Football has seen some shocking turnarounds in its history - Wigan staying in the league after so many near misses, Arsenal falling apart last season, Liverpool yo-yoing between mid table mediocrity and nearly winning the title are just a few examples. Right up there, though, is what has happened during 2014, and most importantly, the last month or so.
Since the sale of Yohan Cabaye back in January, Newcastle United hit somewhat of a slump. With the first half of last season, they looked ready to replicate their European ambitions and were on course with having a 70+ points season. However, with the sale of their key playmaker, everything went wrong for the Geordies. During the period of January-October 2014, Newcastle only picked up five wins in the league; now they have four in the last month. The big question that everyone is asking is: what has changed?
To be quite honest, it’s hard to place a reason as to why Newcastle’s form has picked up. One scrappy win against Leicester seemingly transformed a side that looked dangerously close to giving up, along with its fan base. Following that 1-0 win, Newcastle have picked up wins away at Manchester City in the Capital One Cup and Spurs in the league, while nabbing a win in a largely nervy display at home to Liverpool. On top of that, the same team who conceded four goals against Southampton and three against Crystal Palace has now somehow managed to concede just one goal in five games.
The biggest change in the squad is that Pardew has actually expanded and is now using some of his youth squad. The inclusion of the likes of Sammy Ameobi, Rolando Aarons, Ayoze Perez, Mehdi Abeid and Paul Dummett has seemingly given Newcastle a skip in their step. The speed at which Newcastle have been able to counter attack has been improving with these additions too. Also, cutting the deadwood out of the first team has been good for the squad. Perez started the season fourth in line to the sole striking position, behind Emmanuel Riviere, Papiss Cisse and the missing man Facundo Ferreyra; not only has he managed to start a few games due to injuries to the people above him in the list, but he has been proving why he was apparently courted by Real Madrid and Barcelona during the summer.
But do not be fooled if you think that Pardew is now safe from all his wrongdoing over the course of 2014. The Toon Army are easy to win around if you get a few good games in your back pocket, but once things start to slide again, Pardew could be public enemy number one again. The chants and signs of Pardew out are now a thing of the past, but the Christmas period looks like it is going to be a tricky one for Newcastle. Consecutive games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Sunderland, Manchester United and Everton could easily see Newcastle slip back into their slump and start falling down the table again. The Sunderland game is one Pardew can absolutely not afford to lose.
The thing with Newcastle fans is that they will be on your side if you turn up and produce a spirited performance. Sure, if you lose 4-3 to Burnley, they’re going to be rightly annoyed, but most of the time, a hard working performance with some decent chances will leave the Geordie faithful at least somewhat happy. Newcastle have lacked that over 2014. Unsurprisingly, Newcastle would remind you of the French national team - great when they're winning, but as soon as things turn against them, their heads fall and they just do not seem to care. If Pardew is going to last the 14/15 season, he needs to be able to pick up their mood even if things do not go their way.