Newcastle United were no doubt the surprise package in the Premier League last season.
Under Alan Pardew they finished fifth in the English top flight, but for the majority of the season the Toon looked likely to clinch a Champions League spot.
I don’t think many people could have predicted the season that Newcastle have just had.
Not even the most optimistic Geordie would have expected Pardews charges to be challenging for the top four in the Premier League.
Yet, somehow they managed to stay up there for most of the season and finished in a very respectable fifth place in the Premier League, to earn themselves a place in the Europa League.
Alan Pardew has not always been my favourite manager. He has always talked a good game but for me his ego was bigger than his actual managerial talent. However, my opinion of him has greatly improved in the last 12 months.
He is finally showing something worthy of being big-headed about. He is finally showing that he does have managerial talent, that he can bring the best out of players. At times he struggled to show those jobs in his previous positions.
Now I do believe he has something to shout about. However, his rising reputation will shrink as quickly as it rose if Newcastle are a one-season wonder and struggle next season.
Newcastle United have done some sterling work in the transfer market in the last year. They have been by far the shrewdest Premier League club in the transfer market when it’s came to picking up top-class players at reasonable prices.
Their head scout Graham Carr deserves a lot of credit , but so does boss Pardew. The likes of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have all proved sensational buys.
Prior to Cisse arriving in England, I saw a bit of the Senegal international playing in the Bundesliga and thought he would be a great signing for a Premier League team. I wondered why teams hadn’t came in for him. Maybe teams thought he wouldn’t adapt to the Premier League.
Fair play to Newcastle they paid Freiburg £9million and took a slight risk on the striker. That risk paid off and the Toon reaped the rewards in the second half of the season as Cisse fired home 13 goals in just 14 appearances.
It is vital for Newcastle strengthen their squad for next season, if they are to sustain a place in the top six of the Premier League. The Magpies have already been linked with a host of targets this summer.
One of those targets Dutch international Luuk De Jong looks set for a move to Monchengladbach, after FC Twente demanded £16million for the striker. The highly-rated youngster was prolific in the Eredivisie last season, but Newcastle baulked at his price tag and seem to have turned their attention elsewhere.
However, Newcastle look to be in pole position to sign French international full-back Mathieu Debuchy from Lille. The 26 year-old has already expressed his desire to leave the French club and it looks likely that a deal in the region of £7million will be agreed.
Debuchy could be yet another stellar signing for the Magpies. Debuchy impressed for France at Euro 2012 and is an international teammate of Yohan Cabaye for Les Bleus.
Another possible arrival is former-Geordie hero Andy Carroll. The striker made a £35million move to Liverpool just over 18 months ago but has struggled to adapt to life with the Reds. According to Sky Sports Liverpool have already turned down a loan bid for Carroll from the Magpies.
However, it does seem that the big striker is surplus to requirements at Anfield and could be on the move this summer. West Ham and AC Milan have also been linked with a move for Carroll. Should Newcastle be able to get Carroll back I think it will be another great piece of business by the club.
Last season the club set foundations for a brighter future. Newcastle United have the potential to be one of the biggest clubs in Britain. They have the fans, the stadium and they have the making of a superb team on the pitch.
Newcastle aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and I’m sure the Magpies will be up there fighting for a place in the top six of the Premier League, if not the top four next season.
Can Newcastle make the Champions League spots next season?