At this same stage last season, Newcastle United sat bottom of the Premier League table, with two points from their opening four games. The latter of which, saw a woeful Newcastle side crumble to a 4-0 reverse away at Southampton.
That afternoon I was busy unpacking after moving into student halls for my first year at the University of Sunderland and listened to the whole farce unfold.
Down on the south coast, calls for the sacking of Alan Pardew echoed around St. Mary’s, and to top it all off, our assistant manager (or, “one of our own”, as he liked to be known) launched verbal abuse at the away end.
The last two or three years for Newcastle United supporters have been riddled with shambles but that afternoon was a particularly low point.
Fast forward a year, I’m sat at my desk in a new flat where I’m staying for my second year at University. Thankfully, this time around I’ve had Queen and The Cure to unpack to, as opposed to a Southampton humbling.
On the footballing front, things may appear similar. Newcastle currently sit 19th in the table after again picking up just two points from their first four games. And at a football novice’s glance you might have assumed we’re still in the same mess we were rotting in 12 months ago. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is interesting to see such a positive mentality among Newcastle fans with the same number of points after four games now, as compared to what we had last season, where anger and embarrassment were the found emotions.
There’s a few reasons to suggest why we’re still upbeat. We’ve had a tough start this season and two points from our opening four games seems about right.
Obviously we have a new manager at the helm who is deserving of much more time for us to get on his back, whereas last year Pardew was still under intense scrutiny after a horrific end to the 2013/14 season.
But all in all, the key reason is clear. The banner that was twice unfurled at the King Power Stadium last season, ‘we don’t demand a team that wins, we demand a club that tries’, looks like it may just have been taken note of.
Heavy investment on, what are certainly looking like, quality players got the ball rolling.
But then again, we fell for that last year when a decent amount of money was spent to bring the likes of Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and Manu Riviere to the club. What was really needed was a mass improvement to both the action and attitude on the pitch.
Swansea game aside, we can’t argue that we haven’t got it.
The most recent game, a home defeat to Arsenal, was the prime example of just how far the club has come in the past year. A home defeat sounds poor on the face of it, but it was an excellent display from Newcastle, who only saw themselves undone by a very unfortunate deflection that led to the ball nestling in the far corner of Tim Krul’s goal.
As Oxlade-Chamberlain’s effort found its way in, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a positive reaction from the home crowd, unleashing a roar to pick their boys up and push them back into the game.
It’s going to take a lot of time to turn us into the trophy-winning, top eight side that we’re supposedly aiming to become.
But I’m thrilled to see how quickly McClaren has got the new philosophy and attitude into the players, especially the likes of Coloccini, who looks leagues ahead of the coward we had leading the team last season.
The effort and commitment from each player to pull on black-and-white for this season has been fantastic (again, Swansea aside, where we were poor), and as long as they keep going with the same hunger and desire to play, the points will come along soon enough.
Let’s cross our fingers that the first batch of three will come back up to Tyneside on Monday night.
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