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Richard Bates - Newcastle must spend big to avoid second season syndrome

Published: 11 Apr 2011 - 15:10:28

With only six or so games remaining in the Premier League season, Newcastle United sit ninth in the table on 39 points - it's safe to say they're going to retain their top-flight status. Already looking ahead to the next campaign, manager Alan Pardew has spoken about the danger of second season syndrome kicking in, something he suffered from during his tenure at West Ham United.

When glancing at the squad Pardew named for the game against Aston Villa yesterday, you'd have to admit he has every right to be concerned. For the Magpies, it's been an impressive return to the top flight - though not a straightforward one.

Chris Hughton's departure at the beginning of December raised eyebrows to say the very least. Not only had he led Newcastle to mid-table following notable victories over the likes of Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland, but he had managed to bring dignity, and a steadiness, to what was a troubled club.

Controversial owner Mike Ashley put all of that in jeopardy with Hughton's dismissal. Thankfully for the Toon Army, Pardew has managed to keep them on the right track, maintaining a decent run of league form and preserving the team spirit previously established.

A few weeks ago, Derek Llambias, Newcastle's managing director, revealed that Ashley expects the club to be challenging for European qualification season after season. If they are to avoid a relegation scrap next year, let alone meet those expectations, it is vital they back Pardew with the necessary funds to add depth - and quality - to his slender, yet talented squad.

Since Andy Carroll's sale just before the January transfer window closed, doubts have been raised over how much of the fee will actually be reinvested in the squad. Everybody is fully aware that Ashley is not a football man; it's just plain business as far as he is concerned.

While Carroll was Newcastle's prize asset, the temptation is there for Ashley to make a sound return on other players too. The performances of Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coliccini and Kevin Nolan will certainly see enquiries made about their services this summer. Retaining the aforementioned players, as well as tying down Jose Enrique and Joey Barton to new long-term deals, is crucial.

To make progress, they must add to what they already have. Yesterday's match at Villa Park was proof of that. Missing a host of first-team players, Pardew was forced to play Coliccini out of position, employ a strikeforce of Peter Lovenkrands and Niall Ranger, and name a substitutes bench made up of mostly inexperienced youth.

When stretched, the team looks weak. At the end of March, speaking quite candidly about Ashley and his running of the club, Pardew admitted that if he were a fan, he wouldn't be 'jumping up and down' about the owner. Last week, he credited Ashley for keeping on Newcastle's big names when they sank into the Championship back in 2009.

Pardew’s openness is admirable, and it is quite clear that Ashley likes the way the manager works. It is crucial that Pardew capitalises on the solid relationship he shares with Ashley to convince him the £35m received for Carroll has to be spent on fresh blood. If not, Newcastle could find themselves in real problems come next season.DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Richard Bates
Richard Bates is a clued-up, forthright and candid football writer. Every Monday, he’ll be devoting his Football.co.uk column inches to the most talked-about Premier League issues. A West Ham United season-ticket holder, Rich has been accused in the past of having a somewhat blinkered perspective when it comes to his beloved Hammers, but he’ll let you be the judge of that. Follow Richard on Twitter @richardbates_89

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