Toon can stay in hunt

Posted by Lee Ryder

Alan PardewPA PhotosAlan Pardew thinks Newcastle deserve more credit.

Newcastle United are quite rightly still bathing in the glory of having beaten the Premier League champions Manchester United in their own backyard.

And they deserve every piece of credit that comes their way and let's be honest even after a great victory the praise has hardly flowed in the same way as the Tyne did last week when it burst its banks amidst the UK storms!

- Cabaye Happy At Newcastle

This was certainly something that seemed to slightly irk Alan Pardew in the aftermath of the victory at Old Trafford. Indeed, the manager suggested that his team would not get the praise they deserved after such a solid performance at one of the toughest places to win the English top flight.

Well, he was right.

Monday saw almost every national newspaper go to town on the Red Devils and what the defeat meant for everyone at Old Trafford. Given that the media focused mainly on Man United in crisis and David Moyes' future at the Theatre of Dreams, Newcastle were very much the secondary line in the eyes of many journalists.

Not one journalist asked Moyes if he thought that Newcastle could stay in the hunt for glory.

For some journalists focusing on Man United is hardwired into their outlook and given the size of the club there is a demand within the wider media for the Red Devils to be the main focus. I understand that.

So what would it take for Newcastle to be taken more seriously from the wider press? The answer probably lies in the next three or four games. For it will be in these fixtures where they prove they are the deal.

The hectic festive period usually separates the men from the boys in the Premier League. A quick scan of Newcastle's games coming up during the Christmas period and there is no reason not to at least consider erring on the side of being positive.

Southampton at home, Crystal Palace away and then a Boxing Day clash with Stoke. Victory over the Saints this weekend would be a significant result. It would put a six point gap between Newcastle and a side that are considered to have had an excellent campaign.

Yes, the Saints can't say they haven't enjoyed the plaudits this year, whereas Newcastle could argue they have been a little bit over looked in some sections of the media.

True, Pardew and Tim Krul picked up the monthly awards for best manager and player. Yet there seems to be an assumption out there that Newcastle won't last the pace.

In the past they have flattered to deceive or when the going got tough began to tumble when it really mattered. The Magpies have given plenty of evidence in the past of imploding though and perhaps that's where it stems from.

But surely after seeing off Chelsea, Spurs and Man United they can be confident going into games like Southampton, Crystal Palace and Stoke? The fear at the start of the season was that Newcastle's failure to spend big could see them fall behind some of the teams outside of the top six. At the moment they are pouring cold water on that claim, but can they keep it up?

Can they go into the final game of 2013 against the current leaders Arsenal with the credit they would be entitled to if they stay in the top six hunt going into the new year? Well, the next fortnight will answer that question.

These are important games for Pardew and hold the key to whether he can make a case to Mike Ashley to unlock a transfer kitty that would fund a challenge to climb even higher. The board have made it clear that they are eager to seal a top 10 finish this year, and a bonus is up for grabs for club staff if they manage it.

But surely if they start getting a sniff of the top four it will interest them and for the fans it is their responsibility to reach that little bit higher.

What you have to remember though is even beating the likes of Southampton, Palace and the Potters could only just keep them in the hunt.

First things first though and creating that gap between the mid-table pack and those in the top six or seven could unfold with a win at St James' Park this Saturday. So that really is the challenge for Pardew and his troops -- to stay in the game.

If they do that then the end of year shootout with Arsenal could end up being even tastier than Christmas dinner.


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