The players salute the fans at Swansea

Mick Lowes has long been the voice of the Magpies on BBC Radio Newcastle, and every fortnight he writes an exclusive blog for nufc.co.uk. Here he gives his views on the recent PFA Award nominations and why he thinks the lack of Newcastle players on the list is a backhanded compliment to Alan Pardew's side...

This week has seen the shortlists announced for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year awards - with a couple of rather surprising omissions from a role call of several of the game's top performers this term.

Because they're voted for by the players, which is a fairly long process, the ballots for the PFA Awards are sent out much earlier than, for example, the Football Writers' Awards, which normally means that players who shine in the first half of the season feature prominently.

So when you consider what Demba Ba did in that period, I find it absolutely amazing that he's not on the shortlist.

I thought Fabricio Coloccini might have been in with an outside chance of being in the frame, too, but in the case of Ba, anybody who gets 16 goals by the first week of February, having arrived a free transfer, surely has to be considered.

It wasn't so long ago that he was voted the best signing of the season by the Premier League managers, so it beggars belief that you can be deemed by one set of esteemed judges to be the best signing made this season - but still not merit a place on the shortlist from your fellow professionals.

And in terms of the young player award, Tim Krul only turned 24 this month yet also missed out. In his first full season of Premier League football, he's currently tied with Joe Hart at the top of the clean sheet table and he's been outstanding all season so again, it is rather surprising that he's not on the shortlist.

Players will say outwardly that individual awards don't matter, that it's all about what the team are doing. But I think it's important every now and then that you are commended for the good work that you've done within the team, and I think Demba Ba and Tim Krul can consider themselves very unfortunate not to have been nominated.

But I suppose in many ways, the fact that they're not in contention for these individual honours is a telling statement of what Newcastle have been about this season.

It's more evidence that this has been a team effort - and maybe that's the point.

Maybe other players look at the Magpies and think there are no standout performers - that every time they play against them, the United players from one to 11 put a shift in.

In a strange way, it could be seen as a reverse compliment to Newcastle's players as a whole; it's been such a collective effort that it's almost impossible to come up with one or two players who make them tick. It's the unit that do it and unlike other clubs where you can single players out, here there is just a great combination, an array of talent that has carried them through.

One way or another, they currently sit fifth with five games left but still Alan Pardew and his players refuse to talk themselves up, and I think that's been key to this push for Europe.

The Magpies have flown under the radar - and they've done so consciously. Never at any stage in the last fortnight, the last month, the last two or three months, have we heard players come out and say 'we're going to do this, we're going to do that.'

It's all a case of simply keeping their eye on the ball, seeing what happens and whatever will be, will be. And now they've put themselves in a situation where not only are they almost guaranteed Europe but they're also putting an awful lot of pressure on the teams above them - sides who normally at this stage of the season would be expecting to be on the cusp of Champions League qualification, if not there already.

While we're enjoying what's happening here, in West London there's a very real prospect of a club like Chelsea not getting into Europe at all and when you bear in mind the amount of investment Roman Abramovic has made, that is a frightening thought.

United travel to Stamford Bridge for an important league game three days before an FA Cup final which Chelsea might have to win to play European football full stop, so the pressure is on them.

Before that, Newcastle have Stoke and Wigan to play but if they can pick up six points from those, we could be in for an extraordinary finish.

Realistically, though, European football of some sort looks almost certain now, thanks to Andy Carroll's late winner for Liverpool in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

It was fitting that there were so many Newcastle connections that day, with Kenny Dalglish, a former manager, on the bench, Craig Bellamy providing the cross and of course Carroll with the header.

I just wish the interviewer who spoke to him after the game had asked Carroll if he was aware that the goal had all but guaranteed Newcastle a European place next year.

He was probably very much aware of that - and I bet he'd have loved it as well. For all the grief that he's got from certain quarters of the United support - rightly or wrongly - that goal would have meant an awful lot to him not only for himself and what it's done for Liverpool, but also the impact it's had on Newcastle United, a club which I'm certain he still holds dear to his heart.

Since that semi-final, I've had many a conversation with some of the longer-standing journalists and the likes of John Anderson, reminiscing about some of the European trips of yesteryear.

They were always fantastic. The Newcastle trips were always the ones to be on - they were great fun and hopefully there will be a return to that next season.

But first and foremost, United have got to keep going and secure it. If they were to beat Stoke on Saturday - and that won't be an easy game, by the way - it'd be six straight wins in the Premier League for the first time since 1996.

That's 16 years ago, which shows what an achievement it would be. The current team really are rolling back the years in every respect this season; long may it continue.