Believe it or not, a lot of English football “experts” are clueless. When Newcastle were promoted from the Championship, the summer that followed was supposed to be one of excitement. Rafa Benitez at the helm and the prospect of top players arriving was very much in the minds of the Black and White army.
Needless to say, the same old problems, perhaps expectantly, reared their ugly heads once more. After the debacle of January 2017, when the manager was prevented from signing the reinforcements he sought so desperately - Mike Ashley was back on the scene. Something which has spelt trouble every single time during his tenure.
Those disagreements were laid out on the table in the form of face-to-face meetings between the owner and manager, and solutions were said to have been found. We all remember the official club statement mentioning that Rafa Benitez “can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.”
So, optimism was rife. Then, pessimism took over.
Newcastle struggled getting players over the line. Nothing new, just ask Alan Pardew. Tammy Abraham, Ruben Semedo, Willy Caballero, Kenedy, Eliaquim Mangala…even Matt Targett. All were supposed to have rocked up at St James’ Park, none of which actually did. As is custom in the Newcastle United realm, people were up in arms, myself included. Everybody has their own attack on Mike Ashley and the “Sports Direct” regime. Some went as far as saying relegation was just around the corner….again. Some said not to worry. Some, like me, whilst recognising the problems at the club, refused to bow down to the strange mystique of the Premier League.
Burnley, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, West Brom, West Ham, Stoke City, Swansea. Sorry to sound like a big, bad bully, but on what planet are any of those teams intimidating?
Of course, some of those clubs have been a step ahead of us over the past few seasons. A step. Not five or six jumps. Watching the Huddersfield game in August was depressing. Two teams that were average at best, both having very off days, but one with a player that could pull something special out of a hat. Huddersfield were not better than Newcastle. Newcastle were not better than Huddersfield. The margins in the Premier League are finer than anybody can ever realise.
Since then, the team have recorded three straight victories. An awful West Ham were blown away with ease, a toothless Swansea City fell victim to the tactics of Benitez and a mediocre Stoke City were out-fought.
Brighton & Hove Albion are up next. A fixture Newcastle fans will have fond memories of. A win at the Amex, something that is most plausible, will fire the Magpies to 12 points. A third of the way to Premier League safety…already. At this rate, Newcastle United would not be totally dreaming to hope for a top-half finish. They have a manager that knows exactly what he is doing, players that are willing to play for one another and an entire city behind their football club. How many other Premier League clubs can you say that about?
Hint: The answer is not very high.
Wow. It is almost as if the Premier League isn’t anywhere near as good as what we are told it is.