Newcastle 3-0 Stoke: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:30 22/04/12 By Simon Bird
Alan Pardew talked of momentum being a “powerful force” – and here is an illustration of why Champions League rivals Spurs are fretting.
Six wins in a row, five with clean sheets, means Newcastle have gate-crashed the top four. Three points behind third-placed Arsenal with a game in hand, three points ahead of Tottenham.
They have a player in Papiss Cisse who became the first striker in the league to score in six consecutive league games this season (Rooney, Van Persie and Van der Vaart have managed five in a row).
They have a side fizzing the ball around with confidence and panache not seen for a decade on Tyneside.
And a squad of players darting around with intensity off the ball to snuff the life out of the opposition, as well as controlling the tempo and having a killer pass in possession.
Can anything derail a Geordie juggernaut that has already virtually guaranteed Europa League football next season, and is poised to achieve the astounding feat of turning Harry Redknapp’s Spurs exit to England into a wake?
The force is certainly with Newcastle, which has become a city energised by the heroics they are witnessing.
The glorious thing is that this is no fluke or lucky run. A minor dip in mid-season aside, this is the sort of style Pardew’s men conjured at the start of the campaign too.
Winning with fluid, slick total football from back to front. Has there been a better pass anywhere this season than the one from Yohan Cabaye, reversed inside three defenders to pick out Cisse for the second goal? Or a better caressing of the ball home from 22 yards than Cabaye’s shot for the third?
Watch how Hatem Ben Arfa opened up Stoke with a jink and Olympic sprinter’s surge to cross for Cisse’s header, which Cabaye gobbled up on the rebound for the opener.
If it had been Theo Walcott doing that for Arsenal, or Gareth Bale for Spurs, the nation would have frothed.
But this is Newcastle, from under the radar, sending the so-called big boys of the league, with wage bills, and turnovers eclipsing those of St James’ Park, into turbo twitch.
During their 17 previous seasons in the Premier League, Newcastle have finished in the top four five times, so perhaps it should not come as a huge shock. This will be their ninth top-seven finish since May 1994.
But just three years ago they were a club falling apart and heading for relegation.
A clean up of the finances, personnel and attitudes has worked wonders.
Pardew said: “Momentum at this club can be a powerful force and I am lucky not to have been here when it is going the other way because playing in front of 52,000 when it is not going well must be tough. I am sure of that, but this year the momentum is with us.
“I drove in and had a coffee early morning before the match and you can feel the buzz. The fans were out early, getting themselves prepared for the game and you can feel the atmosphere. We are not going to put the dream down and throw any cliches at it. But we simply have a chance.
“Football is important in this city there are a lot of people out of work and when you
look elsewhere it is a tough environment for businesses and for people to earn money.
“But when they come to the stadium they see a team playing like this and it just lifts you.”
Pardew also spoke of the “camaraderie” he is witnessing.
“I have played in a very good Crystal Palace which finished third in this division, I had a very good side at West Ham,” he added. “But even in those two teams I have not had the camaraderie of this group. I hope that means the players we have got all want to stay and we can do it all again next year because clubs will look at these players now and try to take them off our hands.
“It might be that belief and love they have for each other which will keep them here.
“I am hoping that we get to such a point where there is not really many places above where they can go. That is what we really want.”
Cheick Tiote then demonstrated the attitude inside the dressing room with some calming words.
“We are not thinking about Champions League yet,” he said. “We must stay true to what we have done all season and keep winning.
“It is great to almost have a place in the Europa League though – it is very important for this football club.
“For a long time the fans have not had European football but now, next season we will be in European competition.
“It is great for the club, the fans and for everyone.”
Champions League would be even better. The dream is on.
But Newcastle fans should not be disappointed if they fall short after a tough run-in, including Manchester City and Chelsea.