Saturday 02 August 2014
Manager: Alan Pardew (December 2010)
Home ground: St James' Park
Players in: Ayoze Perez, Jack Colback, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella, Emmanuel Riviere, Daryl Janmaat
First five 2014/15 BPL matches: Manchester City (H), Aston Villa (A), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A), Hull City (H)
Newcastle United were just six points adrift of the Barclays Premier League leaders in sixth place on Boxing Day last season despite an opening-weekend 4-0 defeat by Manchester City, and the Magpies will be looking to use the reverse fixture as a springboard for a similar run of form in the 2014/15 campaign.
Alan Pardew's side recovered from the defeat at the Etihad Stadium to win 10 of their next 17 matches and mounted an early charge for the UEFA Champions League places, reminisicent of the 2011/12 season when they finished fifth.
The form of on-loan Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy, midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in January, and goalkeeper Tim Krul, who won the Barclays Player of the Month in November, proved particularly influential during the first half of last season, but five victories in 2014 dropped Newcastle to 10th at the end of the campaign.
Pardew's side take on defending champions City with a host of new faces after a quiet couple of transfer windows. Emmanuel Riviere, Siem de Jong and Ayoze Perez bolster their attacking threat, while midfielder Jack Colback, defender Daryl Janmaat and playmaker Remy Cabella also moved to Tyneside this summer.
Mathieu Debuchy is the only player to have left as Pardew prepares for his fifth season as Newcastle manager. He took charge in December 2010 and was named Barclays Manager of the Season 18 months later, having guided the club to fifth and a place in the Europa League.
That was Newcastle's highest finish since the 1996/97 campaign, when they were runners-up to Manchester United. The previous season, Newcastle moved 12 points clear of United at the top of the table with a free-flowing brand of football, but Kevin Keegan’s charges fell short after a remarkable turnaround from the Red Devils.
A trip to Aston Villa follows their home match with Man City at the start of their 21st Barclays Premier League campaign. Their debut season in the competition came in 1993/94, when they secured the highest finish by a newly promoted side, coming third.
|Best BPL finish
||2nd (1995/96; 1996/97)
|Last five BPL finishes||10th||16th||5th||12th||N/A|
|Seasons in the BPL
|Most BPL appearances||Shay Given (354)|
|Top BPL goalscorer||Alan Shearer (148)|
Hopes for the new season.
Bearing in mind the business they have done over the summer, most fans will go into the season a lot more hopeful than they might have done after a second half to last season that was very disappointing. There are no guarantees with signings but I would suggest people are more optimistic bearing in mind the level of transfer actvity there has been.
It is difficult to predict where Newcastle will finish. Three seasons ago they finished fifth, they followed that up with a disappointing season. In 2013/14 they were fifth at Christmas, then fell away badlly. I suspect the fans would be delighted with a top-six finish but it is probably more likely they will finish around seventh or eighth.
What have you made of Newcastle United's summer signings?
Newcastle have this happy knack of picking up players under the radar. They do their business very well. Siem de Jong looks like he could be a very important player for the club. He could be the stand-out signing for them this summer. It was always going to be difficult to replace Yohan Cabaye because he is a top player but you look at the way De Jong handles himself and the way he interacts with other players, he looks like a leader, he looks like he has got goals in him, as though he can motivate those around him and that's exactly what Cabaye used to do.
They have kept hold of one or two key players, the goalkeeper and the captain [Fabricio Coloccini], and have done very well to replace Mathieu Debuchy with a very promising full-back in Daryl Janmaat. They have also bolstered the midfield but they look a little bit short in the forward department - they need one more.
What Newcastle United's strengths?
The squad have a good bond and a good camararderie. They have a togetherness. Alan Pardew works well with players, he gets the best out the players he has.
What is the special qualities of Alan Pardew?
He is a good man-manager and likes to be active on the training pitch. He is a good coach. He is the second-longest serving manager in the Premier League. Newcastle United have finished fifth under him and they returned to European competition which they hadn't been for a number of years. Again this summer he has rebuilt the squad.
What are the matches the fans always look forward to, and what are the ones they dread?
They obviously look forward to the derby. We had a strange situation here last year where a number of Newcastle fans wanted Sunderland to pull off "The Great Escape" after looking dead and buried because the derby is so much part of the football calendar. They have been at it for years and years and of late it has not gone well for Newcastle. In fact they have had a rare old couple of hidings off Sunderland in recent encounters! As soon as the fixtures come out, that's the one they look for.
Last season, one of the big ghosts they laid to rest was not being able to win at Old Trafford. They went there for the first time since the early 1970s and won 1-0. I don't think they genuinely fear anybody. The great thing about Newcastle is that there will be anything between 3,000 and 5,000 wherever they go. Away games they are always guaranted a big support and helping hand.
Who is the best young talent BPL fans might see emerge this season?
Newcastle's 17-year-old striker Adam Armstrong is a real talent. He was part of the England Under-17 squad that won the European Championship in the summer. He scored two goals but missed the final because of injury.
He scored in pre-season against Sydney in New Zealand with a goal that he took in the blink of an eye. People at the club think this lad has got a really, really good chance. He is quick, is small and stocky with a low centre of gravity and, as a result, he is very quick off the mark and has got an eye for goal. So you might find him getting a little bit more game time.
Newcastle United in three words
Never, ever dull.
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