As things stand we have a pretty strong winning mentality within the squad in my opinion. Of course a winning mentality is not a secret formula that can win every game, but it does ensure that heads don’t drop too far should we suffer a defeat.
You can’t measure what a difference a change in mentality makes although you can witness the results with the naked eye. As fans of Newcastle United we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum in the last few years, but if you look back you can pretty much draw a line under the team pre-relegation and start again from scratch post-relegation.
The subject of whether we would be where we are now if we hadn’t been relegated has been done before, and whilst I agree with the point that all the changes we’ve seen – recruitment, scouting, financial etc – could’ve been made in the Premier League, I think it would have been harder to change the mentality within the dressing room.
In that sense we owe a great deal of gratitude to our season in the Championship and to Chris Hughton for instilling this kind of mentality that has, so far at least, been carried forward as the team continues to evolve. It was great going into Championship games knowing that we’d likely come out with a result born from hard work and true grit which was then transferred to the Premier League upon our return.
Of course the instigator was soon harshly moved on and it was left to Alan Pardew – who recently thanked Hughton for instilling the winning mentality in the first place – to carry it onwards, along with a nucleus of players that have now also departed.
Fortunately though enough remained to carry on, and perhaps improve, the winning mentality that had been built up previously. New players bought into it and excelled when many expected them to fail, which would have also been a factor in building up harmony within the team. That harmony has seen us qualify for Europe, and has left us at a crossroads at the same time…
Our squad needs strengthening if we are to try and emulate what happened last season. We are likely to have more fixtures for a start with our participation in the Europa League and, heaven forbid, should we actually progress to the latter rounds of the domestic cup competitions we’ll be looking at playing somewhere in the region of 60 games next season.
Add to that the fact that we are losing quite a lot players – some of whom probably won’t actually be missed on the field of play but may have been fairly important behind the scenes – and we face a problem of continuity. Granted our scouting network (like most should) will look at the character of a player when considering him which helps, but it can still take time for a player to settle, or indeed settle at all.
Hopefully we can carry it on. We have the players to do that at the moment and any signings made should be able to fit in with them, compliment them even, but there is always a risk associated with any transfer and one of the most important factors to consider is not financial, it is instead the ability to be able to fit in with this team ethic and winning mentality that has been born over the last few years.« They’ve found us out! | Hatem Ben Arfa’s brief return to old ways »