As football supporters we always tend to view years as starting in August as opposed to January, so it’s always interesting to review the previous year and contrast performances between the two seasons that fell into the year and Newcastle United 2013 is no different as far as our club are concerned. A year of two halves you might say!
We started 2013 in 15th place and having had what you might call an interesting Christmas 2012 with goal feasts away at Man U and Arsenal, both of which we lost having conceded 11 goals in total. To be fair having scored 3 at each venue you would have hoped that we could have come away with something. Sadly this is Newcastle United.
We started the year with a home game against Everton and despite taking an early lead through Cisse we ended up losing 2-1, so not the best start to the year. Never mind there‘s always the FA Cup …well into January anyway.
I don’t need to remind you what happened next but I’m going to anyway. A 2-0 defeat away to Brighton with an under strength side which demonstrated to anyone who had doubted it that we simply didn’t have the strength in depth. Quite frankly I was ashamed at the performance. A bore draw followed at Norwich but on the bright side we did manage to keep a clean sheet .People were starting to become concerned and our previous season’s performances were becoming a distant memory.
Matters turned for the worse in the following fixture when we were beaten 2-1 at home to Reading who scored 2 in the last twenty. I think this was the first game for me where I really did think ‘we are going to get relegated’. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one and it was clear that the manager felt under pressure.
Of course by the end of the month even the owner had decided to loosen the purse strings and with our influx of new players, they gave us all a lift by ending the month with a creditable victory away to Villa with an impressive first half performance. Certainly a mixed month but ending on a high note.
Started on a high with our best performance of the season and a tremendous victory against Chelsea with double goalscorer Sissoko outstanding. Who will ever forget the way he outstripped Cole with a surge down the right? I bet Cole won’t! The ground erupted with our last minute winner and I think we all left thinking we were safe! What had we been worrying about?
Despite losing away to Spurs the following week with new boy Gouffran netting, we couldn’t be too downhearted. Gareth Bale had rescued them and we’d probably deserved something. Two back to back Europa League games followed with Shola taking us through with a penalty away to Metalist after a goalless first leg. An end to end game against Southampton resulted in a 4-2 victory to end the month on a high. Things were looking up and we’d moved up a place to 14th. With our new lads settling in we had all to play for.
A trip to Wales and defeat against Swansea didn’t help us start the month in the best fashion. A late goal meaning we left with no points to show for a game where we should have picked up something. Never mind, it was back to the Europa League and another victory over 2 legs against Anji with a last minute goal by Cisse in the home leg. Again, cue crowd eruption. We were all settling down for extra time and pens.
Sandwiched between those ties was another home victory and another last minute winner by Cisse. He didn’t score many last season but the ones he did score were vital! 2-1 against Stoke meant a welcome 3 points and took us up to the giddy heights of 13th.We weren’t to know that this was as good as it was going to get. Down to Wigan and what can I say about ‘that tackle’? I still cannot believe that the ref didn’t see it. Anyway, robbed of any points by their controversial last minute goal we all felt a little bit hard done to and wishing Wigan bad luck for the rest of the season…luckily they helped keep us up in the end.
The month ended on a downer with a proper drubbing away to Man City. It’s fair to say the spark we’d been given by our new contingent was starting to fade by now…perhaps not unexpected. Down to 15th place.
Away to Benfica, and the proper Stadium of Light , we felt as if the game had been wrestled from our grasp. Ahead following a goal from Cisse, who could have scored more, we ended up 3-1 down but still with a chance of victory with a strong performance at home.
Back to league action though the following week and Cisse once again rescued us with a last minute winner v Fulham in a game that looked to be fizzling out into a 0-0 draw. A very welcome three points which set us up for the Benfica home game and when Cisse put us ahead with twenty minutes to go I felt that the ‘gods’ would be on our side. We’d got our tactics right and I felt we’d go on to win. Sadly it wasn’t to be with a last minute penalty in their favour. Never mind we’d given it a decent go. Let’s concentrate on the league…we needed to.
What followed is difficult to explain. Beaten at home 3-0 by our arch rivals who deserved the three points .We certainly didn’t seem ‘up for it’. I can take defeat but not in that manner. The general view seemed to be the manager had lost the players. Something was wrong. We rescued a bit of pride the following week with a decent point away to West Brom but other results went against us meaning we had dropped to 16th place. Worrying…….but not half as worrying as the following week’s performance.
What can be said about the 6-0 defeat at home to Liverpool? It had relegation written all over it and if anyone was in any doubt that we were in trouble then this game confirmed it. In all the years following Newcastle United I have never felt so ashamed. The players just gave up which for me is unacceptable. I had us down at this point. A bad month!
A decent point in a 0-0 draw down at West Ham seemed ok but results elsewhere that day meant that if Wigan won their game in hand on the following Tuesday then we’d be in a relegation spot. I feared the worst. Step forward Swansea. We will be forever in your debt! With nothing to play for and Wigan concentrating on the FA Cup final, we managed to ‘get out of jail’ as Swansea came back twice from behind. How had it come to this? We finally banished all relegation doubts with a 2-1 victory away to a dreadful QPR who handed us goals on a plate. A certain Remy scored their goal.
We could breathe easy and ‘enjoy’ our final game of the season at home to Arsenal who sealed a Champions League place with a 1-0 victory. Long serving keeper Steve Harper played his final game for us….what on earth must he have been thinking? Probably the same as the rest of us….how had it come to this? Never mind, a summer of investing in decent players…as if.
A new season descended upon us with a hatful of signings to make up for last season’s performances…sorry I woke up…but welcome Loic Remy….for a season anyway – and once he got over the injury he arrived with. Worried by the lack of investment and the ‘Cabaye’ affair we started with a proper drubbing away to Man City and a stupid sending off for Steven Taylor. Alarm bells were actually ringing after one game.
A bore draw against West Ham at home followed which hardly left fans feeling optimistic. A victory away to Morecambe in the league cup saved us from a potential banana skin with the Ameobis scoring. Back to domestic duties and what appeared to be another 0-0 bore draw against Fulham was saved by a bit of magic from Ben Arfa. Three points in the bag but hardly convincing at this stage of the season, the magic from Benny being our saving grace.
Our first game this month proved to be a deserved and probably unexpected victory, given our average start, away to Villa. A 2-1 victory with goals from Ben Arfa, again, and also Gouffran who was starting to prove himself worth a start.
At home to Hull the following week we let ourselves down badly. Despite two goals from Remy to give us a half time lead we proceeded to throw it all away with a woeful second half performance. Very disappointing. Some relief followed in a league Cup victory at home to Leeds…nice to play them again…always enjoyed matches against Leeds. Everton away followed and what can you say about the first half? 3-0 down but to be fair a decent second half performance followed. I think it’s fair to say fans were a little concerned at this point in time.
Remy continued his goal scoring form, he looked very impressive, with two away to Cardiff in a 2-1 victory which showed we could play a bit. If only we could find some consistency as our performances were so up and down at this point in time. Liverpool at home followed….with talk about how we could wipe away the memory of last season. To be fair to the players they certainly did their best to make up for that defeat. A cracking 2-2 draw despite a sending off with young Dummet notching his debut goal before the Gallowgate end… …what a memory for the lad. United were back?
Well not really, because the Mackems beat us again the following week and once again we failed to show. The first half was disappointing and after pulling ourselves together to equalise there could only be one winner. Unfortunately it wasn’t us! The month ended with a not unexpected defeat in the League cup against Man City….anyway you don’t make any money from cups…what’s that all about? Howay man!
A month to remember and one that couldn’t have been predicted. Month of the year! Month of any year? We started with our second home victory over Chelsea of the year with both Gouffran and that man Remy again netting. A great team performance and well deserved victory which took us into the top 10 for the first time of the year.
The following week we produced another victory in the capital 1-0 against Spurs, with Remy scoring once again. Will Tim Krul ever produce a performance like that again in his career? I’m sure he’ll pull off better saves from time to time but so many in one game? I can’t see it. World class performance. To complete three in a row we then come up against Chris Hughton’s Norwich and produced a quality first half performance with Shola particularly menacing. Remy and Gouffran again scored in a 2-1 victory. Things got even better the following week when we took on a useful West Brom and came away with all three points in another 2-1 home victory…and what a strike from Sissoko! Played 4 won 4, you can’t ask for better than that. Ending the month in fifth place was a major boost and set tongues wagging about Champions League finishes…..nothing to fear in this league!
As you might have expected we were quickly brought back to earth with a bump in the form of a 3-0 defeat at Swansea which was a little unlucky and the result didn’t reflect the difference between the sides.
No matter, we then took a trip to the Theatre of Past Nightmares and, for me, produced the performance of the year. Outplaying and defeating reigning Premier League Champions on their own turf was a performance to be proud of. Our first victory at Old Trafford for thirty odd years brought a tear to the eye. There are times when we’ve come away from games against better sides thinking ‘how did we win that one?’, for instance at Spurs in November. Not on this occasion. A deserved victory without a doubt. A word of praise for our former midfield general Cabaye..…he was starting to look class by now…playing to get away?
We then returned to St James’ Park where we drew against a useful Southampton side who have shown that they are capable of competing against anyone. I was happy with a point in a 1-1 draw. Gouffran once again demonstrating his ability to find the back of the net.
Boxing day at home and a 5-1 victory against Stoke…Mark Hughes complained about everything so no change there…but we ruthlessly disposed of a side who suffered a couple of sending offs before half time. The maddest 5 minutes at St James’ Park for some time would be how I would describe the end of the first half! That victory put us up to 6th place, difficult to believe given our performances in the early part of the year.
We ended the year in the same manner that we’d ended the previous season –a 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal but on this occasion we looked to be a bit more of a match for them. Bad goal to concede and the disappointment at not picking up something showed how we had progressed from the nightmare of the previous season.
We ended the year in 8th place. Higher than I would have predicted earlier in the year but what would the rest of the season hold for Newcastle United…