You may not realize it, because the event passed with little fanfare, but Newcastle passed the magic 40-point threshold that supposedly guarantees safety from relegation this past Sunday when they defeated Aston Villa 2-1. For a little bit of perspective, it should be noted that Newcastle didn't cross 40 points until April 19 last season, and their finishing total was 46. This year's team has 42 points with 14 matches left to play. Quite the improvement.
So are they safe? Mathematically, no. But that's a silly way to think about things this early. Not even league leaders Manchester City are safe...the gap between them and 18th place Bolton Wanderers is 37 points, less than 3 points per game remaining. I don't know of anybody who wouldn't consider Manchester City a lock to survive. Again, it's a silly notion. (More on that in a bit.) So what of Newcastle? Just because it's possible for the 18th place to pass them doesn't make it likely, does it?
Consider this: The difference between Newcastle and Bolton is 22 points. Bolton has 20 points in 24 games, which is 0.83 points per game (at that pace, they'll hit 32 points at the end of the season, well below the 40 point barrier). In order to catch the Toon, they would have to make up 1.57 points per game along the way, which means they would almost have to double their pace while the Magpies stood completely still. Now consider that there are 12 other teams that would have to catch up as well, and the chances that Newcastle could be relegated approach zero pretty rapidly.
Yes, Newcastle are safe, and yes, it's a silly question. You don't have to bust out the calculator or even think about it for very long to see that they are well on their way to avoiding the second-year slump. I think it is worth pointing out, however, that had I posted something like this in February of last year, I would have been dragged to the town square and hanged for jinxing the team. That's how far this team has come in 12 months.
One day we'll all be back in a place where survival is a given and we've got our sights set much, much higher, but for now, it's nice to know that no matter what happens over these last few months, this season has been a success. Qualifying for the Champions League or even Europa would be fantastic. Even finishing in the top 10 or above Sunderland would be great. If we don't appreciate the little victories, though, the season might seem like a disappointment if we were to, say, finish in 8th. Don't forget that many were predicting relegation for this squad. I don't know about you, but if I even suggested a finish in the top half to a supporter of another team, they had to fight to keep from laughing in my face. The team shouldn't be simply be satisfied with that kind of finish, but as a supporter, I'd hate to look a gift horse in the mouth.
We didn't celebrate the team's survival in their first year back in the Premier League until May 7 last year, and 9 months later, I'm proclaiming that it is indeed time to party. I'll start.