This has got to be a sure-fire sign that Newcastle United are going places
I’m a natural pessimist and it has served me well in recent seasons.
I quickly realised Pardew was too fragile to turn a winning streak into a change of form, and the Carver appointment confirmed my worst suspicions of the strategic vacuum at the top of Newcastle United.
I’d assumed that McClaren would underperform but I underestimated how quickly he brought us to the brink. And after that, I never thought Rafa had a chance to save us from relegation.
Pessimism is a weird instinct because it’s not about being miserable. The glass is half empty, you see things going the wrong way and getting worse, and enjoy being proven right. And for a pessimist, one of the surest omens of problems to come is unalloyed joy in a positive situation.
I’ve been enjoying the fans’ incredible positivity over the summer following Benitez’ decision to stay. But I’ve been feeling a continual urge to double check that we’ve not missed an obvious problem.
The positives go on and on. We’ve sold on at a tidy profit or parked elsewhere a rogue’s gallery of dishonourable misfits who lacked the stomach for top-flight football.
We have signed players genuinely committed to bettering themselves by battling with NUFC back to the Premier League. The sheer passion of the Gallowgate Flags campaign and the classy way that Rafa has positioned himself, seem to be bringing a dignity to the club that it’s lacked throughout the last decade.
Even typing this down is making my inner pessimist itchy. If it’s too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.
So where’s the catch? Why’s the owner suddenly doing the smart thing, after eight years of doing it his way?
My deepest fears were confirmed watching Newcastle at home this August. I’d seen Vitessse in their last competitive fixture away to FC Twente, a game they needed to win to qualify for the European play-offs. Against a Twente team with nothing to lose, they twice threw away a lead to finish the season with empty hands.
So surely this would be nothing more than an early season parade, an easy win. It would be a chance for new signings to stretch their legs and fringe players to stake their claim in the squad.
But the way that Vitesse fought back set my sixth sense tingling. The Newcastle second-half display seemed so chaotic and disorganised that we’d be no match for a seriously organised championship side.
Watching the Fulham game on Sky compounded the fear of a team not gelling. A feeling compounded by the curious Huddersfield performance, where promising individual performances and team pressure was never ruthlessly forced into a result.
Since then we’ve won four games on the trot, and the international break let us enjoy our status in the promotion places. There’ve been positive performances from most of the newcomers, and Rafa’s found a way to bring Anita and Gouffran into the fold.
So should we be worrying now about Newcastle meeting the weight of expectations that we’ve got in the manager and the squad? I certainly couldn’t believe the supporters booing at half-time against Huddersfield with the club still gelling from the transfer window turnovers.
Each to their own, but I thought it was a cracking game of football from a team that was clearly going to a lot better. And that’s an unusual thought for the pessimist in me – that the boo-boys have got it wrong, and the optimists are right.
So that’s my view. The downside is we’ve got one season to put it right and get up to the top, or Ashley may well pull the plug, cash out and leave us floundering.
But the sheer fact that NUFC can at long last make me feel optimistic about our chances for the coming season has got to be a sure-fire sign that finally the club is going places.
You can follow Paul on Twitter @heravalue
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