Alan Pardew admits his Newcastle team is a long way from where he wants it to be.
The 53-year-old was handed a little breathing space last weekend when Gabriel Obertan’s first goal for two years finally secured an opening Barclays Premier League victory of the season against Leicester after seven previous attempts.
But if Obertan’s strike eased some of the pressure on the manager’s shoulders, it did so only briefly with the Magpies still languishing inside the bottom three ahead of a difficult trip to Tottenham on Sunday.
Pardew insists he is not losing sleep over the Magpies’ current predicament, but he knows they are still well short of where they should be, and that is a matter he is desperate to address as a matter of urgency.
He said with a smile: “I sleep better than one or two in this room. But I’m just focused on getting this team as high up the league [as possible].
“This team should be in and around the top 10, fighting for the top six or seven – if everything falls your way even higher than that, which happened to us before.
“But that feels a long way off at the moment.”
That fifth-placed finish at the end of the 2011-12 season does indeed seem a long time ago, and the trials and tribulations through which Pardew has been since have at times been draining.
However, he is adamant he has never doubted himself and his ability to piece together a team from a seemingly ever-changing squad, something which has perhaps never been more of a challenge than in recent weeks.
Pardew said: “You try to plan and be thorough and test your staff and players to give your team the best chance of winning. Our planning and preparation have been thorough, and that’s what you have to do.”
Newcastle’s reward for that top-five finish was an unexpected European campaign, but it proved to be one which was beyond the limited depth of squad available to the manager.
Their league form suffered alarmingly as a result of the demands of that Europa League campaign, although Pardew does not expect Tottenham, who beat Greek side Asteras Tripolis 5-1 in the same competition on Thursday evening, to be quite as stretched.
He said: “Spurs are shielded by the depth of their squad. It must be difficult to manage that group because there isn’t a great deal of difference between about 20 players.
“The manager can pick a completely different XI and it won’t be far away in terms of quality from the XI he picked on Thursday.
“What you find in the Europa League is that you haven’t got the funds to have the squad. I think Spurs are in a good position to challenge in the Europa League.”
Newcastle will run out at White Hart Lane with good memories of their last visit, a 1-0 victory in November last year which saw keeper Tim Krul produce the performance of his career to keep the home side at bay.
He may have to be just as resilient this time around if Erik Lamela’s finishing is as good as it was in midweek.
The £25.7million Argentinian’s outrageous strike set the football world buzzing, but also served as a reminder of what overseas players can do once they have settled into English football.
Pardew is still attempting to assimilate some of his summer arrivals into his team with former Montpellier midfielder Remy Cabella having started the last two games on the bench after a tough start to his Premier League career.
His manager said: “We brought him here to produce a moment like Lamela produced – that’s what we need from him.
‘Hopefully coming out of the side and giving him a little rest has given him the opportunity to understand what the Premier League is about and come back stronger.
“I do think some players take a long time to settle. I’ve had a few like that. I remember Arsenal loaned me [Alex] Song at Charlton, and they didn’t think he was ready.
‘But he was absolutely terrific for me after six or seven games. Sometimes it just falls into place and you have to be patient with foreign internationals.”