ALAN Pardew already has his sights set on a return to European football with Newcastle United.
The Magpies saw their Europa League journey brought to an end at the last-eight stage by Benfica last night, the Portuguese champions 4-2 aggregate victors following a 1-1 draw at St James’s Park.
But the continental campaign has left Pardew with a taste for more, especially given the electrifying atmosphere inside Gallowgate as United, leading 1-0, pushed for a tie-winning goal in the second half.
“I was proud to be manager of the football club – it was a terrific night, even in defeat,” said the United chief, who saw Papiss Cisse’s 71st-minute strike equalised by Benfica’s Eduardo Salvio in stoppage-time.
“I was proud of the football club and the way we conducted ourselves over both legs.
“I said in the dressing-room afterwards that we have gained experience from this run.
“We have been out of Europe for a while but we have put ourselves back on the stage in credible fashion – now we want more of it.
“But the only way we’ll do that is by getting in Europe again next year and that will be our main aim.”
That, though, will mean substantial investment come the summer, and Pardew has hinted at as much.
The Magpies boss feels his squad was not equipped to challenge on both the European and domestic front this season, and their current position at the wrong end of the Premier League bears testament to that.
“We need to know that the next time we go into Europe we need to be better prepared than we were at the start of this season,” he went on.
“After all the injuries we’ve had and the incredible performance in Europe, I’ll take this season as a real learning curve for us.
“The financial restrictions we have are greater than the top teams in this country.
“But that does not mean we can not win something and we’ll try to achieve that.
“We will try to over-achieve like we did last year.
“It’s fair to say this year we haven’t, mainly because of the injuries we have sustained.
“But the experience will stand us in good stead for the future.”