I thought it was a major error when Newcastle United were putting out the message pre-season that they had a ridiculously tough opening set of fixtures.
I thought it was counter-productive because it gave the players a comfort blanket if they lost, a ready-made excuse that almost helped to maybe convince some of our players that they weren’t going to win before they even went onto the pitch.
I also thought that the so-called tougher fixtures was a bit of a myth as well.
The opening half dozen Premier League games saw Newcastle United face tough matches against Arsenal and Man Utd but Swansea, West Ham, Southampton and Watford were all games where you could reasonably expect Newcastle to get something.
This is what actually happened:
Newcastle 2 Southampton 2
Swansea 2 Newcastle 0
Man Utd 0 Newcastle 0
Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1
West Ham 2 Newcastle 0
Newcastle 1 Watford 2
Played 6 W0 D2 L4
Then if you move forward, you can see what has happened in the next half dozen:
Newcastle 2 Chelsea 2
Man City 6 Newcastle 1
Newcastle 6 Norwich 2
Sunderland 3 Newcastle 0
Newcastle 0 Stoke 0
Bournemouth 0 Newcastle 1
Played 6 W2 D2 L2
In this second set of six, Newcastle had to play last season’s Champions (Chelsea) and this current season’s (Man City), in addition Stoke is always tough, Bournemouth won the Championship last season, whilst we also had the small matter of having to go to Wearside on the back of a five match losing run.
I personally don’t really think the second half dozen was any tougher than the first lot, yet Newcastle accumulated only two points early on, but eight points from the next ones.
Yes luck plays a part but I do think that there are other factors at play here.
Even Steve McClaren openly admitted just how hopeless the club’s pre-season arrangements had been, the travel schedule for the USA was poorly though out and it included a game on a plastic pitch which was too dangerous for half the team to play on, whilst there were too many matches when the squad arrived back in the UK.
Added to this, the late signings of Mbemba, Mitrovic and Thauvin meant there was little/no chance of the team gelling early on.
Then you had the late confirmation that Colocconi was staying and would be captain, which came after the Argentine defender had not played a single minute of pre-season until he got an hour in the final friendly, this despite him training all summer.
Forget the red herring of ‘tough’ games, Newcastle United were a club and team in chaos as the season kicked off, badly prepared and Steve McClaren having little clue of what his best eleven was.
Averaging two points in six games is nailed on relegation, averaging eight points in six matches is mid-table and would have earned you 10th position in last season’s Premier League.
It is still early days but maybe, just maybe, the stats from this season tell us that Newcastle are just possibly improving significantly.
The third set of six matches kicks off with Leicester, Palace, Liverpool and Spurs, before finishing off with Villa and Everton. Another return of eight points or better would definitely tell me the upward momentum was being maintained.
I will revisit this when this half dozen is complete and I still have my Christmas hangover after we play Everton on Boxing Day.