Pardew: Champions League spot a bonus
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will make one last push for Champions League qualification admitting anything better than a fifth-place finish would be a glorious bonus.
The Magpies head for Everton on Sunday to bring down the curtain on what has been a remarkable campaign whatever happens during the final 90 minutes. At worst, Pardew's men will finish fifth, ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool - and they could yet pip Arsenal and Tottenham to third and an automatic Champions League spot.
Pardew said: "This is where you want to be, the pinnacle of the game is the Champions League. To actually be competing for it is more than we imagined and to have that opportunity is something that doesn't come along very often, and we want to try to grasp it."
The basic equation is that the Magpies need to win at Goodison Park and hope that both the Gunners, who are two points better off, lose at West Brom and Spurs, who have a point more, do not beat Fulham.
Newcastle's season has surprised most, and even Pardew admits their current standing is way in excess of his expectations.
He said: "I would be foolish if I sat here and said I thought we were going to finish fifth. The Board made a good statement - top 10 - I thought that was fair.
"In terms of what we had from last year and the new players and hopefully bringing it all together, we thought we would have a season where we would finish strongly and get a top 10 finish and then look to next year to perhaps do something like we have done this year.
"We are well ahead of schedule in terms of players getting used to the club, used to the pitch here, which is a difficult place to play, and therefore we have had a far better season than I could have imagined."
There have been many highlights for the Toon Army, including a 3-0 demolition of Manchester United on Tyneside and a glorious 2-0 victory at Chelsea secured by two stunning finishes from Papiss Demba Cisse. However, it is a scruffy Shola Ameobi equaliser against derby rivals Sunderland on Tyneside on March 4 which stands our for Pardew.
He said: "We have had some fantastic goals, but just for momentum and everything it meant, Shola's goal against Sunderland would probably be my favourite moment because it was such an important goal. We would have lost a lot of momentum if we had lost that game at home, and we deserved it."