It’s inevitable that there’s going to be talk of Europe in the position we’re currently in – and long may it continue! We’ll shortly know whether sixth place is going to be good enough to get us into ‘Whatever They Call the Fairs Cup These Days’, or whether we’ll need to finish above Spurs or Chelsea…and what if we can finish above Spurs AND Chelsea?!!
One thing I’ve heard that I just can’t agree with, though, is that qualification for the Europa League is more bother than it’s worth for a club like Newcastle United. On the contrary, I would’ve thought that as fans of a team with a well-established European pedigree (and most of that being in the Fairs & UEFA Cups), we would take the competition more seriously than most of last season’s English entrants, and also that the club itself would invest in kind, with more depth added to the squad in any case, to kick on from the success of our current EPL campaign (see above).
Whatever people might think (and Newcastle’s home attendances in the various guises of this competition have always been good, even for live televised matches), it’s a competition that a club like us can also harbour realistic hopes of winning – unlike the Champions League and our own domestic 38 game equivalent. Last but not least, I just like European nights and we haven’t had any for quite a few years now!
But what if we DO actually finish ahead of Chelsea & Spurs and qualify for the ‘big’ competition – the sky’s the limit surely? Well that would certainly please Mike Ashley but to those of us that still harbour hopes of seeing silverware lifted at SJP again someday – and suspect that, just like in 1969, it may well end up having to be European – surely this is just going to be the start of another hopeless (albeit glorious) blind alley…?
Well maybe not… and with that in mind, I wonder if I’m the only Newcastle fan that actually now wishes Craig Bellamy hadn’t scored that last minute winner in Rotterdam, the last time we qualified for Champions League. As things stood back then, without Bellamy’s goal, Newcastle would’ve gone into the UEFA Cup – and I for one believe we could’ve won it that year, given the sort of form we were in and the level of opposition we would have faced. That was the season Celtic lost 2-3 to Porto after extra time in the final – Martin O’Squeal versus some unknown Portuguese coach called Jose – nailed on!
So, maybe if we can sneak into the top four (and negotiate the qualifying round, of course) we might just get the best of both worlds. A Champions League group stage to line the club’s coffers (and maybe persuade Mr. Ashley to invest in a little greater depth for the squad), ending with an honourable third place and parachute entry into the knockout rounds of the Europa League. This would circumnavigate the supposed doldrums of its group matches, while still leaving us in with a shot at a ‘winnable’ trophy! That’s the best case scenario but I for one will just be happy with ANY European football next season.