End of season report: Newcastle United
Those looking at Newcastle's season from other parts of the country seem to be of the opinion that supporters should shut up and be grateful for their top-half finish.
Let's put one myth to bed first. Newcastle fans do NOT have high expectations. How can they? They haven't won a thing in decades yet still turn up every week. No, the big issue supporters have (and there are many) is the gross lack of ambition at the club. Earlier this season their very unpopular manager, Alan Pardew, thanked God that Newcastle weren't in Europe. Then a senior board member attended a supporters’ trust meeting and publicly declared that “the cups are not a priority.” This season has been dull and many have refused to renew their season tickets.
Yohan Cabaye. Plenty will question why I would pick a player who left the club in January but just take a look through the results by month and the answer will become clear -- Newcastle have displayed relegation form since he left. Though to suggest that performance decline was only down to Cabaye's departure would be incorrect -- he played all of last season too and Newcastle struggled to a 16th. Loic Remy is the other standout candidate but he too seemed to disappear for much of 2014, probably saving himself for a move to Arsenal and the World Cup.
Almost every player has regressed under the management of Pardew; Tim Krul, Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse, to name but a few. The decline of Cisse in particular has been alarming. When the Senegalese striker joined the Premier League he was a revelation, scoring bags of goals. Now he struggles to convert even the most simple chances and his goal return has been very poor. When he's not scoring he offers very little, although service to him has been limited.
Absolutely awful and the focus of the fans' displeasure for the last few weeks of the season.
Most of the squad have gone backwards quickly under his management and it is hard to name a single one who has improved. Players are played out of position frequently, mirroring the time he played Carlos Tevez as a winger when he managed West Ham. Seemingly, the outcome there didn't teach him a lesson. Pardew also favours graft over flair and so has failed to get the best from players like Hatem Ben Arfa or Sylvain Marveaux.
I'm not sure there are any tactics, either. Three left-backs on the field at the same time, or four forwards but no wingers -- both of these things have happened in the past season.
Final grade: E
Early exits from the cups and 19 league defeats including a record breaking run of six defeats in a row. The six points gifted to Sunderland in the derbies helped them to stay in the Premier League, too. In the last two seasons combined, Newcastle have lost 38 games -- the equivalent of a full season of defeats.
The only way to improve would be to sack Pardew and appoint a manager who can bring some entertaining football to Tyneside, but that's not going to happen.