THE DEMANDS of combining a European campaign with domestic pressures can be enormously challenging for those in that position . . . and Newcastle United’s struggle to come to terms with that is, of course, something which is familiar to ourselves.
Alan Pardew’s side have made fairly comfortable progress to the next round of the Europa League with one game still to be played in the Group Stage, just as we did last season, but it has taken its toll on their Barclays Premier League form so far this season.
A third successive League defeat at Southampton on Sunday means that Newcastle now find themselves in the bottom half of the table, all of which is a contrast to their excellent time last season when they pushed hard for a Champions League place.
Their plight has not been helped by a long list of injuries, most notably the more recent loss of key midfield men Yohan Cabaye, who has undergone surgery on a groin problem, and Hatem Ben Arfa after he damaged a hamstring in last week’s Europa League action.
It was a sign of things to come for Pardew as highly-rated full-back Ryan Taylor suffered damaged knee ligaments in a Europa League tie at the end of August when expectations were so high on Tyneside that they could build on last season’s outstanding progress.
Nevertheless, as well as securing their place in the Group Stage of the Europa League with a Play-Off round victory over Atromitos Athens, they kicked off the Premier League campaign in some style with a home win over one of their close rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
But their fortunes have fluctuated since then in the League, in contrast to two of their best performances dispensing with Bordeaux and Club Brugge at St James’ Park as they took a significant stride towards qualifying from Group D in the Europa League.
A place in the Knockout Round was confirmed last week when they drew at home to Portuguese side Maritimo, but prior to that, Newcastle had frustrated the passionate Geordie faithful by suffering successive defeats to West Ham United and Swansea City.
With so many key players absent, it then proved to be an unhappy return to St Mary’s for Pardew at the weekend when Southampton climbed out of the Premier League’s relegation zone, and also moved to within three points of Newcastle, with a 2-0 victory.
Newcastle United Fact-File
Full name: Newcastle United Football Club
Stadium: St James’ Park
Owner: Mike Ashley
Managing Director: Derek Llambias
Manager: Alan Pardew
2011/12: Premier League (5th), FA Cup (Fourth Round), League Cup (Fourth Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £15m for Alan Shearer to Blackburn Rovers, July 1996.
Record transfer fee received: £13.4m for Jonathan Woodgate to Real Madrid, August 2004.
Introducing the Gaffer
It's enormously satisfying to prove your doubters wrong . . . something Alan Pardew certainly did in being hailed as the most successful manager in the top-flight of English football last season after guiding Newcastle back into Europe.
Pardew became the first English manager to win both the Premier League Manager of Season and LMA Manager of the Year awards at the same time to crown what had been an outstanding campaign which had exceeded all expectations.
It is now almost two years since the 51-year-old was appointed as successor to Chris Hughton at St James’ Park and his first challenge was to win over the Geordie masses due to the fact that he was not the most popular choice on Tyneside.
Despite the fact that Andy Carroll became the first of several big names to leave the club, Pardew set about rebuilding the squad with some shrewd acquisitions and that formed the basis of a side which was pushing for Champions League qualification until the final few weeks of last season and eventually had to settle for a Europa League spot.
Pardew’s highest achievements in the game include reaching the FA Cup Final twice, as a player for Crystal Palace in 1990 and as manager of West Ham in 2006 when they lost out to Liverpool on penalties.
After a playing career as a combative midfielder which spanned more than 500 League games, he was handed his first opportunity in management at Reading after impressing in two spells when he operated as caretaker boss of the Royals.
Having guided them to promotion glory in his second season in charge, he then moved on to West Ham where he spent three years in charge while he also managed Charlton Athletic and Southampton before his move to the North East.
Stoke City assistant manager Dave Kemp has revealed that the Potters could field an unchanged side for Wednesday night’s Barclays Premier League encounter against Newcastle United at the Britannia Stadium.
Tony Pulis had originally hinted that he could make changes to his starting line-up for the game against the Magpies, but may now opt to retain faith with the same eleven that recorded a 1-0 victory against Fulham on Saturday.
That could mean changes are in store for this weekend’s trip to high-flying West Bromwich Albion, after Kemp confirmed that both Andy Wilkinson and Michael Owen are both expected to be back available for that encounter.
Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers (19:45)
Aston Villa v Reading (20:00)
Chelsea v Fulham (19:45)
Everton v Arsenal (19:45)
Southampton v Norwich City (19:45)
STOKE CITY v NEWCASTLE UNITED (19:45)
Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion (19:45)
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool (19:45)
Manchester United v West Ham United (20:00)
Wigan Athletic v Manchester City (20:00)
Head to Head
League: 22 Stoke City wins; 33 Newcastle United wins; 17 draws
FA Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 5 Newcastle United wins; 2 draws
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 2 Newcastle United wins; 0 draws
Other: 1 Stoke City win; 1 Newcastle United win; 0 draws
TOTAL: 23 Stoke City wins; 41 Newcastle United wins; 19 draws
Last Five Encounters
Newcastle United 3-0 Stoke City (Premier League) – 21/04/2012
Stoke City 1-3 Newcastle United (Premier League) – 31/10/2011
Stoke City 4-0 Newcastle United (Premier League) – 19/03/2011
Newcastle United 1-2 Stoke City (Premier League) – 26/09/2010
Stoke City 1-1 Newcastle United (Premier League) – 11/04/2010
Stoke City win 10/11; Newcastle United win 16/5; draw 12/5
Referee – Howard Webb
Widely-recognised as one of the world’s top referees, Howard Webb’s career hit a high in 2010 when he was chosen to officiate the World Cup Final between Holland and Spain.
In the Premier League this season, the South Yorkshire official has overseen nine games, while also doing three Champions League matches and one World Cup qualifier.
On Saturday he was in action at the DW Stadium as Wigan Athletic beat Reading 3-2.
Wednesday’s game at the Britannia Stadium represents his first Stoke City match of the campaign, while it will be his second Newcastle United game after refereeing their 0-3 defeat to Manchester United last month.
Webb’s last Potters match was the 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City back in March.
So far this season, he has dished out 50 yellow cards and three red cards in all competitions.