ALAN Pardew is doing a “fantastic job” as manager of Newcastle, according to former United favourite Chris Waddle.
But with Champions League spots, and more realistically a top-eight finish, up for grabs this season, Waddle believes the Magpies manager must build on a fine start to the campaign by strengthening his squad in January.
Newcastle go into Saturday’s home clash with Chelsea fourth in the Premier League after 13 games.
That has surprised some – including Waddle.
But the ex-England international insists United are benefiting from a recruitment policy which foregoes “star players and household names” in favour of constructing a good squad knitting together and playing well.
Now, Waddle says, sustaining their early-season form simply requires an addition or two when the transfer window re-opens.
“Alan’s come in and probably thought ‘I’m not the public’s choice’, but he’s rolled his sleeves up and got on with it, and now he’s getting his rewards,” Waddle said.
“You’re starting to hear the fans sing ‘Alan Pardew’s black and white army’.
“He’s done a fantastic job. He’s recruited really well, he’s got a good squad there now.
“Whatever the background was to letting people like Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton leave, and Andy Carroll went last January, to lose players like that was massive.
“But although they’re not household names, he’s brought good players in and they’ve surprised people.
“For example, Demba Ba wouldn’t have been my choice. You’re looking for out-and-out goalscorers, which they needed.
“But Demba Ba? Well he’s proved me wrong and scored goals.
“Leon Best has also done well
since he got in the team, he works hard. They allow him to play 4-5-1 if he wants.
“(Gabriel) Obertan has obviously got a good pedigree and was well-respected in France as a young player. It didn’t happen for him at Manchester United.
“And Yohan Cabaye has been a great signing, he’s a good player. I was told about him two years ago.
“Newcastle got him and a lot of people said ‘Who’s he?’. But he’s fitted in well. It’s very easy on football to turn around and, if Alan had had a bad start, say ‘What do you expect signing these players?’.
“But the players have gelled. There’s not a star player and I think that’s working in their favour.
“You need a good changing room, players willing to run an extra ten yards. You can have a lot of egos but you need the players to be together.
“They play at a good tempo, Newcastle. They’re well-organised, they get it down and play. They’ve knitted, and they believe in what Alan’s telling them – that if they work hard, move and pass the ball, and entertain, the fans will love it.”
However, Waddle still sees room for improvement as far as the current Magpies squad goes.
He added: “At the minute, they’ve got the package right, they’ve just got to sustain it, and in January you’ve got to strengthen.
“He might say ‘This squad could take me to the end of the season’, but then again, you look and think ‘Can we be greedy here?’. Chelsea are stuttering, Arsenal are not the team they were either.
“Tottenham are playing well and Liverpool are decent, so you do think third or fourth at times are up for grabs, if you can just add to it.
“Realistically though, if they finish eighth, ninth, 10th, they’ll have had a fantastic season.”
l CHRIS Waddle was a guest of England sponsors Vauxhall, speaking to employees at a ‘Question and Answer’ session on North Tyneside.