It is quite difficult to describe the mood of Newcastle fans at the moment.
I think maybe the word is ‘expectant’.
A bit like the father to be pacing up and down the corridor in those black and white films before it was the done thing for dads to be to be ‘hands on’ and in the delivery room.
You know it (promotion) is going to happen but you can’t settle/relax until it does actually occur – and in the meantime you are incapable of really thinking about anything else.
Trying to understand what has actually happened this season, I started to look at various stats.
By accident I eventually arrived at what I think is a reasonable conclusion as to why Newcastle fans are so baffled.
We were told before a ball was kicked and many times since, that Newcastle have the best squad that has ever been seen in the Championship.
Even those like Neil Warnock who declared that Brighton had the best eleven, still acknowledged that it was NUFC with the best squad.
So surely that should mean that as the season pushes on and game come ever thicker and faster, the bigger/better Newcastle squad should really start to tell.
Except…the reverse has actually been true, after the opening couple of games it was Newcastle that dominated with their best eleven (more or less) and threatened to run away with this league.
Only to then start to falter and for that to continue, with indifferent form/results for months.
Here are two Championship tables below: the first is after everybody had played 17 games and Newcastle beat Leeds away, the second is after 43 (Huddersfield and Wolves only 42) matches and is up to date.
Championship table on 20 November 2016 after Newcastle beat Leeds 2-0 at Elland Road:
Championship table 20 April 2017:
As you can see from the above, Newcastle were already five points clear of second and nine clear of third back in November, after a run of 13 wins and 1 draw in the last 15 games, with only 1 defeat.
The next five months and 26 matches have told a different story, below is the number of points each of the (current) top clubs have accumulated in this five months/26 match period:
49 Huddersfield (played one game less than rest – from 25 games)
50 Sheff Wed
Quite remarkable that Newcastle with the strongest squad, allegedly, has in fact accumulated less points in these last 5 months/26 matches than any other club in the top seven.
Whilst some are lining up to have a go at Rafa Benitez as Newcastle don’t live up to certain expectations, I think that certainly the whole NUFC squad strength thing was totally overblown.
I believe most Newcastle fans think we have a core of six or seven players who pretty much pick themselves and then after that it is a bit of a lottery as to who is then picked, with a lot of very average players.
If a few of that core group of better players (Clark, Gayle, Shelvey, Hayden, Ritchie etc) is missing, then the replacements aren’t of anywhere near the same quality.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])