ALAN Pardew was left ruing absent friends as Newcastle United finished their season with three home defeats.
A disappointing season over, his next priority will be making sure Fabricio Coloccini is not another he has to do without next term.
The Magpies manager blamed a lack of depth for yesterday’s 1-0 defeat to Arsenal and claimed it was symptomatic of a season in which he admitted the fans had been let down.
Theo Walcott hit the post in added time but, that and Laurent Koscielny’s goal apart, Champions League qualifiers Arsenal did little to trouble Steve Harper on his last appearance for Newcastle.
That only added to the sense of frustration after a season which saw Newcastle finish 16th.
Pardew said: “In terms of the season we know we should have done better. If you were an outsider at this game you could not see there were 12 places between the two teams.
“It is obvious the Europa League campaign – which we did terrificly in, we went out to a very good Benfica side – the Thursday to Sunday schedule of matches, that hurt us.
“Next year we will not have that pressure so we can go week to week in the Premier League.
“We will not be foolish to think we do not have issues to sort out. Not major issues, but we need to add one or two players to offer a different look.
“It’s been the toughest season in terms of workload I have had (as a manager) because of the Europa League campaign and the stress it has had on the squad, the staff.
“If we had (Moussa) Sissoko or Shola (Ameobi) to come off the bench that would have helped, but that has been our season.
“We have had too many big players missing.
“We had seven different centre-half partnerships this year.
“When we finished fifth (a year earlier), the team hardly changed.”
While Newcastle knew it would be Harper’s final game for the club – his contract expires this summer – there is uncertainty over the long-term future of Coloccini.
United’s Argentinian captain has made it clear he would like to return to his homeland for “personal reasons.”
However, having held him to his contract in January, the Magpies hope to persuade him to come back for another season.
As the players did a “lap of appreciation” around St James’ Park at the final whistle Coloccini’s name was sung lustily by supporters either saying goodbyes or hoping to convince him to stay.
Pardew reitereated: “Colo is someone we want to stay. He is very important.
“It’s not a business decision, a contractual decision, it is a personal decision and that lies with Colo.
“I am very confident I will be here, I love being the manger here and I will be speaking to Derek (Lambias, the managing director) and Mike (Ashley, the owner) to make sure we get a response next season.”
There have been no such concerns over Harper, who is reluctantly leaving after 20 years with the club.
He was given a standing ovation by supporters in the 37th minute – 37 is his squad number – and typically his last act as a Newcastle player was to remind his team-mates of their obligations to the crowd.
Pardew said: “We paid our own tribute to him in the dressing room. He spoke very well.
“I want to highlight the importance of the fans here.
“They have been magnificent for us after the season we have had. In the 20 years he has been here, he has touched on that.
“We are very lucky to have fans like that.
“We owe them a debt next year to serve up a better standard of football and results.”