Much has been said in the past about 5-year plans for our club, although I’ve never been entirely sure what those plans are. If we look back to when the first 5-year plan was mentioned we must be on about year 4 of it by now, although I rather suspect we’re now on a different 5-year plan than that one. But wherever we are on whichever plan we’re on, we’re a year ahead of it.
“We’re a year ahead of schedule. I didn’t expect us to be as close as we are to those European spots but we’re going to take the chance in front of us if we can.
“That’s football – it doesn’t often put an opportunity in front of you and you’ve got to grasp it. I keep saying to the players that you’ve got an opportunity so grasp it with both hands and that’s what we’re going to do hopefully in the remaining games.
“We are ahead of schedule only because of the players and the application they’ve had. They’re absolutely brilliant. They’re a fantastic set of players and there’s a fantastic camaraderie between them.
“We’ve given them a tactical base but we’re not based around one system. We’ve got two or three systems that we can turn to and the players bind to anything that we put in front of them, which is fantastic. It doesn’t happen often at a football club so I’m very privileged to be working for these players.“
I do remember reading something about top 10 being our aim for this season, so presumably European football was our aim for next season and the fact that we’re in contention for Europe at the moment would mean that we’re a year ahead. I have no idea what year of what plan we’re on though.
Still, I’m not complaining. We’re in with a chance of Europe and will need to be ready for the challenges it brings, challenges that Pardew also has concerns about:
“The format of the Europa League actually works against Premier League teams because of the nature of our division,” said Pardew.
“The intensity you have to have to play in a Premier League game [is a disadvantage]. In some of the other leagues the Europa League isn’t so much of an issue as every game isn’t as fully committed as ours. It’s harder for the Premier League teams but that’s not to say we wouldn’t accept that challenge.
“We really hope for our fans more than anything that we get European football for them.“
What I’m curious about is the rest of the plan, assuming we’re not nearing the end of it. The next step up from the Europa League is the Champions League and Pardew intimated in a recent interview that a cup of some sort was desirable too. It’s harder to ‘plan’ for cups though as it can all go bang and be over with in 90 minutes. Any alleged ‘luck’ should be evened out over the 38 league games in a season though.
It would be interesting to know just how far Ashley, Llambias and Pardew think they can take Newcastle.