1 match left, and this competition is still in play. Excellent season, lads.
Two days away from Everton and Newcastle are featuring in a lot of the discussion for "Survival Sunday"... but for all the right reasons this time. Newcastle are still in with a shout for Champions League qualification heading into their match at Goodison Park with 3rd and 4th place finishes both within the realm of possibility. Qualifying for Europe this season, Alan Pardew will remind us, has us at least a year ahead of the club's internal schedule, but now the stakes are measured in £... millions of them. With two losses in the run in at the end of the season we no longer control our own destiny, but if we win at Everton we'll have done all we can and the chips will fall where they may.
Ben Arfa will take on Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday buoyed by his first France call-up in almost two years. And the 25-year-old’s hoping to shoot the club into the Champions League on the final day of the campaign, with the club needing a win to have any chance of ending the season in the top four of the Premier League.
There is some reminiscing about Hatem Ben Arfa's marvelous strike at Goodison Park last year to open his Newcastle United goal account. For your convenience, I have tracked down what we call "video evidence" of this event. Fair warning, the audio on this is quite loud.
So yeah... if he'd like to do that again, I'd be fine with it.
"I have to give very big credit to Alan, because he has made a good player of Hatem," said the former Liverpool and Aston Villa boss. "The boy has matured and seems to have improved in a lot of ways since going to Newcastle.
Gerard Houllier is giving Alan Pardew a lot of credit in rescuing Hatem Ben Arfa's France career. He also slides in a little "well... if I were still at Aston Villa, Yohan Cabaye would be there with me"... but you didn't stay, and he doesn't... so he's a Mag. Get on with it.
He told the Chronicle: "Arsenal and Tottenham still have hard games to play. "So we’re all still focused on getting as high up the table as we possibly can. "Third place is still there for us. "We still have confidence, we did well against Man City and, although we lost, we still put in a good performance. "We play for the supporters and we’ll give it everything in our last game."
It's going to be a fascinating day Sunday... my eyes will of course be on the Toon, but my mobile device is going to be working overtime keeping track of all the other action. It would have been splendid, mind you, if the only result we had to keep on track of was our own... but hey. I'm really excited for Sunday. As a lover of sport, the intrigue is going to be awesome.
Pardew said: "There is an understanding that there is a budget here and we have to try to excel within the budget, and we have managed to do that. "We will still probably be on the same agenda next year. We have to be careful that if we lose a player, it's for a fee that is going to take us forward, and that we replace them with the quality that goes out of the building. "That's something that myself, [chief scout] Graham Carr and my scouting team are on hand to do. "But for Mike Ashley and Derek in particular, who runs the club, it has been a fantastic season, a season from which maybe fans can understand there is a game-plan here, there is a structure they can be proud of. "I think they deserve a lot of credit."
While the benefits of the business model have been grand this year, I'm going to reserve total-buy-in until August when the dust has settled on the close season. I'm watching, Mr. Ashley, Mr. Llambias.
The Argentinian has clocked up 214.3 miles this season in a black-and-white shirt – more than any other Toon star. And after fielding Gutierrez in a more central role for long periods in the last 10 games, with Newcastle operating with a 4-3-3 formation, Pardew told the Chronicle: "Sometimes I think you need to re-energise players. "He’s been running up and down that line on the left-hand side for the last two years. "Sometimes, if you give them something different to look at, it re-energises them.
Looking back on the season, it is a little surprising that we didn't see Jonas as a holding midfielder earlier on in the season. I suppose that, had Sylvain Marveaux not been injured we might have. Regardless, Jonas has been tireless and has done everything that Alan Pardew has asked of him... if there was ever an example of a player being the captain on the squad without actually wearing the band, I should think Jonas would be it.
"You can't explain what it's like to play in the Champions League. "It's so different to anything else – even the atmosphere in the stadiums is so different once you get into Europe. It's electric – it's fantastic when you hear that song being played. "It's just a feeling you'll remember forever. "Hopefully, the boys will be able to experience it."
Peter Lovenkrands has played in the CL with Glasgow Rangers as well as with Schalke 04. It seemed like he was well and truly on the way out earlier in the season... but with recent reports suggesting Leon Best has been told he can leave, I wonder if there is a spot for Peter to hang around still yet. Every player you talk to says that European competition is a completely different animal, and having players with that experience to draw upon is certainly an attraction at this point.
He insists that he is – belatedly – learning from his past errors. "I’ve got into a bit of trouble before," he said. "I think I’m growing up. People make mistakes. There have been times when I’ve thought about what I’ve done – you grow up and learn from it. I’m doing that. "I’ve seen a lot of things in the area where I’m from, and been influenced by the wrong crowd. I’m going down the right path now and trying to make my family proud. "I’ve done things off the field that were silly and stupid.
I would like to add a quote from EVERYONE's dad:
Are you sorry you did it, or are you sorry you got caught?
You can say you're a changed man all you want, Nile, but the fact remains you should have been "a changed man" more than a year ago. End of story.