Pardew pleased to be back on song
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew will head into 2014 grateful to be doing so in far happier mood than he was 12 months ago.
The 52-year-old entered 2013 having endured a dreadful November and December in the Barclays Premier League, winning just two of the 11 games his side played and taking only seven points from a possible 33 in the process.
This time around, the Magpies collected 22 of the 30 points they contested during the corresponding period and will negotiate the turn of the year looking towards Europe rather than the Sky Bet Championship.
Pardew said with a smile: "I feel like I am standing on top of the world at the moment compared to where I was last year.
"You have to have faith in your ability and faith in the work that you do.
"As a manager, you know you have ups and downs unless you are at one of the very, very big clubs and are fortunate enough to have the finance to have 22 full internationals, like Manchester City and Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal.
"We haven't got that luxury, so it's not a great day every week, and you have to accept that."
Newcastle, of course, spent significantly during the January transfer window in a bid to stave off relegation, something they only just achieved as they limped over the line at the end of a demoralising season.
But their summer dealings were minimal with loan signing Loic Remy the only man to be added to the senior ranks, much to the disbelief and annoyance of the club's fans.
However, Pardew, who had to fight for his job as disgruntled owner Mike Ashley took stock during the summer, rallied his troops and his reward has been a vastly-improved showing.
As a result, the Magpies will run out at West Brom on New Year's Day sitting in eighth place in the league table having only slipped out of the top six as a result of a 1-0 home defeat by leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
The Baggies emerged from the then Coca-Cola Championship along with Newcastle at the end of the 2009-10 season, and meetings between the pair have been hard-fought in recent seasons.
Pardew said: "They are usually tight games and it's difficult at their place. I always feel they score, West Brom, when they are home, so you have got to get two or three goals if you are going to win."
However, the Magpies turned in arguably one of their best performances of the campaign to win 3-1 at the Hawthorns two seasons ago on their way to a fifth-placed finish, although their manager believes the point with which they returned in April was even more important given the circumstances.
Pardew said: "We were brilliant - and last year was even better because the point we got there was like gold-dust. It was a really tough game.
"Actually, if someone had said to me before these two fixtures, 'Would you take three points?', I probably would have because they are tough games.
"We have got a chance of getting those three points and I would be absolutely delighted if we could get three points at West Brom. I would look back on these two games and think, 'That's a good result'.
"There are a lot of games to be played between now and the end of May, and we are in great shape. We lost on Sunday, but not in any manner which disturbs me."
Pardew has no fresh injury problems ahead of the game, but faces a series of decisions over how to give his side the best chance of winning.
He restored Cheick Tiote to his engine room after suspension for the clash with the Gunners, but that meant a return to the bench for potential match-winner Hatem Ben Arfa, and the forward thrust the Frenchman provides could prove a potent weapon once again.
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