Apart from one nearly magic season under Keegan, I’ve never ‘expected’ Newcastle United to win the League. Being brought up to follow the Mags as a young lad in the 70’s and spending plenty of time in the second division or mid-table first division at best, League winning status was as far away as the proverbial ‘man on the moon’.
The cups were a different kettle of fish. My dad followed the lads when they won the FA Cup three times in the fifties and never stopped going on about it…’we’re a cup team’…he would tell me. A Fairs cup win in ’69 and FA Cup finalists in ’74, followed by the League Cup in ’76 (my first ever trip to Wembley), seemed to confirm this. I still remember during my school days being excited at the thought of listening around a crowded radio on a Monday lunchtime for the FA Cup draw, hoping for a decent home draw or an away game against a ‘big team’ where we could grab a bit of cup glory. At every victory you could sense a visit to Wembley….it was always going to be ‘our year’. Of course it never was and indeed hasn’t been, domestically, since 1955.
In reality, the cups always brought about their fair share of embarrassing defeats. Hereford was my own personal nightmare, I suspect that I’m not alone picking that game, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Exeter away (0-4!) is still my most humiliating away defeat. However, the cups were always your one hope of winning something. At any point in time Newcastle would only be a maximum of say six games away from winning something and that seemed something tangible and gave us some hope. That hope still remains today. I was gutted at last season’s defeat at Brighton, the low point in an otherwise magic season. The previous year’s defeat at Stevenage had been bad enough…but a repeat dose!
For all the respect I have for the current management and team, and the magnificent season we had last year, I can’t see us winning the League at any time in the future. Unfortunately, the rich are getting richer and there is no chance, unless you are owned by a rich Sheik, of kicking the door down and breaking into the elite. For goodness sake, even Arsenal, with due respect to them, are talking about not being able to compete with the elite. I’ll accept our year on year progress and hope that one day football gets its house in order and there is more of a level playing field. That leaves the cups as our chance of glory.
It was with some ‘concern’ that I read Alan Pardew’s comments in The Journal last weekend, which reading between the lines means ‘we are giving up on the cups and concentrating on the league’. I make no criticism of the manager. It’s his decision and he has to balance the resources he has available, the current state of football has finishing as high up in the league as a greater priority. Qualification for the Champions league is more important than a trophy. For those of us with hopes, however, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth. Dreaming of a respectable league placing just isn’t the same.
If we haven’t got hope what is there left? It appears dreams of a trophy may be a thing of the past on a more permanent basis.