Not sure what to think about Newcastle United at the moment.
We’re such a crazy football club and I’m having trouble coming to terms with things in both the positive and the negative.
It’s been so strange these past few months; to go down to the Championship is a move I would not recommend to any club under any circumstances.
However, on this occasion when the night came that this relegation was confirmed, of course I was disappointed, but I was also surprisingly upbeat. How could that be?
I think it was for a number of reasons.
The first being that it happened on a night that we weren’t playing. This way we avoided some of the scenes back at Villa Park in 2009 such as the ‘Sob on the Tyne’ banners and some fans turned to tears as any team’s supporters perhaps would.
My thoughts turned to Rafa and the club’s PR team going into overdrive to try to pick up the pieces as the team from down the road were celebrating staying up at our expense. It wasn’t long before fans were emailed a no doubt pre-prepared club statement.
Secondly, I always had the feeling, where others did not, that Rafa would stay with us and rebuild something good at the club. Was it wishful thinking? Probably.
However, I always had a hunch that his short time with us would further cement a kinship with the fans. He’s already a Liverpool club legend and my thought was he wanted to build a similar project here. He came to Newcastle knowing it’s a big club but I think our fans did a great job of making him wanted here too.
Which leads nicely into my third point – the 5-1 result vs Tottenham on the last day of the season. Relegation was confirmed and things ought to have been sombre and negative and even poisonous…but the atmosphere on the day was actually quite the opposite. It was more like a celebration.
Nowhere else would you see such a positive atmosphere just a few short days after relegation. The job of the fans that day was to make it quite clear to Rafa that he was wanted
While that may not have been the clincher in the deal, you have to say it went a long way to helping him decide to stay with us. A relegated club and thought by many a ‘basket case’, we surprised a lot of people by managing to secure him permanently after relegation.
A club who were relegated yet still managed to (somewhat cynically you might argue) raise their game against a big club, who not so long before were challenging for the title. You’d be forgiven for wondering where performances like that were during the rest of the season but for me it was a real lift and a joy to end the season so well.
It wasn’t just the result, it was the feeling around the club on the day – that we could still do moments like this even in these difficult times and my feeling was that we’d done enough to convince a manager with the CV of Rafa Benitez to stay in charge. And so it proved – but we were still a relegated club.
Between these differing emotions I don’t know what to think about my club at the moment. Am I right to be so positive, or am I setting myself for another almighty disappointment if it doesn’t work out at the end of the season?
Despite relegation, Rafa has come back and we’re finally doing things properly at the club, it feels like special times are coming back once again
I feel like I’m supporting a football club I can be proud of once again.
I started supporting the club back in the old first division when Kevin Keegan worked his magic. I had a lot to learn about football back then but It felt back then like something special was happening; it felt like a magical club. The kind of magic only a child would see. It was a club winning football matches, winning them well with attractive, attacking and entertaining football.
That’s the marker I’ve put down on Newcastle, as a club that is capable of doing special/magical things.
I realised quickly how things can change in football when to my dismay Keegan quit and Newcastle then slipped away from the top premier league placings.
We briefly flirted again at the top of the Premier League and in Europe under the stewardship of Sir Bobby Robson… that was another special time for the club.
Since his sacking we haven’t hit those heights again, with the possible exception of the infamous fifth season, just missing out on Champions League football.
Despite this Newcastle always show glimpses of potential; whether it’s a 6-0 thrashing of a then top 6 side in Aston Villa in our first season back in the Premier League or that January evening we beat Man Utd 3-0, or even that final game of this 15/65 season – destroying a Tottenham team who admittedly had already lost the title.
A club where life is never dull and even now, one that can attract Rafa Benitez.
You can follow the author on Twitter @jonniegrieve.