... Alan Pardew insisted the relegation dog fight was caused by our involvement in the Europa League.
Nothing more - nothing less - it was European football to blame.
So much so, at the end of the 2012/13 season he came out with the quote to beat ALL quotes: "Thank God we don't have the Europa League next season. We have no distractions and we will be pushing for the top five place, and a European place."
Well, the boot is on the other foot on Sunday. Spurs played in the Europa League on Thursday, suggesting Pardew will be all geared up to exploit the situation and pick up an easy three points.
Some will argue "but Spurs didn't play a full strength team on Thursday" ... did Pardew last season?
14 games we played, and how many full strength sides did Pardew put out, if any?
SPURS 2 SHERIFF 1
24. Brad Friedel 2. Kyle Walker 4. Younes Kaboul 5. Jan Vertonghen 16. Kyle Naughton 15. Etienne Capoue 57' 19. Mousa Dembele 33. Erik Lamela 23. Christian Eriksen 81' 22. Gylfi Sigurdsson 69' 18. Jermain Defoe
Subs: 57. Jordan Archer 7. Aaron Lennon 8. Paulinho 57' 9. Roberto Soldado 12. Vlad Chiriches 14. Lewis Holtby 81' 37. Harry Kane 69'
A first Tottenham goal for Erik Lamela and a record-breaking penalty from Jermain Defoe secured safe passage into the knockout rounds of the Europa League for Andre Villas-Boas' side as they finally broke down a spirited Sheriff side.
The first half at White Hart Lane had seen little in the way of creativity from Spurs but they burst into life after an hour with new boy Lamela at the heart of their attacking prowess.
The 21-year-old has been used sparingly by Villas-Boas since his arrival from Roma and has yet to start a Barclays Premier League game for Spurs but he made the difference against the reigning Moldovan champions, who succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in north London.
Lamela put in one of his most assured performances in a Tottenham shirt and topped it off by tucking away the first goal of the game 15 minutes into the second half, before being tripped inside the box moments later to give Defoe a chance to make history from 12 yards.
The England striker converted the penalty to claim his 23rd European goal for the club, one more than Martin Chivers managed during his time at White Hart Lane.
But Spurs did not have everything their own way. For all of their defensive work Sheriff threatened twice in the first half before Ismail Isa grabbed a goal on 72 minutes to keep Tottenham on their toes.
Tottenham started the game brightly enough but Sheriff came with a blueprint copied from several other visiting teams in recent White Hart Lane fixtures and set out to frustrate their hosts.
Moussa Dembele had the first effort of the night after seven minutes as he rode a number of half-hearted challenges before firing in a low shot which Vjekoslav Tomic pushed behind for a corner.
Villas-Boas made eight changes from the goalless draw at Everton on Sunday and it was the returning Etienne Capoue who was next to try his luck but his similar attempt was off target.
Lamela, another player recalled for the game, had calls for a first penalty turned down after 20 minutes. The Argentina international was caught by Djibril Paye and, after originally looking to stay on his feet, tumbled over with referee Kenn Hansen unmoved.
For all of Tottenham's possession they were almost caught out in the 25th minute as Sheriff broke forward and Isa's shot deflected on to a post off the boot of Younes Kaboul.
Christian Eriksen's lapse in concentration almost gifted the visitors the lead shortly afterwards as he rolled the ball across his own penalty area and in to the path of Ricardinho, who arrowed a shot wide of Brad Friedel's right-hand post.
Spurs soon regained the upper hand as Lamela had two efforts blocked by brave Sheriff defending but it was turning in to a similar story for the home side as they failed to create any clear-cut chances.
The second half started where the first 45 minutes had left of as Sheriff looked to keep things tight at the back and limit the number of chances Tottenham's front players could create.
Friedel, who set the record for the oldest player to appear in this competition when he was named in the starting line-up, was forced in to making his first save of the evening as Luvannor Henrique curled a low effort which the 42-year-old dealt with comfortably.
Tomic in the Sheriff goal was forced in to a much smarter save just seconds later as Eriksen let fly from 25 yards with the Croatian goalkeeper tipping his shot over at full stretch.
But Spurs finally broke the Moldovan's resilience on the hour as Lamela struck a composed shot past Tomic after Eriksen's return ball had deflected in to his path.
Lamela was again heavily involved in Defoe's record-breaking goal as he was brought down inside the box with the 31-year-old thumping home the resulting penalty to move clear as Tottenham's leading goalscorer in European competition.
Sheriff were soon handed a lifeline as Friedel could only parry a shot from Cadu with Isa on hand to finish coolly and make it an uncomfortable final 20 minutes for the hosts as they conceded their first goal of this year's competition.
Any late charge towards Friedel's goal failed to materialise as Tottenham claimed their fourth win in four Group K matches and confirmed their place in the final-32 with two games remaining.
WHITE HART LANE - THE LIBRARY
How To Get There By Car And Where To Park
Leave the M25 at Junction 25 and take the A10 towards Enfield. Continue on the A10 through Enfield and at the roundabout with the Northern Circular (A406), turn left onto the A406 (Sterling Way). Turn right into Fore Road (the A1010) which becomes the High Road and you will come to the ground on your left.
On street parking is virtually non-existent around the stadium on matchdays as a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is in operation which means that only local residents who have a parking permit and blue badge holders can park legally. The perimeter of the zone is up to a mile from the ground and this has led to some private car parks near to the stadium charging up to £15 for the privilege. If you do park around the area, make sure that you take notice of the advisory parking notices attached to lamp posts, as otherwise you may find that you car gets towed away.
Post Code for SAT NAV: N17 0AP
By Train Or Tube
White Hart Lane Station is the nearest to the stadium, which is only a few minutes walk away. It is served by trains from Liverpool Street. Located at Liverpool Street is a handy Wetherspoons pub, plus a cornish pasties outlet opposite. Richard Crouch adds 'The best station to get to White Hart Lane from is Northumberland Park. Come out of the station and cross the road and you are in Park Lane. It is a ten minute stroll to the ground'.
The nearest London Underground station is Seven Sisters which is on the Victoria Line. The ground is about a twenty minute walk away, but there are plenty of buses running up Tottenham High Road to the ground. Chris Knibs informs me; 'Although there are plenty of buses, not many of them go past the ground. Those that do mostly have numbers that end in a 9, so take 149, 249, 279 or 349. You can also get a normal overground train from Seven Sisters to White Hart Lane station.
What Is It Like For Away Supporters?
Away fans are housed in one corner of the ground in between the South & West Stands, where up to 2,900 supporters (if demand requires it) can be accommodated, in the lower and upper tiers. If you have a ticket for the upper tier then prepare yourself for quite a climb to reach the away area. You are though rewarded with a great view of the action from this section and the leg room is ample. The facilities in this modern stand are above average. On the downside there is little space between the away and home fans. As you would expect there is plenty of banter between the two, but the stewards tend to take a tougher line on the away support. On my last visit a number of fans were ejected from the ground, plus there were repeated warnings to away fans to remain seated.
One strange aspect of sitting in the upper tier is seeing the Police Control Box directly above you, where a number of uniformed faces can be seen peering down on the away supporters. Although I have not personally experienced any problems at White Hart Lane, it may be wise to exercise caution around the ground and you may consider keeping colours covered. Expect to be searched by stewards on entry to the away section.
Where To Drink?
Due to a number of pubs going out of business in the area around the ground, the choice for away fans is now rather limited. Simon Hornby informs me; 'The best place for away fans to get a drink is the Harringey Irish club on the Pretoria Rd which is opposite White Hart Lane station. It has two large bars showing Sky Sports, offers reasonably priced food and you can also park there for £10'. Dean Palmer adds; 'When you get off the train at White Hart Lane, go straight out of the metal gates and walk straight down the road in front of you. After a couple of hundred yards there is a car park on the left hand side, and the social club is in there. There are always a few away fans in there, and kids are also allowed in there too'.
Tim Pick a visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers fan adds; 'We drank at the Elmhust on Lordship Lane, which is about a ten minute walk away from the ground. It is large mock tudor style looking pub with 4 or 5 Sky Sports screens. There were home fans and away fans in colours mixing with out any problems. Prices were okay too (for London)'.
Carsie a Spurs fan from Belfast recommends; 'The Three Compasses which is situated in Queen Street (behind Middlesex University), which is a five minute walk from White Hart Lane Station'.
It may be an idea to drink in Central London before the game and then take a train to White Hart Lane Station. There is a Wetherspoon outlet at Liverpool Street Station from where you get the train to White Hart Lane. If you decide to take the long walk from Seven Sisters tube station to the stadium, then there are a number of pubs along the way.
Steve Dobson adds; 'I also suggest that visiting fans with a thirst for real ale, consider catching the train from Liverpool Street and stop off at Hackney Downs to visit the Pembury Tavern. Good beer and quality food. From there it is only 10 minutes on the train to White Hart Lane. The pub is only a couple of hundred yards from Hackney Downs station on Amhurst Road'. The pub which is featured in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide has no less than 16 real ales on offer! The question is, will you still then make it to the match?
Inside the ground alcohol is served in the refreshment areas. This is in the form of plastic bottles of Carlsberg (500ml). But please note that alcohol is not served in the away section at half time.
IDEAL FOR CHRISTMAS
MAGPIES IN EUROPE -
HARVEY TO PARDEW
The new version of "Magpies In Europe" will be launched next week.
Although NUFC are not talking to the Chronicle or Sunday Sun ... we are!
And the full story is expected to be in newspapers within the next two weeks.
The official new title is "Magpies In Europe - Harvey To Pardew" and is an up-dated version of "From Antwerp To Zurich" - which includes the 14 Europa League fixtures we played last season.
The 280-page book features match reports from the 134 European matches Newcastle United have played, starting with the memorable 4-0 win over Feyenoord in 1968 on our European debut.
Included are stats and the figures you would expect, but also each away fixture has the remarkable experiences of individuals who travelled to watch the matches.
Introduction by "Big Bad" John McNamee, part of the Fairs Cup winning team of 1969.
It is a fascinating history that every Newcastle United fan will enjoy.
And with a limited print-run, make sure you order a copy.
Mail order: Send a cheque for £10.45 made payable to K.Fletcher to:
K Fletcher, 5 Dunelm, Sacriston, Durham DH7 6NU
Include your own address.
ON SALE NOW AT: M&M City News; 140 Northumberland St, Newcastle NE1 7DQ.
The Flower Shop, Spennymoor, Co Durham.
if you want to order, contact us:- Kevnumad@fsmail.net
THIS WEEK'S FIXTURES
Saturday November 9
15:00 Aston Villa v Cardiff City
15:00 Chelsea v West Brom
15:00 Crystal Palace v Everton
15:00 Liverpool v Fulham
15:00 Southampton v Hull City
17:30 Norwich City v West Ham United
Sunday November 10
12:00 Tottenham v Newcastle United
14:05 Sunderland v Manchester City
16:10 Man Utd v Arsenal
16:10 Swansea City v Stoke City
NEWCASTLE UNITED 2013/14
NEWCASTLE UTD 2 CHELSEA 0 (Gouffran, Remy)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Sissoko, Cabaye, Tiote (53' Anita), Gouffran (85' Obertan), Shola Ameobi (62' Cisse).
Subs: Ben Arfa, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Tavernier.
SUNDERLAND 2 NEWCASTLE 1 (Debuchy)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Dummett, Santon, Sissoko (45' Cisse), Tiote, Cabaye, Gouffran (86' Sammy Ameobi), Ben Arfa, Remy (70' Shola Ameobi).
Subs: Anita, Haidara, Elliot, Obertan.
NEWCASTLE UTD 2 LIVERPOOL 2 (Cabaye, Dummett)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Cabaye (78' Sammy Ameobi), Tiote, Gouffran, Sissoko (45' Dummett), Remy, Ben Arfa (78' Anita).
Subs: Cisse, Elliot, Obertan, Dummett.
CARDIFF CITY 1 NEWCASTLE 2 (Remy 2)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Tiote, Cabaye (86' Ben Arfa), Gouffran, Sissoko, Remy (71' Gutierrez), Cisse
Subs: Anita, Yanga-Mbiwa, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett
EVERTON 3 NEWCASTLE 2 (Cabaye, Remy)
Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa (46' Williamson), Coloccini, Santon, Tiote, Anita (69' Cisse), Ben Arfa (46' Cabaye), Sissoko, Gouffran, Remy
Subs: Elliot, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett
NEWCASTLE 2 HULL CITY 3 (Remy 2)
Krul, Debuchy (86' Tiote), Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Cabaye (62' Gouffran), Anita, Sissoko, Ben Arfa, Cisse (73' Marveaux), Remy
Subs: Williamson, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett
ASTON VILLA 1 NEWCASTLE 2 (Ben Arfra, Gouffran)
Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Anita (74' Tiote), Cabaye (88' Sammy Ameobi), Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Remy (63' Gouffran), Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Marveaux, S Taylor, Dummett
NEWCASTLE 1 FULHAM 0 (Ben Arfa)
Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Anita 65' (Cabaye), Marveaux 74' (Remy), Shola Ameobi 65' (Gouffran), Cisse
Subs: Gosling, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett
NEWCASTLE 0 WEST HAM 0
Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Anita, Marveaux 66' (Sammy Ameobi), Shola Ameobi, Cisse 72'
Subs: Gosling, Bigirimana, Elliot, Vuckic, Dummett
MAN CITY 4 NEWCASTLE 0
Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Sissoko, Tiote, Gouffran 45+4' (Dummett), Ben Arfa 65' (Sammy Ameobi), Gutierrez 44' (Anita), Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Obertan
NEWCASTLE 0 MAN CITY 2 (AET)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara (45 Dummett, 80 Ben Arfa), Anita, Tiote, Gouffran, Sissoko, Shola Ameobi (66 Cabaye), Cisse
Subs: Remy, Elliot, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi
NEWCASTLE 2 LEEDS UTD 0 (Cisse, Gouffran)
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett, Gouffran (90' Vuckic), Anita (80' Gosling), Tiote, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Cisse (71' Obertan).
Subs: Ben Arfa, Yanga-Mbiwa, Bigirimana, Alnwick
MORECAMBE 0 NEWCASTLE 2 (Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi)
Elliot, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Good, Dummett, Bigirimana, Gosling, Marveaux 88' (Sissoko), Vuckic 46' (Shola Ameobi), Sammy Ameobi, Gouffran 71' (Ben Arfa)
Subs: Santon, Anita, Alnwick, Streete
Newcastle United Fixtures
Sunday November 10
12:00 Premier League
Tottenham v Newcastle United
Saturday November 23
15:00 Premier League
Newcastle United v Norwich City
Saturday November 30
17:30 Premier League
Newcastle United v West Brom
Wednesday December 4
19:45 Premier League
Swansea City v Newcastle United
Saturday December 7
12:45 Premier League
Man Utd v Newcastle United
Saturday December 14
15:00 Premier League
Newcastle United v Southampton
Saturday December 21
15:00 Premier League
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United
Thursday December 26
15:00 Premier League
Newcastle United v Stoke City
Sunday December 29
13:30 Premier League
Newcastle United v Arsenal
Wednesday January 1 2014
15:00 Premier League
West Brom v Newcastle United