Toon’s Season of Wonder
So now that the dust has settled on our second season back in the Barclay’s Premier League, we can look back, take a deep breath and say “howay the lads!” what a season it was! Let’s be honest; even the most optimistic of fans weren’t hoping for much from Alan Pardew’s first full season in charge. Carroll had gone in the January of the season before and our skipper and talisman Kevin Nolan was allowed to leave for West Ham in the 2011/12 pre-season, and then a few games in to the season and after a diabolical bit of play-acting against Arsenal, Joey Barton was on his way to QPR (and back out again, by the looks of things). Demba Ba had come in on a free from West Ham as our new permanent replacement for Carroll. While it didn’t seem a bad signing, Ba had hardly set the Premier League alight as the Hammers were relegated the season before. Nolan’s replacement was the unheard of Yohan Cabaye, a French youth international from Lille. The only other notable signings were Davide Santon, £5m from Inter and the seemingly average Gabriel Obertan from Man Utd for £3.25m. Little did we know in August last year how good these signings were going to be – and the best signing was yet to come!
With Cabaye proving to be the best all-round midfielder that we have had for some time and Demba scoring goals for fun, we managed to start the season with an 11 game unbeaten run. Okay, so apart from the Arsenal game, our fixtures were kind but we still managed wins away at Stoke, Wolves and the Mackems (1-0) and a key 2-2 draw against Spurs at St. James’ (it was still called that then). From the November 5th our form dipped, we only managed 5 wins in 14 games, but no matter, we were still well in the hunt for a Europa League spot, even daring to dream of the Champion’s League!
Then on the 17-01-2012 in came the new number 9, Papiss Cissé, £8m from SC Freiburg. It turned out that old poker faced Pardew had found the best striker we’ve had since Shearer. 13 goals in 13 games for Papiss (including THAT goal at Chelsea) helped us to 7 wins in our final 10 games and a miracle 5th place finish! An unbelievable achievement for everyone involved.
Anyone else thinking more of the same next season? Maybe Champion’s League qualification? I wouldn’t write us off!
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