Four factors behind Newcastle United’s remarkable renaissance
Kevin Coleman takes a look at some reasons behind Newcastle United's remarkable transformation over the last two seasons
Newcastle United were in turmoil just two seasons ago as they were relegated from the Premier League for the first time since 1993.
The St James’ Park revolving door had witnessed the exits of Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and club legend Alan Shearer in a hectic two-year spell.
However, their transformation since returning to the top-flight has been astonishing as a club which look doomed to failure is now back to being a respectable organisation.
Here are four factors which have triggered Newcastle’s remarkable turnaround.
Mike Ashley retreats to the St James’ Park shadows
In a sport in which owners shouldn’t be seen nor heard, Ashley was in amongst the Newcastle faithful, guzzling down beer and getting involved in the shirtless celebrations with some of the United faithful. However, recently we have seen less of Ashley and an incredible turnaround in fortunes at the north-east club.
The club has gone from buying overpriced potential to building a squad of excellent young players that have been scouted with great depth. There are no inflated egos, just hard working players with the motivation to put Newcastle back on its pedestal – and they have a manager who has settled the club at the right end of the Premier League table.
Newcastle is a completely different club to the one that was relegated just four seasons ago. They finally act and look like a team worthy of the 50,000 fans coming to watch them each week and deserve the moniker of one of the biggest clubs in the country.
Removing the old guard
One of the most important steps in Newcastle’s rehabilitation was the selling of the older generation of players. Often a vice grip on the dressing room, the club sold the likes of Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan and replaced them with younger talent that had little baggage and a point to prove on the pitch.
Tim Krul has been at the club for a number of years, having spent time in the reserves, while Shay Given and Steve Harper led the senior team. The decision to promote the Dutch keeper was obviously the correct one, having made the position his own this season.
Other players have also been successfully introduced into the first team. Wing-back Danny Simpson has been solid while unspectacular and a trusting stop gap until they decide to improve. Danny Guthrie, when called upon, has performed impressively.
Of the players who were in the squad for Newcastle’s relegation, the decision to give them time has seen a remarkable transformation. In many ways, the drop down to the Championship has given Fabricio Coloccini and Jose Enrique the opportunity to find their feet in English football before stepping back into the Premier League.
Both seen as expensive flops, they are now regarded as two of the best defenders in the league. While Enrique was sold to Liverpool, Coloccini has continued to impress as Newcastle went unbeaten for the opening eleven games of the season.
Alan Pardew’s arrival in 2010
A move that was very controversial at the time, it baffled and further alienated the Newcastle fans. Chris Hughton had guided Newcastle to promotion just a season earlier and the decision to relieve Hughton of his duties mid-season, even though the team was in a safe position in the league, seemed harsh and unnecessary.
The arrival of Pardew could easily have failed and it looked at the time that Ashley was purely giving a friend a job. In hindsight, Ashley removed a limited manager who, although clearly a very capable Championship manager, wasn’t the man to take Newcastle forward.
Pardew took time to win over the Newcastle fans but after this season’s start he firmly has the backing of the Magpies’ supporters. He has managed to blood the new players impressively and successfully oversaw the replacing of Andy Carroll with arguably a more prolific finisher in Demba Ba. Players have improved under his tenure, such as Simpson and Guthrie, as have the defensive unit and the excellent midfield.
Faith in the scouting system
Admirably, the club has kept remarkable faith in its scouting setup to bring the team to where it is today. The success is mainly down to Graham Carr, the scout who has looked to French football to improve Newcastle’s squad. He discovered Cheick Tiote when the midfieleder was with FC Twente and the Ivory Coast international has shown he has the necessary grit and determination to make it as a top-flight player.
Carr looked to players whom he felt would instantly feel at home in the league particularly players that wouldn’t take time to settle. Yohan Cabaye, who joined from Lille, is another more experienced example of how the French league can produce Premier League talent.
And Carr will have been heavily involved in the signing their latest £9m acquisition Papiss Demba who arrived from SC Freiburg.