Hello, my name is GodZeller, and I am a Newcastle fan.
Ever since the dawn of footballing time (1992 if Sky Sources are to be believed), I have supported Newcastle United. As a kid growing up in the grassy refuge of Somerset, I had no real reason to do this to myself. Nothing forced me into it, if anything I resisted peer pressure from playground favourites Manchester United and Liverpool to chase my own footballing destiny. It’s a decision I have long since pondered – did I make a mistake? Was a life celebrating the smallest win worthwhile? Was Rob Lee really the next Glenn Hoddle? It’s been 20 years since I first saw Gavin Peacock absent mindedly pass to an opponent under no pressure, and once again, I find myself asking the same question.
When I was fortunate to meet Rob Lee and John Beresford, I asked them 'Why didn't we win the title in 96?' They both responded at precisely the same time, 'Gavin Peacock'. I wish I was joking.
The season itself has been one of disappointment mixed with perspective-driven acceptance. We all knew that last year was too good to be true, hell, did we expect to keep Demba, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Colo, Krul and Tiote come opening day? No chance. I lost 20 quid in bets because I was sure at least 2 of them were gone. Young talent was scouted and the slim midfield thickened up by Anita and Amalfitano, all was well in the North East. The sun shined on opening day, and a 2-1 victory against a strong Spurs side left fans thinking – Could Al Pardiola have finally accomplished what all before him could not, and actually brought stable winning football to St James’ Sports Direct Arena Park?
The answer, of course, is no. Ever since that beautiful day at the home of football, it’s been a slow, painful regression back to the place we are all so familiar – a few places above the drop zone. What went wrong? Was it Pards’ insistence on subbing on Shola for no reason at 65 minutes? Was it the Europa League’s fault? Was it Ba’s fault for jumping ship? Did the injuries expose the fact our squad players were not of the standard required to fill the enormous responsibility Cabaye, Tiote and Colo deal with every week? Was it just too damn cold for too damn long?
It’s easy to take these excuses and repeat them ad nauseum to whoever will listen, but the way I see it is ‘It was just one of those years’. Every team has them. Everton had it, Spurs had it, Liverpool had it – and these are the teams I want to compete with. We are a Europa League team, it was clear when we were playing in the competition, the players are good enough. The key difference between this team and the team that went down is that this team didn’t go down, and let’s be honest, the way they played, they really should have done.
The Europa gave us an inkling of what we can achieve. Imagine Papiss scoring ‘That Anzhi Goal’ at the San Siro, or Tiote losing the plot in a battle with Pepe. In the summer, I would like us to focus on a new striker and some defensive back up (both are pretty obvious), and I’d like Pardew to get to grips with the idea that rotation is not always a bad thing. Yanga, Debuchy, Anita, Gouffran, Vuckic, Marveaux, Bigirimana – these are all very good players who improve every time they stick on the shirt. This preseason marks the first time these players will all be together for a summer, and gives Pardew time to experiment in games that, for once, don’t have to be treated like Cup Finals. Why bring on a patently past it Shola or ‘Mr Reliable’ James Perch (I still have my doubts) when Bigi can do the job, needs it more AND has a whole year of experience in the team to back him up? Add to that Dummett and Abeid, both of which have only enhanced their reputations since their loan moves, a couple more attacking options and I truly believe you have the makings of a fully-fledged top 6 squad.
Is there ever a bad time to post this gif?
If you asked all 20 teams in the Premier League for a complete first XI swap with NUFC, by my money 14 would take it. Another stat is that we have the 4th youngest squad in the league on average, behind Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool. The club is in a good position financially for once, we still have the most passionate fanbase going, our team is excellent, our youth system is showing promise and we have several 15million+ players. We’re not stuck with ridiculous contracts for over the hump players and we aren’t jacking prices through the arse in search of solvency. It’s so easy for us all to complain and lament, but I’m just happy this year is all over.
I am looking forward to 2013/2014 in the same way I looked forward to 2012/2013 – with trepidation and anticipation. Personally, I think the squad are doing the same. I get the feeling they know they are a better team than they displayed in the final few months of the season, and are eager to prove us wrong. At least I bloody hope so.
After all, it was just one of those years…