Andy Carroll was our number 9 – a local lad who breathed a new lease of life into our enthusiasm and wore the number with pride. Chris Hughton was our manager, the man who stood by the club through thick and thin and saw criticism with a gentle smile and a friendly comment. He had steadied our ship, blooded the youngsters and for once, we were happy with how things were going.
Summer signings included Hatem Ben Arfa on loan, who would later sign a 4 and a half year contract despite having a severe injury, Dan Gosling on a free, James Perch, Sol Campbell and of course the unforgettable Cheik Tioté. Oh yes, the sun was shining on Newcastle all right.
It hasn’t been easy for us this season and we all knew it wouldn’t be easy. The first few games were most certainly indicative of that as we showed our guts against Manchester United with a team that was hardly considered “Premier Class”. Joey Barton began to show why we were right to stick by him, Mike Williamson and Colocinni made the world know that they were a force to be reckoned with and best chums Enrique and Jonas charged up and down the left flank with great link up play.
That’s just a smattering of the positives that were taken out of that game against Man U despite the loss. I could go on for days about how well I thought we played.
The next game saw us take our revenge on the Villa fans for their conduct on Survival Sunday. An Andy Carroll hat trick, a brace from Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton’s first goal of the season saw us take 3 points with a 6-0 victory.
I’m not going to hold your hands as we reminisce about the season and talk you through the statistics, that’s just not my style.
The Sacking of Chris Hughton
This is something that took us all by shock. Here was a man who had given some pride back to Newcastle and was considered a gentleman by all who met him. A man who commanded respect by giving it in bulk, a man who understood the hopes, desires and aspirations of the Geordie people and a man who made sure that us fans had our feet planted firmly on the ground.
After a 1-0 win at Arsenal, the side hit the proverbial wall; from 5 games, we lost 3 and drew 2, with a 3-1 loss away to West Bromwich Albion being the straw on the camel with a fairly weak back, and our (adopted) Geordie hero was fired. The man who had given us a team spirit that hadn’t been seen since the days of Sir Bobby and he was fired over a 3-1 loss to a team that was in relatively good form?
The signs, of course, were there. He could not appoint an assistant manager, rumours were rife that he was on the chopping block and then the following day he parted ways with the club. Another problem is of course the appointment of Alan Pardew which should deserve a segment all to itself but there is simply too much to say on that entire saga.
I still don’t believe it was the right decision and I wish Chris all the best in his future endeavours – there’ll always be a spot at NUFC for you.
January Transfer Window
The big one is next so I won’t get into that in depth but the window was a complete and total bust.
In the window we brought in one player – an injured Steven Ireland. Yes we completed the signing of Ben Arfa but how’s that for ambition? After being linked to the likes of Van Wolfswinkel and Peter Crouch, we bring in a midfielder who couldn’t play at the time. We also lodged bids for former Toon man Charles N’Zogbia who is rumoured to have signed a new contract from Wigan.
Later we would buy a player I have a lot of respect for, a man who quietly went about his business and made some good friends in the dressing room – Shefki Kuqi. Yes, he was brought in for depth on a deal that would see him through to the end of the season but his age and experience showered down through the ranks and he certainly helped the likes of Nile Ranger pick themselves up and improve on the pitch. His time didn’t come at Newcastle unfortunately but, in my opinion, the door should be open for a coaching role.
The Sale of Andy Carroll
I’ve said my piece on this before and everything I said still stands but I have never addressed this from a fans perspective. When I heard that Liverpool was bidding for Andy Carroll, I thought it was funny and kind of cute. Hughton’s successor, Alan Pardew, had stated that he was not for sale and will not be leaving the club – why was now any different? As it turns out, money is worth more than passion, loyalty and personal ambition.
When I saw him walking to Liverpool’s training ground, I was absolutely disgusted. My girlfriend who was sat next to me at the time stayed silent, she knew that this was not a good thing, especially as I had just been laughing and joking about it minutes earlier. I felt sick; repulsed that a local lad like him would reject the famous shirt worn by Shearer, Milburn, Supermac, Ferdinand and countless others and that he did it in such an underhanded way… it still annoys me to think about it, if I’m honest.
The story we were told by a rather coy David Craig was that Liverpool had bid a huge amount of money, the interest was noted to Andy who was asked if he wanted to stay or go. Andy requested they meet the contract offer or he would be accepting it, Newcastle refused and then Carroll put in a transfer request and the rest is, forgettable, history.
We can’t forget it fast enough. That transfer is still an open wound and mentioning it is equatable to pouring salt into it – but I do, reluctantly, admit it’s probably a good bit of business given his recent form and injury woes.
Moving on slightly, it came to light that Kevin Nolan had actually recommended the move to Andy and encouraged him to take it, even going as far as talking to LFCtv on how great Andy is and how he will do good things for the club. Seeing as he is Newcastle’s captain, he was bang out of order and though he won’t admit it – he knew.
There’s no two ways about it, our squad is inconsistent and has been for a long time. How often have we played a great game only to be slapped down by a side like Blackpool? This can all be chalked up to a sense of depth, however – something we sorely lack at the minute. Our squad has been unlocked by important players being suspended, injured or not available for selection for whatever reason.
The best example of this was our win at West Ham – a 5-0 victory where Leon Best secured not only his first goal, but a hat trick! The following game was a few days later in the FA Cup, where we were well and truly beaten by Stevanage.
Now, without further ado, let’s move on.
Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote
I won’t get into the transfer saga of Ben Arfa as it’s worth of a novel but for a reported £7m (£2m in loan fees, £5m for the contract) we have proved that we can still attract top class players. Tioté was an absolute bargain and has been, without a doubt, the most important player for us this season despite all of the yellow cards.
Oh and as an interesting statistic regarding yellow cards, Newcastle United averaged 12 fouls per game this season which equalled eight other clubs in the Premier League – including winners of the Fair Play league, former champions Chelsea FC.
With the rumour mill in full swing, we’re bound to be linked with players that are far out of our depth but even at the very least it shows that Newcastle United are still prepared to compete with top level clubs for some top players. Gervhinho, Sow, Gameiro, Menez – that can’t be a bad thing, can it?
The 4-3 victory at Stamford Bridge, the absolutely unforgettable 4-4 draw at St James Park against Arsenal and of course the 5-1 victory against the unwashed – Newcastle United are a team that doesn’t quite understand “defeat”. Yes, there were days when we didn’t show up but the fact is, we have proven time and time again that on our day we are more than a force to be reckoned with.
We have had a terrible second half of the season with the sale of Carroll and players from across the board have had to step up and maybe with the exception of one or two, we can be proud of all the players who wore the black and white this season and showed up. Even Alan Smith shown on a few occasions that he can still play football as he tried his best to snap the cross bar a la Andy Carroll.
The team have done us proud this season, let’s not forget that.
While Haris Vuckic is still struggling with injuries, Shane Ferguson has proved he is more than ready to deputise anywhere on the left flank, showing pace, strength, skill and maturity in his game and today his efforts were rewarded with a 5 year contract.
Shola’s younger brother Sammy also made a brief cameo, as did Kazenga Lua Lua and both looked like they were very hot prospects. Nile Ranger also had his moments in the sun as he showed composure and quick feet more than once throughout the season. Give the lad a solid run in the Championship and I’m certain he’ll come back twice the player he is.
Of course, this isn’t even mentioning the players coming through the ranks at the academy and development team – Michael Richardson, James Tavernier, Phil Airey (who made his debut in our defeat against Stevenage), Bradden Inman, Ryan Donaldson et al. – we have some great young talent coming through the ranks and that’s not even counting the likes of Yven Moyo and Mehdi Abeid.
This season was always about consolidation with everything after that being a bonus. Chris Hughton always said “anywhere above 18th” and we took the league on and pushed as hard as we could, at one point even threatening for Europe. Of course our own mistakes cost us in that final game with West Brom but in all honesty, had you have been offered 12th in August, wouldn’t you have taken it
It is a bit disappointing to finish below the unwashed but on the same note, they won by 1 point after having at minimum a year long head start on us. Millions spent on team development and here they are struggling to beat a newly promoted team, I’m glad we caused them some problems!
All in all our season has been full of ups, downs and rarely have we set foot on middle ground but here we are ready to kick on for next season. There’s rumours of Enrique being sold and Barton not being offered a contract but no player is bigger than the club. I’d love both of them to stay but sometimes that just doesn’t work and in those cases we need to cut our losses and keep on going.
The season has been a good one and we have an excellent starting point for the next season.
Howay the lads!