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"Alan Pardew has earned respect. He leads by example" - A Newcastle fan offers his views on the club ahead of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign

NEWCASTLE UNITED
FAN: Michael Martin
WEBSITE: True-Faith.co.uk

The target: Europe once more

I'd hope we can finish in the top eight in the Premier League. That will be achieved if we continue to beat the teams around us and that was done with a superb work-rate. Obviously it was great to see us beat Manchester United at home and Chelsea away but its putting away the likes of Wigan, Villa and Sunderland that is the bread and butter.

I'd hope we see some of the great football we saw last season again next season with the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa all benefiting from a season at the club. It would be great to have a good run in the Europa League though we have to concede this competition is a poisoned chalice.

It's exciting to be in Europe again but the format of the Europa League is simply insane. The football accountants hardly get excited by it either. We've been told the Premier League is the priority. As we know we won't win the title we are more or less going into the season with a game plan not to win anything but earn as much money as we can from the Premier League. This is modern football.

My thoughts on the gaffer...

We all had huge doubts when he was appointed. I don't recall anyone saying he was a great appointment. Not even him. But he has earned respect. He leads by example. He takes responsibility when things go awry and he shares the praise when it goes right. That's the mark of good leadership in my opinion.

He has a fantastic eye for detail, plans meticulously and he has developed a fantastic team spirit at every level of the club. Newcastle United is a very happy ship. He is very astute tactically and communicates well with the fans. He benefited last season from a very low set of expectations.

They have now been raised amongst supporters but they aren't unrealistic. The bar has been raised and the whole club has to up it's game to maintain forward momentum.

Our key man this season

Fabricio Coloccini. He is our Capitano, the most important player at United in my opinion. An absolutely fantastic defender but also sets the mood on the pitch.

He is a great organiser and fantastic player - I'd weep like a baby girl if we sold him.


Youngster to watch

Could be one of several. Sammy Ameobi has looked promising in pre-season but this is a big campaign for Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and possibly even James Tavernier.

We have signed Gael Bigirimana from Coventry who could be a big deal soon.


A player who must deliver

Gabriel Obertan has his critics last season and now has a season under his belt so should have improved.

Dan Gosling has had problems with injuries but has to do the business sooner rather than later.

Our Achilles' heel

We don't have a time-served left-back on the books and haven't since Jose Enrique did the dirty to Liverpool. Davide Santon has potential but he's right-sided and call me old fashioned but I like players on their natural sides. It seems all the rage to have them on their opposite sides though.

We don't have enough strength in depth at centre-back and didn't all last season. We've let Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands leave which means we have two and half strikers in Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi (who can't play full games and is an impact sub these days).

We haven't signed a player who can come into the first team. We have lost Best, Lovenkrands, Danny Guthrie and Alan Smith and made a packet in TV money and have an improved shirt deal. The dosh should be there to strengthen and I hope we will because as things stand we are weaker than we were last season.

Fixture I am looking forward to the most...

Several, really. Fulham away at Craven Cottage is one of the best days out for the away fan.

Our toughest opponents will be...

Spurs demolished us at White Hart Lane last season and gave us a good game in the draw at St James' Park. I thought they were the best side we played last season but obviously they weren't the best side in the league. Whether or not Andre Villas-Boas will maintain that level remains to be seen.

Player we love to hate

Robin van Persie made a bit of a fool of himself at Arsenal last season so he might get some stick at St James' Park next season. He's such a good player but made an idiot of himself.

Lee Cattermole is the comedy gold hard man Sunderland always feel as though they need to have in their side. I think he'll be something of a target next season when we play our simple cousins from down the road.

Rival player we'd have in our team

I think Vincent Kompany is a magnificent defender and I'd love him in a black and white shirt but Yaya Toure would get us into the Champions League. What a player that lad is.

My first choice XI

KRUL

SIMPSON COLOCCINI
S.TAYLOR SANTON

GUTIERREZ
TIOTE CABAYE

BEN ARFA
CISSE BA

My verdict

The Premier League can only be bought nowadays. Its a straight fight between a Russian and an Arab.

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