Under the stewardship of our former managers, Pardew and then Carver, games against the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City were always a little disconcerting to me.

Generally we did alright (in performances anyway, if not always results), it was against teams a little further down the league that we seemed to struggle.

Perhaps it was less of a worry and more of an admission that where the likes of Arsenal had solidified and strengthened year upon year under the same guidance of Wenger, we had bought and sold and taken 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.

Knowing those teams were where we ‘could’ be was somewhat depressing.

They’d turn up against us with a bench full of stars, the majority of whom would walk into our first 11, they’d play attacking, flowing football just like we used to, one-touch passing and movement that we just couldn’t handle, and they were exceptionally easy on the eye, whilst we played hoof ball hoping someone, anyone, would pick up the scraps and score.

We’d watch the same corner over and over, long ball to Taylor or Williamson, virtually guaranteed to accomplish nothing more significant than a goal kick.

It was uncomfortable to watch, it was heart breaking to witness and it brought with it disgruntled feelings of being taken for a ride, by an owner who was using us as nothing more than a tool to help drive his business empire.

Fast forward to now and things have changed dramatically.

We have bought a few players who themselves would not be out of place in the starting 11 of the top four.

We have a manager who is playing the kind of football we love to watch and we now have options when it comes to set-pieces.

The days of us being uncomfortable to watch week by week seems like it may be just about over, yes there are still things to remedy and we are far from the finished article, but it would be fair to say that we are way beyond the Steve McClaren blueprint stage, and our bench is no longer a crèche.

The squad are being moulded into a team; with a vision, a direction and a purpose.

It is an ongoing process and may well encompass a few downs on the way, but it looks hopeful that it will also contain a great many ups, as we take the steps to become the team we should be.

We have yet to gel as a team, though we have seen indications that the process has begun.

Hopefully by the allotted 12 game mark, we will have become a well-oiled machine with a fair few points on the board…

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