Need to know: Newcastle
MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Five things to know about Newcastle going into the 2013-14 English Premier League season:
KINNEAR APPOINTMENT COULD BACKFIRE
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley made the decision in June to hire Joe Kinnear as the club's director of football. To many, it's a disaster waiting to happen. It means manager Alan Pardew is effectively working under Kinnear, who is now in charge of all "football-related matters'' and the go-to man to Ashley. How the Pardew-Kinnear relationship develops will be intriguing to see, especially if the team struggles in the first few weeks of the season and Kinnear begins to throw his weight around. Never afraid to voice his opinion, he criticized the intelligence of Newcastle fans in a bizarre radio interview after getting the job, reviving memories of his foul-mouthed rant at reporters during his brief spell as the club's manager in the 2008-09 season. Supporters have misgivings about the appointment and Pardew may well be watching his back.
REMY JOINS FRENCH REVOLUTION
Arsenal used to be the Premier League club that French players joined on masse. Now it's Newcastle. The signing of Loic Remy on loan from Queens Park Rangers brought the number of Frenchmen at St. James' Park to 11 - the others are Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yoan Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Romain Amalfitano, Massadio Haidara, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Mathieu Debuchy. Pardew insists, however, that he won't be learning French to help them acclimatize.
CISSE NEEDS TO RECREATE 2011-12 FORM
Papiss Demba Cisse made the headlines this summer by refusing to travel to Portugal for Newcastle's preseason tour because the club's shirt sponsor is a payday loan company, Wonga. That conflicted with his religious beliefs - Muslims are prevented from profiting from money-lending - and left his Newcastle future in jeopardy. The dispute was eventually resolved and he returned for the remaining preseason games; now he needs to find a solution to his poor scoring form last year. A total of eight league goals was a disappointing return for a striker who grabbed 13 goals in his first 12 appearances for the Magpies after joining from Freiburg in January 2012. Having Remy up front alongside him could spark Cisse into action.
WILL COLOCCINI HANG AROUND?
Fabricio Coloccini is the captain and defensive lynchpin, but it looked like he would be leaving Newcastle last season when he spoke to the club in January about letting him return to his native Argentina for family reasons. He was persuaded to stay on by Pardew until the end of the season - much to the relief of Newcastle fans - despite reported interest from San Lorenzo and the summer has passed with little speculation about Coloccini's future. Has his homesickness disappeared or will there be a late twist in the summer transfer window? Newcastle will hope not, given the team's defensive troubles last season when it had the fourth-worst defensive record in the league.
THE MESSI OF TYNESIDE
Getting the best out of Hatem Ben Arfa could be the key to whether Newcastle gets back into the top six, where it finished two seasons ago, or flirts with relegation like last season. Pardew likened the enigmatic playmaker to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez after one of his sumptuous displays last season and some of his solo goals have been spellbinding. He doesn't do it often enough, though. Injuries have played a part but he can go missing in matches, especially the big ones, and Newcastle needs more consistency from a player who will be eyeing a return to the France squad for next summer's World Cup in Brazil.