Pardew hails Magpies 'leap'

Phil Medlicott

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes 2011-12 has been one of the finest seasons in the club's history -- regardless of the fact that their bid to secure a top-four finish ultimately proved unsuccessful.

That target was still attainable as the Magpies went into yesterday's Premier League final-day clash against Everton at Goodison Park.

But, after being beaten 3-1, they ended up staying fifth and outside the Champions League spots.

Newcastle's hopes of playing in Europe's elite competition rested on the outcome of other games yesterday as well as their own -- plus, potentially, that of the final of this year's tournament -- and as it turned out, with fourth-placed Tottenham and third-placed Arsenal both winning to hang onto their positions, even a victory would not have been enough.

That came as some comfort to Pardew who, although disappointed his side had missed out on the top four, was nonetheless delighted with their efforts over the course of a campaign he thinks is up there with very best the club has had. The Magpies now have Europa League football to look forward to and their boss -- named the top-flight's manager of the season on Friday -- said: "We have made a huge leap this year.

"Even just to compete with these top teams, and to finish above the great teams that we have, the players can be very proud. It is one of the finest seasons at this club."

Newcastle were undone yesterday by goals from Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic and Johnny Heitinga. Tony Hibbert subsequently scored an own goal which proved little more than a consolation for the visitors.