We're After the Top Three - 02/05/2002
Nolberto Solano is confident Newcastle can mount a sustained title
challenge next season after the Magpies flirted with life in the top
three earlier this year.The Peruvian, surely one of the leading candidates to take next week's North-East Footballer of the Year award, feels United have re-established themselves as a genuine Premiership force. However, Solano admits that championship success would have come too
soon this season for a side more used to mid-table mediocrity
following the departure of Kevin Keegan five years ago. "At the start of the year we had a real chance to go for the title but we also had Chelsea and Leeds breathing down our necks," explained the in-form South American.
"At this stage in the club's development it is just as important to
distance ourselves from the sides chasing a top-six finish as it is to
catch the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. We have
done very, very well and we have scored a lot of goals both home and
away. We can win games and we can entertain but we are still on a
steep learning curve."
Solano has been at the forefront of Newcastle's bid to reclaim their
crown as the Premiership's Entertainers, and the right winger has
established himself as one of the first names on Bobby Robson's team
sheet. The former Boca Juniors midfielder has set an admirable example
to fellow wide man Laurent Robert and it has been Solano's commitment,
just as much as his class, which has made the difference this season.
It is that work ethic which, the 27-year-old insists, will be the key
to United reaching the next level and he added: "This season has
proved that we can claim odd victories against the big teams. "Next season we can really challenge for the title but only if we can become more consistent. "We have to try to be a bit more disciplined and look to the example of Liverpool when it comes to claiming the narrow victories which
really matter. "This season has been all about preparing for a sustained title challenge next time out. "Everyone has performed above themselves this season but now we have set standards which must be bettered."
For once there is little speculation linking Solano with a lucrative
move to Europe but this says more about the South American's
satisfaction with life on Tyneside than a loss of interest from
abroad. Having put his international career on hold a Champions League
campaign beckons and one of Kenny Dalglish's best buys is ready to
stay at St James's Park for the foreseeable future.However, Solano has not ruled out a return to the Peruvian national side in 2004 as he sets his sights on a World Cup swansong in Germany. "I'll be following this summer's tournament at home but the whole time I'll be a little bit jealous that I'm not there," he admitted. "It's the pinnacle of every professional's career to appear in the World Cup finals and it's my dream to play for Peru in 2006.
Nobby is now in Peru, taking advantage of a five day club break by introducing his three month old son to family and friends in Lima. He's back in Newcastle on Tuesday for the resumption of training in readiness for next Saturday's final Premiership at St.Mary's.
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