The relentless progress by Newcastle United towards the second tier title has suffered something of a setback.

Another home defeat, this time to Sheffield Wednesday, has left the juggernaut with a few loose wheel nuts.

I read a few tweets from south coast sports writers who were happy to predict the demise of Newcastle United. I remain sincere in the hope/expectation that this won’t be the case and surely it is crazy to suggest that?

The plan for Rafa Benitez is now to get this show back on track, maybe to rethink a few things tactically, and have a dip into the January transfer market.

Promotion is vital. We still sit pretty in the table but some big challenges lie ahead and the manager and his players need to step back on the gas, because the quality is there.

The permutations of not achieving promotion back to the Premier League is not the debate to start having just yet, but the odd thoughts of such an outcome is entering the mind.

2016 the year to forget?

What a year of contrast for Newcastle United. A plummet down the Premier League, the hapless McClaren, the arrival of Rafa Benitez, hope, then relegation, and now a new era of rebuilding.

Such a wide range of emotions have been experienced in 2016 but we can take heart that the club will end the year in better shape than it started it. It’s staggering to even write a comment like that given we are currently no longer a top flight football club, though we all hope and pray that that will be rectified come May.

After years of a flawed strategy it seems someone in the corridors of power finally twigged that things needed to be done a bit differently. Enter Benitez and suddenly you can sense the major shift in how things are going to be done. The hope has to be that subject to promotion they can sustain this fresh approach and provide a sufficient budget to make a go of things.

It makes me wonder just how hands off Mike Ashley is. Is it possible that all of the previous folly was enacted by those employed by the club and the Sports Direct mogul never really had a major input? We may never know – but given the autonomy handed to Benitez maybe that really is the case.

The message to those in charge is loud and clear: you’re getting it right at the moment, don’t change this course, the club has the feel of gathering momentum.

Only Fool and Horses

It was a Christmas that saw the fall of Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. Newcastle fans were given a rough ride over the Pardew issue when he left us early in 2015 but we can point to having been proved right.

The reality is of a manager who has had initial success at every club he goes to but seems incapable of building on it. He seemed to run out of ideas at Newcastle and lacked the tools to get the very best out of the international class players.

The same seems to have happened at Selhurst Park. Armed with Benteke and Cabaye he presided over a shocking run. The facts speak for themselves.

At NUFC he took us on our worst run since 1987. His pals in the London media chose to ignore that fact, or cite the conditions he had to work under at Gallowgate. Well, he had a much freer hand at Place and the outcome is exactly the same.

The big year ahead

The hope remains that 2017 will see our proud club returned to the top flight. It is also a big year because Newcastle United will mark its 125th anniversary.

With the new spirit of openness at the club these days I hope they can find some good ways to celebrate the milestone.

We’ve seen so much over that period of time and it makes you realise what a fantastic football club it really is.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton