At a seasonal crossroads, Newcastle must avoid a top six finish

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A run of three straight Newcastle league defeats was brought to a rousing halt in east London as Alan Pardew’s men cruised to a 3-1 win over West Ham, to leave them just five points off sixth place.

With Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham, the three teams directly above the Magpies in the table, all yet to travel to St James’ Park, a top-six finish should still be prominent in the Newcastle fans’ thinking.

But, after the torrid time that came from their Europa League stint last season, where the club battled relegation, would they want another tilt at European football’s second-tier competition?

Newcastle do not have a huge squad – only 15 players have made more than five Premier League starts this term – and after a summer transfer window that saw just one arrival to boost its numbers, it doesn’t seem likely that Joe Kinnear will be able to swell the playing staff to a size capable of handling Europa League involvement.

Knocked out of both domestic cups too, the Geordies are at a crossroads in their season. Do they strive for the top six or hope to avoid a repeat of last season’s workload-induced coma, and finish just outside the European places.

Ladbrokes rate their current spot of eighth the most likely, at 8/15, while seventh, which is just one point away at the moment, is a curious 8/1 possibility.

A climb into sixth is rated as a 33/1 long shot while a repeat of their fifth place of two seasons ago is 66/1.

Should Pardew secretly decide that his club would be better served avoiding another European tour, then a slip down into ninth place looks tasty at 7/2.

Or, if things are taken out of the manager’s hands with the sale of highly-rated Yohan Cabaye, a tenth placed finish could become a reality at 20/1, or even a bottom half spot at 12s.

All finishing position prices are available on request.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.