Alan Pardew believes his Newcastle United team is stronger than the side that finished fifth the season before last.
But the United boss knows that achieving that lofty finish is going to be harder than ever after a summer of spending by the Premier League’s middleweights. “When you look at the teams now and the money that’s being spent, you have to be honest and say it’s going to be difficult replicating that fifth-place finish. But our ambition must be to try to do that,” said Pardew.
“Demba (Ba) went to Chelsea, and that was a big blow for us last year. I think the fact that we never really replaced him got missed a little bit.
“We brought in (Yoan) Gouffran, but we weren’t really able to replace Demba like for like. If I can replace Demba into this team, I think this team is stronger than the one that finished fifth. But I think the task of finishing in the top five is more difficult for us because of the growth of some of the other clubs who were just below us.
“In particular, Liverpool and Spurs have spent a lot of money, and other clubs such as Swansea and Southampton have coordinated their financial strength really well.
“You look at a club like Southampton, and they’re in a much stronger financial position than us in terms of purchasing players. Even though my team might be slightly stronger on paper once we replace Demba – team and squad – it’ll be even more difficult to get fifth.”
Pardew knows that he has to win round supporters again after last season’s disappointing finish but feels fans might actually have been impressed with his conduct when the season became a struggle.
“I’m very proud to be manager of this club, and I don’t say that lightly,” he said. “There’s so many things that excite me about being here.
“When things have happened in the past and you might question certain things that have gone on, the overriding strength of this club is that I know I am the manager of a very big club, I think one of the biggest in the Premier League. Therefore, my vision and my philosophy must be to bring success, and I must drive that regardless of what obstacles get in my way.
“If there’s an obstacle in my way, I just have to jump over it. I think I’m the second longest serving Premier League manager, and longest serving manager at this club since Sir Bobby Robson. I’ve kind of earned my spurs, and sometimes in adversity I think the fans admire you more. I like to think last year I didn’t buckle and wasn’t negative about the players, the fans or the club.
“I just got us over the line, and I think that was very important last year. I’m hoping I’ll get the rewards of that this year. I like to think the fans understood I was honest and respectful when we finished fifth, and when we finished 16th.”