Newcastle have been building over the last few years. Their new pitch and new squad are making strides under Dean Richards and there is genuine optimism among supporters that this year may be the year they finally make the top half.
The Falcons have recruited extremely well over the past few seasons, this year was on another level.
Richards brought in two very experienced, international operators in the key playmaking roles of fly-half and centre.
Toby Flood returns from his stint at French giants Toulouse and brings with him France international, Maxime Mermoz.
They both have a wealth of experience which can be passed to the next generation of Newcastle stars, they also provide a safe pair of hands to give Falcons a platform.
Other big names like Sami Mavinga, Josh Matavesi and D.T.H van der Merwe also have given Newcastle a big lift in terms of quality. These signings are also a statement of intent from the club.
2. New Pitch
The artificial pitch at Kingston Park is most certainly a plus for Newcastle, not only is it something they are used to, it works the other way too.
The home record for Newcastle has improved recently and the pitch is a huge factor in that, teams like Bath and Wasps travel up there and suffer.
It also allows Newcastle to express themselves on wet days and when you have runners like Alex Tait, Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti that can only be a positive.
3. Dean Richards
The Director of Rugby is a massive factor, the former number eight is hugely experienced and knows how to win games. He has signed players to fit the game-plan and play the way he wants.
Richards has built a squad around his rugby mantra and we are starting to see it bloom, top half finishes are far from alien for the 54-year-old and he is the driving force behind Newcastle’s relative recent success.
Newcastle are pushing for a top half finish this season and a first Champions Cup place, the foundations are there, Newcastle now have to do their talking on the pitch and push themselves into the top six.
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena