Was it really 12 months ago at St James Park when it looked like Newcastle had finally turned the corner?

After a comical but painful opening four months, Steve McClaren was there with his annoying grin – consecutive wins over Liverpool & Tottenham had been followed by a home draw with Villa thanks to Siem de Jong missing one of the easiest chances of all time.

Still, seven points from the possible nine heading into Christmas, really did make you feel that better times must surely be ahead…

However, post-Christmas brought only two wins in the next 15 games and a massive 11 defeats. Taking us all to the point of no return.

Moving on to the present day, the big difference is that it no longer feels like you are constantly living on a knife edge – with certain doom coming our way if things start to go against Newcastle United.

There is now belief, backbone, confidence throughout the squad, as well as in the figure of Rafa Benitez on the sidelines.

They say you only really find out about people in the tough times and certainly when Newcastle ran into three defeats in a week recently, there was no panic or drastic change of philosophy.

Similarly, even though it was a desperate position and only 10 games to fix it, the end of last season saw Rafa Benitez preaching calm, even though the early matches brought defeat.

He eventually got to the bottom of what his squad was all about and produced an unbeaten six game run at the very end, just too little too late to save NUFC.

There is just a more solid feeling at Newcastle, that there is now a manager in place who has a long-term plan which is based on putting in solid building blocks, with no major distraction via temporary setbacks.

It is a bit of a different feeling when you can relax and enjoy the festive period and that it is all down to one man – who happens not to be that one wearing red & white…

Here’s to a very happy new year.