European dreams are fading at Newcastle two years on from the club’s last Europa League victory

Dated: 14/03/2013'Newcastle's Papiss Cisse heads home the winner against Anzhi in the 5th minute of extra time to put United through in the Europa League second round match at St James Park.'''' NOT AVAILABLE FOR PRINT SALES
Dated: 14/03/2013'Newcastle's Papiss Cisse heads home the winner against Anzhi in the 5th minute of extra time to put United through in the Europa League second round match at St James Park.'''' NOT AVAILABLE FOR PRINT SALES

GOODISON Park was today being readied for Newcastle United’s visit.

Last night it staged a European tie against Dynamo Kiev.

Memories of that European campaign – the Geordie invasion of Bruges and the drama at the Estadio da Luz – will endure.

And the debris left behind from that game was being swept away before Newcastle sweep into Liverpool on Sunday.

Exactly two years ago, Alan Pardew addressed the media at St James’s Park ahead of a Europa League fixture against Anzhi Makhachkala the following evening.

It would prove to be a dramatic – and memorable – night on Tyneside.

A goal from Papiss Demba Cisse deep in injury time sent Pardew’s side into the competition’s quarter-finals, where they were beaten by eventual runners-up Benfica.

The rest of the season was to prove far less memorable.

But the memories of that European campaign – the Geordie invasion of Bruges and the drama at the Estadio da Luz to name but two – will endure.

Just when will Newcastle, a club with a proud European history, again compete on the continent?

Ahead of the visit to Goodison Park, the club is 11th in the Premier League table, and seemingly going nowhere, fast.

The club’s squad, which has been decimated by injury, has again been found wanting, and supporters are questioning the ambition within the four walls of St James’s Park.

After all, United head coach John Carver is down to his last three senior specialist defenders.

Yes, there will be arrivals in the summer.

But there will inevitably also be departures, and will the squad be any stronger, or better equipped to challenge for Europe, when the summer transfer window closes?

Maybe, maybe not.

Time will tell, but fans, understandably, are disillusioned.

The Europa League, of course, brings its own problems, as Everton manager Roberto Martinez is finding out this season.

The club, much like Newcastle two years ago, is struggling to juggle the competing demands of domestic and European football. It’s an all-too-familiar story.

Martinez, like Pardew was as his team hovered above the relegation zone, is under pressure on Merseyside to lift his club up the table.

Carver is also under pressure on Tyneside.

The club’s target is a top-10 finish, and should he lift the team into the top half of the table, the job could be his on a full-time basis.

Fans, however, want more from a club which is set to announce a sizeable profit, possibly tens of millions of pounds, from the last financial year.

Carver was by Sir Bobby Robson’s side for the club’s last Champions League campaign. He was there at the Nou Camp, De Kuip and the San Siro.

He also wants more, but whoever succeeds Pardew on a full-time basis needs more players.

Injuries and suspensions can’t be used as an excuse. They’re inevitable. They happen. They always do.

At a recent Fans Forum meeting, a club representative said it was a “misconception” that the board were content for United to finish 10th in the table.

The minutes read: “The board stated there is a misconception that the board wants the team to finish 10th.

“The board’s aim is for the club to finish as high up the table as it possibly can, with 10th a minimum position for this season.”

But actions speak far louder than words.

And the club’s transfer dealings this summer will tell us just how serious Newcastle are about pushing up the division after two years of mid-table mediocrity.

Twitter: @milesstarforth