The 2012-13 Premier League season is mercifully over, and we at CHN will be spend the next several weeks reviewing everything that went on at Newcastle United, from the opening day victory against Tottenham Hotspur to the defeat at the hands of Arsenal on the final day. We start with a roundtable discussion with five of our contributors. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments. This is part 1 of 3.
1. Let's start off on a positive note. What was the high point of the season for you?
Callum Kane: For me it's a toss up between two, and I can't separate them. The last minute goal against Anzhi was incredible. I've never celebrated a goal like it. The other is against Benfica, they went and scored last minute and the whole ground stood up and started clapping the players. Memories like that are things you can't buy.
Alan Hoffmann: High point, if we're including all competitions, I'll go with the Europa League win over Anzhi. The match was a thriller, and Cisse's winner was so memorable. It got us into the quarterfinals, and I felt we had a realistic chance of winning the Europa League. That came just a few days after a dramatic winner over Stoke in league play, and I felt we had a chance to make something of the season. If we look at it from just the Premier League, the 1-0 win over Fulham. Again, late dramatic winner, and a feeling that relegation worries were behind us. Obviously they weren't, but I felt that it was a high point. When you finish 16th, there won't be a lot of high points.
Jim McMeachin: The high point of the season for me was something that actually happened off the pitch although I don't think that we've seen the full high of the event just yet, if that makes any sense. The tacit admission by ownership that the squad was, in fact, neither strong enough nor adequately prepared for a Premier League/Europa League campaign on two fronts has got to be the best thing to have come from this season, hands down... with a caveat. If we see further improvement in the squad over the summer and holes in the squad addressed, it would seem that the middle ground has been found between complete reliance upon the academy and the meticulous search for bargain players and the Manchester Method of Premier League Dominance™. As it is, I think that we can take from the January window at least the fact that they know now that they should not sell their primary goal-scoring asset at the very last tick of the transfer window. Now if we could just work on the "getting a replacement in" thing.
John Murphy: Were the late winners awesome? Sure. Was our Europa campaign an amazing first step? Absolutely. So what was my high point? Chelsea 2, Newcastle 3. The euphoria I felt watching Sissoko's goal smash to the back of the net, coupled with the absolute ROAR of that crowd, was the highest of the highs for me this year. It felt like we were about to turn a corner. It felt like the French Revolution was real. It felt like nothing was going to bring us down. Turns out, all of that was wrong... but man was that mob on Moose awesome.
Robert Bishop: Like Jim, I was excited to see that Cerberus finally decided to make some shrewd investments in January. It was almost a case of too little, too late, but it seems like they may have finally learned their lesson about standing pat. May it continue this summer.
2. What was the low point?
Callum: The consecutive home defeats against Liverpool and Sunderland. Too concede nine goals in two home games is unforgivable. The manner of the defeats made it worse. We totally deserved to get the thrashings we did.
Alan: Low point: I'm guessing I won't be the only one to say Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland was the low point of the season. That was when we entered a stretch of five straight "win and we're safe" games and didn't get it done. We looked extremely poor in a derby. A lot of negativity followed the club that week. Two weeks later, when we lost 0-6 to Liverpool, those feelings were compounded, but I think it starts with the derby result. You could point to losing by 4 to Manchester City, but that result doesn't shock me. 0-3 to Sunderland does.
Jim: The low point for me was April. All of it. Nevermind the important victory against Fulham, but the defeat in the Europa League paired with the derby loss, a West Brom match that we should have been able to take something from and the Liverpool Capitulation which left us in very real danger of relegation was rock bottom for me. Really, if I'm being honest (I hate that I've picked up this Pardew-ism. Can I call *this* the low point?) the whole season was one long giant low point. Except for the Chelsea match that Moussa Sissoko Moussa Sissoko'd, I can't even really remember a single victory that left me feeling fulfilled. Maybe Anzhi in the EL.
John: For me? Being so damn busy I didn't have half a second to watch, follow, or write. For the club? I think it's easy to point to the Tyne-Wear debacle, but I definitely feel like 6-0 against Liverpool AT HOME was pretty dang awful. The fact that my father and best friend are Liverpool fans certainly doesn't help. My most recent 6-0 Newcastle memory was our amazing return to the Premier League when Andy Carroll netted a hat trick against Villa... now when I hear 6-0 I'll think of Brendan Rogers' stubby little fingers convulsing like a happy Bond villain on the sideline.
Robert: I really thought that Paolo Di Canio's gaudy goal celebrations at St James' Park were the lowest this team could get short of another relegation. Sadly, I was wrong. Conceding 6 goals is never fun (unless you score 7, I suppose), but it was the way they did it that was so disgusting. The back four let the Reds walk in and score whenever they wanted, and the manager stood on the sidelines and did not a thing about it. It was the most disinterested I've ever seen a team look for 90 minutes. If scrubbing my brain with acid and a rotten old toothbrush would remove the memories of the apathy displayed in the body language of every. single. Newcastle player on that day, I'd do it. Probably.
3. Do think the final position in the table (16th place, 41 points) is representative of Newcastle's season? If not, where should this club as currently constructed have finished?
Callum: No, I think in all honesty, we deserved to take the 3rd relegation spot.
Alan: I think 16th is fairly accurate. I thought it was funny that if the results went Newcastle's way, they could have ended up 10th. This was a club that couldn't get the job done for the last third of the season (only 4 wins in their final 13 matches) and looked incredibly poor for that run. I think the pieces are there for a top half of the table finish next season, but given all that happened this year and the poor performance down the stretch, 16th is an accurate showing.
Jim: I've been on record as saying that I was desperate for us not to end up in a false league position (such as if all the cards had fallen the right way and we ended up in 10th). Not only was the finish accurate for how dire we were all season, it was exactly the feedback that the club hierarchy needed to understand that this season was flat unacceptable. Alan Pardew will and should be facing harder questions with a 16th place finish than perhaps he would have seen if we finished 12th or 11th. I know we have lost out on a lot of merit-based payment because of this league finish, but file it under "you gotta spend money to make money" so long as the lessons are learned by all involved.
John: Well, table position, in general, is going to be representative of your performance over the course of the year. I think Newcastle, when healthy, can still be a top 10 team. Unfortunately, with the emergence of the youth programs at Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham, I think Newcastle have a LOT of work to do in order to get back into European spots. A lot of that work HAS to come from the academy, but unfortunately Newcastle's current strategy seems to be buying French players in the primes (or early primes) of their careers. While this may be a nice short term solution, the powerhouses to the south definitely have more sustainable and stable formula. As we're currently constructed, I can't see us finishing above 8th. Hopefully Everton will fall with the departure of Moyes, but we're still light years behind the Manchurians, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and (ugh) Liverpool. That puts us as, at best, the 7th best team in the League. Newcastle should be better than that... but it's going to take some work.
Robert: It was an uneven season, so to average just over a point in each match seems about right, actually. There were points dropped because of some dodgy decisions, sure, but we also had the Hand of Ba and Papiss Cisse's backside to thank for some undeserved results as well. Surely this will serve as a wakeup call for management...right? RIGHT?! Hey, where are you going?
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.