Gutted At Euro Exit But It Made You Proud To Be A Geordie
In the aftermath of a heartbreaking cup exit, one would traditionally expect a surge of negativity around a football club, or at least a despondent fanbase. Indeed, there may be a few today still feeling dejected after Salvio’s equaliser cemented Benfica’s passage into the Semi-Finals.
However, this would definitely not be the opinion of the majority. Astonishingly, Salvio’s goal was immediately followed by a stirring round of applause from the Geordie faithful in appreciation of their heroes’ efforts.
For a rollercoaster twenty minute spell, Newcastle seriously threatened to accomplish what many had believed beyond them, only to be undone right at the death by a swift counter-attack. Even the national media struggled to label their efforts as anything lower than brave.
What made this display from the home side ever more impressive was the absence of key personnel. For a variety of reasons, stars such as Coloccini, Debuchy, Gouffran, Santon, Taylor and Tiote were unavailable to Pardew for selection. Traditional rotation players such as Anita and Haidara delivered performances which speaks volumes for the depth that the squad now possess, something which hasn’t been true of a Newcastle side for years.
In the end, they were ousted by a team oozing genuine quality. The staggering length of Benfica’s undefeated streak and the fact that only Barcelona had defeated them by a two goal margin this season highlights the magnitude of yesterday’s challenge, one which Newcastle almost accomplished.
The positive impact made by Ben Arfa and Marveaux off the bench also raised the question of what may have been this season. In a physically demanding campaign, Newcastle have been robbed of far too many players at critical junctures. Rather than listing the injured personnel, it would be far easier to list those that have been least afflicted by this period of incredible misfortune.
Until recently, Santon was Newcastle’s only ever-present player in the Premier League. Aside from the odd knock, only Cisse out of the “purples” has managed to steer clear of any longer term issues. Bearing this in mind, only a fool would argue that the current position in the league is truly reflective of the team’s ability.
Thursday night marked the end of a glorious European adventure but rather than lingering on the defeat there should be a level of optimism. In the expectation that a couple of more league victories will secure top-flight status, fans should start to anticipate what next season could bring.
Without the enjoyable distraction of Europe and (hopefully) the plague of injuries, the squad already in place already looks strong. The January additions have rejuvenated the starting eleven and already proven that Newcastle will be capable of competing with any on their day. If talk of further acquisitions in the close season bears fruit, the squad next season should find themselves in with a realistic chance of securing European football once more.
With Ben Arfa dismissing any talk of a transfer to Liverpool, Coloccini is likely to be the only major summer departure, leaving the current squad firmly intact. The foundations are in place for a prosperous campaign next year and the fans in attendance on Thursday got a glimpse of the good times that are hopefully just around the corner.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]