Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes his side confirmed they are still a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League after their 1-1 draw against Sunderland on Sunday.
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Pardew admits he 'always expected this season to be tough' after his side's improbable fifth place finish last May, but he believes their class will shine through after they came so close to a victory against their local rivals despite playing with ten men for the majority of the game.
"What we proved at Sunderland is that we are still a good team, with the right attitude and plenty of quality," said Pardew. "It was never going to be easy for us to continue what we did last season and the ambition was always to strive to improve if at all possible.
"The performance at Sunderland filled me with pride because we were up against it with ten men for a lot of the game and came so close to what would have been one of our best wins ever at their place. In the end, we had to be happy with a point.
"We now have a home game against West Brom coming up and if we can get a victory on the board in that fixture, we will put ourselves into the sort of position we want in the Premier League."
Pardew has claimed football supporters in the North East are a different breed when compared to the corporate fan base that have an increasing presence at several high profile Premier League clubs.
Pardew, a Londoner, has succeeded in winning over the Newcastle fans who were vehemently opposed to his appointment as the club's manager in November 2010 by piecing together a thrillingly successful team during his time at the club and his comments about life in his adopted homeland will doubtless win him a host of new admirers.
"The passion is for football in the North East is a working class passion," said Pardew in an interview with the Newcastle Chronicle. "Even the corporate fans at Newcastle are from working-class backgrounds and I get that.
"You can't compare Arsenal fans to ours for example, it is very different. Chelsea and Spurs are the same. They aren't like Newcastle supporters. I know that because I've been to those grounds in recent times.
"This is why a game like Sunderland v Newcastle is so different. It is two working-class cities coming together, and coming into battle. That's why it creates such a brilliant atmosphere."
Meanwhile Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul has described the 1-1 draw at the Stadium Of Light as 'like a win'.
The Magpies had to play sixty five minutes with ten men after the dismissal of Cheick Tioté midway through the first half, and Krul was delighted with his teammates dogged defensive performance.
"I'm really proud of us, of the whole team. I think we see this as a win to be honest," Krul told the club's official website. "I know it's hard to take when you have a deflected goal so late into the game, especially after how hard we worked, but the spirit is the most important thing we took out of this game.
"Of course we're disappointed because listen, if you're 1-0 up and you've played so well for 60 minutes with ten men it's hard to take. But at the end of the day when everything's settled down we see this as a good result, especially with the lads working their socks off for each other again. I think that's what put us through last year, the spirit, and I've seen today that we've got the spirit back."
With the Dutch stopper only recently returning to the Magpies line up following an elbow injury, he confirmed of his desperation to be a part of the game - as well as his delight at quieting the home crowd early on.
"Of course I was desperate to be back," he said. "I'd hoped to make Man United a couple of weeks ago but that was too early for me so the next target was Sunderland and I was not going to miss this game.
"To be honest, even with ten men - of course their delivery's great from free-kicks and corners - but I didn't feel threatened today by them at all so I'm really pleased with the lads in front of me. It was great to quieten the crowd down and it was a great start. We said we had to start better than we have done over the weeks and that's what we did."