By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Alan Pardew believes the Toon Army are going to love following their team back into Europe after seeing his Newcastle team drawn against Club Brugge, Bordeaux and Maritimo in the group stages of the competition.
The Magpies manager, his coaching staff and several of his players - from seasoned continental campaigners like Shola Ameobi and Steve Harper to youngsters like Adam Campbell - watched the draw on television at the Club's training ground.
On Thursday night, United qualified for the Europa League by edging out Greek side Atromitos and moments after learning his side's Group D opponents, he gave his first reaction to nufc.co.uk.
"The squad enjoyed it, watching it all come in there, and I'm sure our fans would have as well," he said. "My gut reaction is that the travelling is good, so I'm pleased about that - I didn't really want to go to the Ukraine or Russia or anywhere.
"The teams are of the standard you would expect in Europe so it's a toughish group; not the toughest by any means, but not the weakest so it's a test for us."
Newcastle have never played any of their group rivals before, so it will be a whole new adventure for the Magpies.
And Pardew said: "I'm pleased about that. It's always a nice for a football club to do something different and our fans will enjoy that.
"They're great cities to visit - Bordeaux is a great city and so is Bruges, and I'm sure our fans are going to love that. I don't know too much about Maritimo but we'll obviously start working now to find out as much information as we can."
In 2006, Pardew led West Ham into the first round of what was then the UEFA Cup but is hoping Newcastle can go further than the Hammers managed that year.
"Last time at West Ham, we drew the top team in Serie A at the time," he recalled. "Palermo had the best team in their history at that point so we were bloody unlucky!
"This draw - and the draw in the qualifier - has been a little bit easier on me and I'm pleased about that on a personal level.
"On a Newcastle level, I just think they're great trips for our our fans. I don't think they're going to break the bank, those trips, for our fans as well and that's important.
"Now it's just about making sure that we win three or four of the games to get through."
United showed against Atromitos over two legs that they have the correct mentality to play in the competition, while they also demonstrated in pre-season that they are ready for whatever Europe has to throw at them.
"We played two Champions League teams - Olympiakos and Braga are both in the Champions League and we won that little tournament out there," he said.
"They're at the same level as us so I think we're of the level. It's just about making sure that we're right for these games and I think we can look forward to them."