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Play-Off Winners – Know Your Place

12 years ago

It would seem that a magnificent running start to the season can leave you a little bit spoilt, if recent events are owt to go by.

I suddenly find myself feeling a bit annoyed with our recent 2 points from fifteen, even though we still sit in a highly respectable 7th spot. The fact that 3 of these games were against extortionately assembled teams of superstars and another involved us fielding a hastily scrambled together side should be enough to quell any thoughts of catastrophe but the most recent game against Swansea was only a few days ago and it’s still sticking in the craw a bit.

I’m not going to dredge up Opta statistics or any kind of well thought out research to support my argument but we absolutely battered them and the failure to make that breakthrough made for a frustrating afternoon. Strangely enough though, I sort of expected this in a way. I mean, Swansea were the play-off winners eh? If you stop and think for a moment, the occupants of this title have recently become a major pain in the arse for Newcastle.

Every year I watch the play-off game to see who will be taking the final place in the Premier League (Ok, I missed it in 2009 as I was in a bad mood but nearly every year) and I am guilty of the same thought every time: “well done them, look forward to 3 points at St James’ next year”.

That’s the way it always was in the early days of the Premier League, you see. Plucky upstarts bag themselves a last-gasp promotion then get blootered on a weekly basis before returning back to where they came from in less than twelve months. I remember smashing seven past Swindon in our first season up, back when play-off winners behaved properly.

Look at recent times though. An unbeaten home record of over a year was ended when Blackpool had the bloody nerve to turn us over here last year. Then, prior to our PL ‘rest season’, Hull City turned up on a dark day in United’s history and snaffled an opportunistic win that felt annoying at the time but ultimately proved incredibly costly, as the Tigers stayed up at our expense.

Then what about Derby County? Another embarrassment is being the only side the Rams beat in their humiliating 11-point haul that season. If it hadn’t been for a late Mark Viduka raker, it would have been a horrendous double, as Derby pinched a 2-2 draw at SJP.

Aha(!), you’re saying, but we crushed Watford 2-1 in 2006-07!  You’d be right there, but the previous years saw unconvincing home draws against West Ham, Palace (in a match that required paper aeroplanes to alleviate the boredom) and Wolves (practically a mass walkout for this one).

Prior to this we fared a bit better but before some internet sad case pointed it out, did you realise we’d only won one from the last eight home games against play-off graduates?

I am confident the Swansea miscarriage will prove a blip as opposed to the ominous signs some of these other disappointments proved. Our team and management have served us proud this year and the recent results should not even begin to detract from this.

That’s coming from me and I’m spoilt.


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