Date: 7th August 2011 at 2:19pm
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The pre-season preparations have drawn to a close with an abandoned match against Fiorentina. How well prepared are NUFC for the coming season?

It seems fair to say that a lot of eyes, if not all, were on Newcastle United during the summer. Armed with the Carrol cash and looking forward to consolidating the Premier League place, great things were expected of the new Newcastle, at least by the supporters who had not already been driven to scepticism.

The pre-season matches seem tom be a good place to start. 2 years ago, a squad was bonded after a defeat at Leyton Orient. The emergence of a team to secure the first ever top flight return at the first attempt is history, if not legend. Hughton and the lads did us proud, if pride can come from a relegation.

Pardew seems to have set about his first full campaign in the same vein, seeking to engender the same sort of spirit. He has done a sterling job in achieving the same sort of humbling defeats against former Champions League contenders Leeds United and potential world leaders in the next millennium, Orlando City.

Undoubtedly, the famous wins went against the plan, showing the tremendous spirit that the new manager has built up. Nobody can question the fantastic performance against Darlington, the team that finished 7th in the Conference National last time round. The opening goal was down to Joey Barton, more of who will come later. Columbus Crew have certainly earned their place in the highest echelon of the mighty USA.

On the plus side, after the States trip, the squad have enough air miles to be able to take on the rest of Europe at minimal cost in a couple of years, assuming that Pardew can reproduce his Johnstone`s Paint pot triumph with Southampton at a higher level.

2 goals have come from strikers, the two Ameobis, in 5 games. The most promising player has been a teenage prospect. Who knows if the unprolific Alan Smith will return to the number 9 role?

Key to the positive aspects of the pre-season is the transfer activity. Newcastle United have expanded into the continent. There are several new signings that demonstrate we are capable of raiding the continent, Pardew having a certain Henry V quality. Marveaux, Ba, Cabaye and Abeid have already made it to SJP. Allegedly, the new Obafemi Martins, or Obertan is set to follow. This season france, who knows, maybe next season, further afield, Belgium and Luxemburg might provide the quality for the future.

Of the outgoing in the last two windows, there is nobody to be missed. Nolan was last season`s top scorer, Carrol was before he was sold. Kuqi and Campbell have yet to be replaced, the former of which Pardew repeatedly highlighted for his character in training. Barton`s future is to be decided whilst Pards seems to have given up on Enrique.

The manager has gone on record to disparage Enrique as wanting to leave despite a “fantastic” contract offer. According to the player, now established as one of the top flight`s best left backs, he has been offered the same terms as he was when he was a promising 21 year old. Since the club have not refuted that claim, it can only be assumed that Jose has been fined 2 weeks wages for telling the truth, having no right of reply to the regime`s disparaging remarks.

The other contract rebel is Joey Barton. Barton apparently refused, according to the club, a contract extension that he was not offered. Joey has also highlighted the lack of ambition within the club, a total misapprehension on his part since at least £2m of the Carrol cash has yet to be spent, along with last season`s profit and projected earnings from the next season which is what most Premier League clubs look at.

Pardew himself is surely not the issue. After all, at his initial conference he did state that he had assurances from the board that Carrol would not be sold. Despite the reputations of Ashley and Llambias, he secured further assurances, namely that he could spend the Carrol cash.

We have to admire Pardew`s determination. He resolved to keep the club`s best players, even apart from Carrol. Top score Nolan, top creator Barton, we all know what has happened to them.

Adding a note of reality, Pardew did point out that we can not compete with the big clubs. It has to be appreciated that Newcastle United are only the 3rd best supported club in England.

Those big clubs obviously include the only top flight Welsh club Swansea, who retained the services of their left back, Neil Taylor. 2nd division West Ham were able to offer better terms for our top scorer. Neighbours, Sunderland were able to attract the likes of Seb Larsson.

Most recently, Pardew seems to have accepted his fate, that there are other ambitious clubs. Newcastle United will not be competing at the top whilst Mike Ashley owns the club. Investment doesn`t fit in with the strategy.

So there we have it. In pre-season, the first team squad was literally an ocean apart. The most notable performers seem to be gone or going. Every assurance that Pardew has been given by his bosses has been contradicted by their actions. The manager himself has publicly stated that promises have been broken.

At the moment, the club looks like a laughing stock. Let`s hope the supporters have the last laugh with some notable signings in the next 3 weeks. More than likely, it will be Ashley laughing all the way to the bank as he pockets the Carrol money on top of operating profit from last season and the one to come.