NEWCASTLE United’s push for a Champions League place is proof that the “good times are back” at St James’ Park, according to influential goalkeeper Tim Krul.
United entertain Bolton today looking for a fifth successive victory which would maintain the pressure on capital trio Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
It has been an incredible achievement on the part of Alan Pardew and his team but Krul insists it is no fluke, and that they should be looking to the top six every year.
A smart recruitment policy, a healthy bank balance and a squad in which most of the bigger personalities are tied down on long-term contracts feels like a recipe for long-term success. But in the short-term, Krul and his team-mates have the belief to clinch a return to Europe, one way or another.
“It’s incredible. We set a target to win the last seven of our last ten games of the season and we’ve already won four of them,” he said. “It’s really incredible. The good times are back at Newcastle – the message now is to just keep believing. Bolton at home on Monday is a big opportunity but it’s about taking it one game at a time.
“We have to believe in Champions League qualification and just win our games. Bolton is the first one but we have Stoke at home as well, those are the games we have to win to keep the pressure on the top four or five.
“Maybe we can sneak in but we have to take it game by game.”
United have clearly been buoyed by the form of Papiss Demba Cisse, who has scored a barely credible seven goals in his last four games for Newcastle.
He even won the Barcelona seal of approval after Friday’s brace, with Cesc Fabregas tweeting his admiration for the Senegalese striker’s second goal at Swansea.
Krul says that superb form is no surprise to Newcastle players who have seen the forward turn on the style in training too. “He is scoring everything at the moment,” he said. “In training on Thursday he chipped Rob Elliot from 40 metres. He’s on fire and what a player to have bought.”
While dangerous up front, Newcastle have also rediscovered the knack of keeping clean sheets. Friday was their third shut out in four games, and it was only a consolation goal at West Brom that prevented them from a full quarter.
Those performances have been all the more impressive because Fabricio Coloccini has been missing for the last two games. James Perch was outstanding once again on Friday.
Krul explained: “It’s down to team spirit. Everyone is willing to work for each other. Last week the front boys were outstanding, on Friday Papiss was outstanding again and we were solid at the back.
“We knew they would come at us so the game play was to let them do that and hit them on the counter-attack. The whole defence has been great, with Jonas doing a job on the left when he’s had to.
“On Friday the boys at the back did their job. They cut out what could have been some tricky through passes. There were a couple of swerving shots but I was happy to take the three-points and the clean sheet.”
Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Coloccini are all major doubts for Bolton but Demba Ba will continue up front. The striker took to Twitter on Friday night to bat back suggestions that he was unhappy with his new role, a prospect raised by TV cameras picking him up not celebrating on the bench when Cisse scored his second.
Defeat of Bolton is now essential – but Krul expects anything but an easy match.
He said: “They’re playing well. We were comfortable away from home but it’s a different game, a different atmosphere and the pressure is on us to get the three points.