.
There is an old saying, “when your back’s against the wall, you come out fighting” and this is true of the spirit that has been bred into the players at this club, which we can see with out own eyes in the graft that they put in from the first to the last minute.
When a team loses key players like we have done, with such a small squad to pluck replacements from, the easy option for those players is to shrug their shoulders and say “well we are just stand in replacements so we can’t be blamed for results.”
Of course us as fans would naturally afford them the benefit of the doubt if that ever happened but it’s obvious with those players who came in that the opposite mentality was evident. They came in with hunger and heart to carry the team forward to keep it in good shape whilst also staking their own claim for a future stab at being a regular part of it.
James Perch is a fine example of a player that could easily have crumbled under the pressure of being plunged into positions that were basically alien to him, whilst also knowing that he was far from ever being a fans favourite. But this lad is an example of a player that has confidence in his own ability and will die for the cause as he has proved many times this season.
He has been guilty of over enthusiasm in some games with his gung-ho rash challenges, but this lad has learned from that and actually looks really composed and tidy and extremely competitive which is a massive bonus to this squad.
Very few players who have been thrust into the limelight this season have disappointed, but some still lack confidence which I’m sure will be worked on to produce the real player as time goes by.
One player is Gabriel Obertan who clearly has the pace and the skills to achieve success but he lacks the awareness and brain to carry it off, plus he appears to be a player that needs a regular supply of confidence boosting help until he realises his own potential.
The main issue though is that if players like him show heart and desire to play for this club like Perch and Ryan Taylor have done, then it’s shows that once you have that desire, the rest can be worked on to great effect and the end product is a squad of players that are all singing the same tune and instil confidence in each other to carry this club forward, and that is part of the reason why this club sits in 6th place when all and sundry had us down to be struggling.
A few small additions as well as keeping the nucleus of this squad can take us a long long way in the seasons to come and who knows what joys await us in that time. All I can say is that it’s been one hell of a season and as it stands and I can’t wait for the final six games plus the added excitement of the summer when we will know just what players are willing to be part of this restructured, resurgent and forward thinking club.
It will also show us just how far we have come when it comes to how many players pledge their allegiance to us for the future.
The future is bright… The future is Newcastle United.