WHATEVER the outcome of this uplifting season for Newcastle United, they have already collected one accolade that seemed unlikely in the summer – respect.
United sit fifth in the Premier League as they hit the home strait of a fantastic campaign but still have significant hurdles to overcome if they are to reach their new goal of qualifying for Europe.
The task might be even trickier because opposition teams are now buying into the idea that United are a force to be reckoned with, according to Alan Pardew.
“I have noticed a different attitude towards us,” the United boss said.
“There is a definite feeling of ‘This is a good side we are playing against, we have to be on it’. Spurs were very much there, you could sense that.
“They came out to show us. They know we are a good team and they were going to try to rip into us but I think other teams who have not got the power of Spurs are going to come and be resilient against us.
“Wolves will be that and I expect the game after (Sunderland) to be like that. So we have to make sure we are good enough to find a way through and not be exposed to the break.
“It is a compliment but I think you would look at us and say we have some match winners and if you have match winners in your team, you have to be on your guard.
If the upshot of their fine form has been respect, it hasn’t necessarily been followed by heightened expectation. Newcastle supporters have bought into the project and while they might still believe United should beat most at St James’ Park, there is a recognition that this team needs their backing when things aren’t going to plan.
“I don’t think (they will put too much expectation on the team). Their expectation is to win. I have no problem with that but when things go poorly their reaction has been good – trying to lift us, trying to support us – and that has been important.”
Home form is key to United’s tilt for Continental competition. Since a narrow defeat to West Brom they have won four of their last four – and will hope that is a positive omen with four of their next six on their own patch.
“Our home form has been strong, the fans have been brilliant and not made us nervous. They have been on-side every game and that is reflected (with results).
“Papiss and Demba coming back for Villa was a big bonus for us because that was a tough game. But my focus this week has been on Tottenham and making sure we put that into context because even with my best team I think on that particular day, they would have beaten us.
“Perhaps we should walk away from it rather than dwell on the scoreline and the performance we put in.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Taylor returns tomorrow with Pardew praising him as one of his most important players. Even “iconic”, the boss admits.
“He has become that to a degree,” he said.
“In the eyes of the fans he has – it helped with that goal at Sunderland of course. But you can see with him, there’s that confidence that perhaps only comes from performing well in the first-team.
“You can have a disguised kind of confidence as a player on the training ground but you can tell he has (real) confidence in and around his game.”