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May 3, 2014

Mixed emotions in Newcastle home finale

Most clubs who have staved off relegation months before the end of the season and are on course to achieve a top 10 finish after a 3-0 win to end their home campaign would find themselves playing amid a backdrop of unrest and uncertainty.

- Report: Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City

Although, Newcastle United aren't most clubs. On Saturday, there was more evidence of that at St James' Park against Cardiff City.

It's certainly not because the Toon supporters have ideas above their station or feel that the Magpies should be picking up trophy after trophy, year in, year out. Quite simply they want to see their beloved football club show a bit of ambition and at least challenge. If Newcastle can do it by playing the type of football that matches the passion of their fans -- even better.

But they haven't seen that in recent times. Before the clash with Cardiff they'd watched on as their side went down without a fight in SIX consecutive defeats, all of them painful, all of them worrying in their own different way.

What has happened off the field has been reflected with what is now happening on the field. Owner Mike Ashley was the target of supporters on Saturday as much as manager Alan Pardew.

Why?

Because, while Ashley has pumped money into the club since 2007, he hasn't done so in the last two transfer windows. Newcastle haven't coughed up a penny and instead banked the money for Yohan Cabaye from Paris Saint-Germain to leave the club short-handed on the pitch.

Even their own players are flagging it up. The outsider looking in may look at the table and see United in ninth and think: "What's the problem?"

Well, let me enlighten you a bit.

When a team pushes themselves to the brink of a top-four place, or at worst a top-six slot, in the first half of the season, in football terms you should be thinking on closing in on that position.

Not Newcastle though.

Rather than invest in the team and the squad in January, the Magpies sold Cabaye, didn't replace him and didn't address other areas that needed improvement. The result? A run of 14 defeats in 19 games before Saturday against Cardiff which saw Newcastle slide down the table and into ninth spot, out of contention for Europe and no longer in the mix.

Putting aside the club's negative approach to the FA Cup, which resulted in rock bottom Cardiff ending hopes at the first hurdle, or Pardew's head-butt at Hull City which meant he was banned first from the stadium, then the touchline, the second half of the season has almost been like Newcastle pressed self-destruct.

Had their results been more mixed over the season rather than hot streaks and cold snaps then maybe ninth wouldn't be so bad. But the sequence of results this term meant that ninth spot is no reason to celebrate "success".

Pardew had previously blamed the local press for the negativity. Yet the Toon Army make up their own minds and that was evident from the word go against Cardiff. They stuck with the team though and were rewarded with goals from Shola Ameobi, Loic Remy and Steven Taylor.

Some did walk out in protest on the 60 minute mark and then the 69 minute mark -- in reference to the last year the Magpies won a trophy in. If Newcastle are to avoid days like this again, then they will have to start showing some intent in the transfer window.

Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy and Mathieu Debuchy all gestured goodbye to the supporters today at the end of the game and that could be the end of the road for all three for differing reasons.

The reality is that Newcastle should be building a team around the trio, plus adding more new faces if they are to get this club back on track.

Again, some people might wonder what the problem is with Newcastle sitting in ninth spot, but anybody who has been to Newcastle will know what the place is all about very quickly.