As Newcastle fans made their way to St James Park on Saturday for the game against Brentford, there was a feeling of expectation that another three points would be staying on Tyneside.
Though there have been a few slip-ups on home soil already, the confidence in the stands seems to be creeping back ever so slowly. Maybe, just maybe, we have something special on our hands.
As it turned out, it was a comfortable win against a Brentford side that appeared to be outclassed. The men in black and white just had too much quality for their visitors from West London.
The main talking point seemed to be just how routine a victory it was. When was the last time that was the case with Newcastle United? We’re not used to seeing our team win with such little fuss – but it’s brilliant.
When Rafa Benitez agreed to stay on as manager in the summer there was shock, but the main feeling from the fans was one of hope. In the last 12 years, there hasn’t been much hope for the faithful to cling onto. The return of Kevin Keegan in 2008 obviously recaptured the imagination but the way that turned out, only reinforced the feeling that this great club would never see the ‘glory days’ again.
Let’s face it, it has not been easy being a Newcastle fan since the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson back in 2004. There have been very few highs and so many lows. Shocking really for a club the size of this but that’s the way it’s been.
There have been countless times myself and others have made the walk up the hill to St James Park apathetic about what we were about to see. Sides being put out by bosses like Souness, Kinnear, Allardyce and McClaren rarely had any excitement to them and to expect a win on a Saturday took an especially optimistic mindset. Match days in general were just not a fun experience.
So how bizarre it was when a man that has won almost everything at the very top of world football committed to a club in the second tier of England. It truly is a crazy game but just how thankful are we for it. The results on the pitch this season have clearly been positive but the awakening goes so much further than that.
Supporters travelling on the Metro discuss who their new favourite player is, the buses are still full of disbelief that Benitez is here, people discuss how many they think Newcastle will win by in the pub at the weekend. There is just a buzz across the whole city.
So uplifting that Rafa has seen NUFC as a diamond in the rough. A project and club that he can really mould in his image – but when you look at everything objectively, it all makes perfect sense. We have a world class manager and Rafa has a city in which he is unanimously loved.
It’s not just Rafa that the fans are loving so far though, it’s football in general. It was extremely easy to be disillusioned by the football on show in the last few years but watching the team this season has been an absolute joy. Most of the 12 summer signings have settled well and the existing members of the squad are really putting a shift in for the team. Young kids getting their first Toon kits have a great choice of heroes to get on the back of their new shirt and that magic is what football is all about.
So results and the table look good, but there is so much more to this ‘Rafalution’ than that. The night before the Brentford game, Benitez and Toon skipper Jamaal Lascelles were in the West End of Newcastle surprising around 200 young people as they were playing football. Supporting the great work that the Newcastle United foundation does makes me proud that these people represent our club.
Obviously that has not been the only event the gaffer has attended in order to try and reconnect the club with the fans. He completely understands how much the club means to everyone in the area and because of that, so many people have fallen back in love with football again. The man just gets it. Match days are fun again and following Newcastle is exciting. Perfect.
All of this isn’t to say I’m getting carried away. There is still so much football to be played this season and it could easily all go pear-shaped and the Magpies could miss out on promotion – but how good does it feel to be proud of the club again?
It’s how it should be!