Newcastle United's European adventure: How do we manage it?
After making the Europa League on the back of last season's successful performance in the Premier League, Newcastle are now faced with the stark reality of a minimum of six group games in Europe's second club competition.
All of the Toon Army were up and about after qualifying for Europe for the first time since the 2006/07 season, but now we have been tasked with managing our already thin squad. We also face cup fixtures this year, as well so providing a fine balance between first teamers having a run and giving the new blood a go. This is manager Alan Pardew's ultimate litmus test for season.
After drawing 0-0 against Maritimo in the picturesque island of Madeira, we got a brief glimpse into how the gaffer will handle European competition this year. While it has been no secret to the rest of the English football that we have been short of defenders this season, Pardew opted to played the same back four as the one that faced Everton in one of the most dramatic Premier League fixtures to date.
Besides keeping our defence relatively stable, he opted to completely revolutionise the squad and left every big name back in the north-east. Guys like Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were replaced by lone striker and Toon legend Shola Ameobi. We also saw the likes of young gun Gael Bigirimana come in to fill the spots of first team players such as Yohan Cabaye and Chieck Tiote.
Another battle for game time will come in the goalkeeping ranks with Tim Krul on the sidelines for a couple of weeks yet. In this particular clash, Rob Elliott was handed a debut opposed to second choice keeper and Newcastle veteran Steve Harper.
While the draw was a fairly good result away from home, Newcastle probably should have taken the points with Ameobi hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions. Keen observers of the Toon were left buoyant with the man of the match performance of Bigirimana. But what will Pardew do in the next European match against French giants, Bordeaux?
Judging from various snippets from press conferences, the gaffer has placed complete faith in our reserves to get the job done when required. Over the course of the season and as the young lads get tired, Pardew and assistant John Carver may opt to hand matches to the likes of Adam Campbell and the Aussie pair of Brad Inman and new recruit Curtis Good. They have been setting the reserves alight and wouldn't surprise me if they saw game time sooner rather than later.
With league and cup matches coming up, the other Premier League giants opt to give young players the chance in the first team and it wouldn't surprise me if we go down the same path. The next fixture with group leaders Bordeaux at home should provide a much tougher task and I suspect we will field a much stronger side including the likes of Tiote and Coloccini who have been out for a fair few weeks now.
It will be up to the manager to manage our players and if successful, it could provide a platform for the Toon to succeed both in their European adventure as well as the domestic competition.
If Pardew thought last season was hard, he hasn't seen anything yet!
Article by Laurence Rosen
Calling all Newcastle fans: What do you think Pardew should do in the Europa League? Would you like him to go all out to win it, or would you prefer it if he put it on the back burner and concentrated on qualifying for the Champions League? Do Newcastle have a squad capable of dealing with domestic and European matters? Do you have confidence in the fringe players to get the job done in Europe? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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