Ahead of Nottingham Forest, the league table is still one of festive cheer for all Newcastle fans.
Being one of the top duo in the league represents an excellent reaction to the disappointment of the summer. Even more pleasing for the rest of the season, however, is the six point gap between ourselves and Reading in third.
Chris Hughton’s Brighton have been chasing us down like Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious and are on an incredible run of seventeen league games unbeaten. Fair play to them.
As long as there is only one serious contender for promotion then Rafa has nothing to be worried about. Whether the club finishes the season in first or second place, the result is the same.
Now is a time for unapologetic optimism because no other team in the division appears to have the capacity to make a consistent set of positive results. Derby have miraculously kicked into life under Steve McClaren but there is a big question about how long that can last. They are already 10 points behind NUFC and therefore should be totally beyond our radar for likely obstacles to a Premier League return.
So barring some sort of complete cataclysm of incompetence – which doesn’t seem to be Rafa’s style – Newcastle and Brighton should still be the automatically promoted sides in 23 games time.
Not only that but it would also require one of the current clubs in the play-offs to suddenly have a spell of six or more consecutive victories to reverse the top of the table.
That prospect seems even less likely. The three Yorkshire clubs are a mixed bag and could stumble at any time. Whilst if you compare Reading’s players to our own, then there should be no excuses for messing things up. Reading’s Gareth McCleary and Yann Kermorgant are simply a leap below the likes of Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie. So far the league table is proving it.
Of course, it is a lot easier for Newcastle fans to make those kinds of claims after all the Christmas Turkey has been digested and 2017 gets started.
If we can begin the new year after extending that six point cushion, then the next few months should be plain sailing.