Newcastle United in Portugal diary – Alan Pardew 'burnt' by Benfica media, European hopes under Eddie Howe
The last Newcastle United manager to field a side at the Estadio da Luz ended up antagonising the local media.
Alan Pardew held a customary pre-match press conference at the 65,000-capacity stadium in Lisbon ahead of the first leg of a Europa League quarter-final in the 2013/14 season.
Pardew was asked by a Portuguese journalist just how he felt Benfica would fare in the Premier League.
Maybe it was a loaded question, and, certainly, Pardew’s fulsome praise for the club and city were forgotten when he answered that the team, then managed by Jorge Jesus, would finish between eighth and 10th.
For context, West Bromwich Albion would go on to finish eighth in the Premier League that season.
Anyway, the local press didn’t like being told that the proud club, which had, at the time, won the domestic league 32 times, would be a mid-table side in England.
And that comment was spun the following day. One newspaper said that Pardew and his team were “burnt steak”, an insult.
Benfica won the first leg 3-1, though there wasn’t much between the two sides. Papiss Cisse gave United hope in the second leg at St James’s Park with a second-half goal, but Newcastle went on to lose 4-2 on aggregate.
Reflecting on the end of a memorable run in Europe, Pardew said: "I can't ask for anything more from the crowd – and the players. You have to respect the opposition, they’re a superb side.
"I'm proud of the performance – and the way they played. We used all our powers to get over the line. I’m proud of the club – and proud to be manager of this club.
"We’ve gained experience. We’ve been out of Europe for a number of years, but put ourselves back on the stage. We want more – and our main aim next year is to qualify for Europe again.”
Newcastle, of course, haven’t been back in Europe since that season, though Champions League football is an aim of the club’s ambitious new ownership team.
And maybe, just maybe, head coach Eddie Howe, preparing for Tuesday night’s friendly against Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, can guide the club to European qualification this season.