Alan Pardew adamant nobody wanted Newcastle in their group and has three reasons why
Newcastle United will play in the Champions League this week for the first time in more than 20 years.
It’s been a long and bumpy road to get to this point for the Magpies, but the excitement levels on Tyneside are through the roof as they prepare to face AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund.
And as the first game against Milan at the San Siro approaches, the last manager to take Newcastle on a European journey, Alan Pardew, has been reflecting on the Toon’s upcoming Champions League campaign.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT.com, he said: “They were never going to get an easy group because they were in pot four.
“These games are going to be very high profile against teams that are a lot more established and have a lot more experience than Newcastle.
“But Newcastle were the one team in pot four that nobody wanted, trust me.
“The power of the new ownership, Eddie Howe’s leadership and a great team is a powerful combination.
“I think the fans will carry them, particularly the home games.
“They need to get one draw away because, at home, those other teams are going to find it an experience.”
Pardew spent just over four years on Tyneside and saw the best of St James’ Park on those few European nights.
Most read in Champions League
And he shares the exhilaration of Newcastle supporters up and down the country as the Magpies rejoin Europe’s elite.
“I am so excited for them, and I think they will qualify [for the knockout stage].
“They’ve had a few defeats, but I don’t think it reflects on the quality of the team.”
The ex-West Ham boss led the Magpies to fifth during the 2011/12 season, which saw the Toon qualify for the Europa League.
Newcastle made it to the quarter-finals only to be knocked out by Benfica after a brave display, while in the league, they finished 16th, with the squad stretched to its limit.
But those nights were special.
“It was a great experience, and all the dynamics of travelling and playing games every few days were all new to us.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know the players did.
“The fans embraced it.
“There was some animosity towards the ownership when I was there, so that was a bit different, but you didn’t sense that, particularly against Anzi Makhachalaka when Papiss Cisse scored a 90th-minute winner – that was a fantastic night, and then Benfica was a fabulous night, but we couldn’t get that second goal.
“But they were great nights for the football club.”
Those evenings are the only taste of European action that some Newcastle fans have ever experienced.
However, the club’s Premier League form suffered due to the increased matches, and Pardew has a warning for current boss Howe.
“He’s going to experience it, and he’s going to have to learn quickly, and unfortunately, after that European game, usually you are getting a lot of bad news.
“The increased games create all of these dilemmas of whether to play people at the weekend, and you knew that if they played and got injured, you would be kicking yourself.
“You are under pressure to play your best team in the Premier League and Europe, which is very difficult.
“You don’t get a lot of time on the training ground, which is frustrating because you can’t do the work that you would like.”
Newcastle head into their Champions League campaign off the back of a 1-0 win over Brentford, but it hasn’t been the greatest start to the season.
And Pardew has some words of advice for his fellow Englishman.
“When we finished fifth, a couple of senior managers rang to warn me it was going to be very difficult to replicate.
“And I think that’s very similar to where Eddie sits because there can be pressure from outside sources.
“But I don’t think his job is under threat by any stretch of the imagination.”
But despite a slowish start and possible pressure, Pardew still anticipates a brilliant season for Newcastle.
“I still think they are a top-four club, even with those defeats.”
Pardew’s time on Tyneside had its ups and downs, but he provided some of the greatest moments of the Mike Ashley era, and he’s clearly excited to see the Magpies back among Europe’s elite.