ALAN Pardew believes Newcastle United will improve next season after pledging to learn the lessons from his Magpies’ scrape with relegation.
Ten-man Newcastle’s defeat of QPR means that they have done enough to stay in the top flight next season despite a fractious and frustrating season that threatened over the last few weeks to leave them fretting until the last day.
Indeed Newcastle could even secure a top-ten finish if they beat Arsenal and results go their way on the final day – a remarkable reflection of a season that has seen half of the Premier League involved in the battle at the bottom.
Mike Ashley looked on at Loftus Road as Newcastle earned the three points to secure a slice of the unprecedented TV booty next season – and keep his own plans for the club on track.
With Premier League status in the bag thanks to Hatem Ben Arfa’s penalty and an opportunistic Yoan Gouffran strike, a satisfied Pardew was left to reflect on the lessons learned from a tough campaign.
He said: “I’m very pleased. It was an important game for this football club, a very important game, particularly this year with the extra finance of staying in the Premier League. It’s massive for the city and for North East football that
we’re a Premier League team.” Pardew predicted his team would perform better in front of their own fans this weekend after admitting they have played with a “noose around their necks” at times in recent weeks.
But the longer-term lessons are also to be digested in the coming weeks. “For us that Europa League is an experience that we’ll be better for. We can take that from this season,” he said.
“It was my first campaign in Europe and I think I made errors – especially at the start, maybe chopping the team too much.
“We got injuries in that competition and we’ll be better for that if we get in there in a couple of years time.
“The overriding emotion that I have is that we didn’t have enough quality in depth. If I could put my first XI out every week at this football club I think I’d have a top-eight team, I really do.
“But I’ve put it out in my opinion, three times. So therefore if we’re going to say ‘OK, maybe a few of our players can’t play a full season – you can’t put it out every week’ we need more strength-in-depth.
“That area we’ve worked hard on. In the last six months we’ve loaned out our young players so that they progress a bit quicker.
“We’ve looked to some of our players in terms of giving them extra work to try and improve them and that’s what you can do. You’ve got to try and improve that section below. That’s cost us a lot of points this year.”
Pardew spoke of the galvanising effect of reports of a rift in the camp and denied it was his most difficult season as a manager.
“I’ve had tougher years,” he said. “At Charlton I had a year where the team wasn’t functioning well and we bought players who weren’t good enough.”
But he admitted: “Managing a big club like this isn’t easy, trust me. I’ve worked twice as hard this year with half the reward.
“I will look at myself, look at my staff and make sure we’re better prepared for what is ahead.
“The fact we’re not in the Europa League – and god willing we don’t get in on the Fair Play award – we can have a good run at the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Pardew said it was “fitting” that Steve Harper will play against Arsenal, likely to be his final game for Newcastle.
“He strolled on with such confidence because he’s been here so many years and he’s seen it all before,” Pardew said.
“It’s brilliant, and it’s strange the way it’s worked out. He’s a great person. He’ll definitely play because we can’t appeal the two yellows, and for Harps it will be a special occasion.”