What a difference nine months makes

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Newcastle manager Alan PardewThere weren’t many Newcastle fans who backed the decision to sack manager Chris Hughton back in December. It was considered by the Toon Army and the press alike, that owner Mike Ashley had once again pressed the self-destruct button.

His decision to hire Alan Pardew as Hughton’s replacement was met with bemusement and bewilderment on Tyneside. A manager who had been sacked by League One club Southampton only a few months prior to that, was now getting a job at a big Premier League Club. It surely didn’t make any sense, did it?

But 6 games into this new season, with Newcastle sitting in fourth and still unbeaten, it all seems to be making sense after all. Pardew has guided Newcastle to their best start to a season since the glory days under Kevin Keegan in the 95/96 season and in my opinion he hasn’t quite received the credit he deserves.

Despite not being given the entire £35 million received from the Andy Carroll sale to Liverpool, to invest in new players, Pardew has used the small amount of money he was given, very smartly indeed.

After selling Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique on top of the sale of Carroll in January, many so called ‘experts’ tipped Newcastle for a relegation battle this season.

But after their fantastic start to this campaign, internally at least they may quietly be aiming for a place back into European football, if they continue this great form.

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Pardew’s best signing has definitely been French international Yohan Cabaye, who is so far the stand out player amongst Newcastle’s summer recruits. Cabaye was a shrewd £4.3 million signing from French champions Lille and he has formed a terrific central midfield partnership with last season’s revelation, Cheik Tiote.

As well as Cabaye, Newcastle signed Gabriel Obertan from Manchester United, Demba Ba from West Ham, Davide Santon from Inter Milan, Sylvain Marveaux from Rennes and Mehdi Abeid from Lens. On top of that, French international Hatem Ben Arfa, signed on a permanent deal from Marseille this year, has returned to full fitness after his horrific leg break at the start of last season.

Ben Arfa is an unpredictable character, but there is no doubting his unquestionable talent. After failing to bring in another striker before the close of the transfer window, Pardew may, at times, deploy Ben Arfa as a striker this season and he could prove to be the difference for Newcastle, with his ability to unlock a defence.

The most impressive aspect of Newcastle’s fine start, is how well they have defended. The defence has always been a problem for the Toon, but Pardew has managed to stick with the same back four for all six games so far, Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor.

They have only conceded 3 goals in those 6 games which is an impressive stat, one which you would rarely attribute to a Newcastle United defence.

Alan Pardew has gone some way to answering his critics and he is enjoying his second chance at managing in the Premier League. But there is no doubt that Pardew will keep everyone at Newcastle grounded and won’t let them get carried away with their early season form.

But everyone associated with Newcastle United is quietly confident about the rest of the season ahead and if they continue in this vein of form, could the Newcastle fans be getting their passports ready for next season?

Written by Tariq Saleh

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