For Newcastle fans there is no such thing as ‘normal’.
We hear from time to time from the club friendly media that Newcastle United are striving for stability…but usually that just means that Mike Ashley has decided now to block any sensible transfer spending. That is until the lack of investment automatically leads to yet another crisis and the owner too little, too late, tries to avoid relegation by belatedly letting money be spent.
Despite the lack of trophies down the years, Newcastle fans do tend to get the good times in a real rush.
There tends to be no progression up the league a couple of places each season, leading to eventual (relative) success.
Instead we have things like Kevin Keegan taking us from 90 minutes away potentially from the third tier, to finishing third top of the Premier League in just two years.
Likewise, after Dalglish and Gullit had ruined Keegan’s team, the task looked even beyond Sir Bobby Robson. Newcastle United finished only 11th in his first full season (2000/2001) and appeared to be going nowhere, he makes two inspired signings in Laurent Robert and Craig Bellamy and Newcastle are then top of the Premier League at Christmas the following season before eventually settling for fourth and Champions League football.
Newcastle fans tend to have pleasure overloads, where everything happens together and afterwards you maybe feel you didn’t properly appreciate it at the time because there was too much going on, too fast, for you to really step back and enjoy it.
Even Kenny Dalglish delivered some of that. Before he reverted to (his usual boring) type, after taking over from Keegan, Dalglish actually finished off the 1996/97 season playing a forward line of all three of Shearer, Asprilla and Ferdinand!
After taking over in January, Dalglish oversaw only two Premier League defeats that campaign and it all came together on a glorious final day.
The 11 May 1997 brought an excellent 5-0 win (Goals from Robbie Elliott, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand (2) and Tino Asprilla) over Nottingham Forest. What’s more, is that when the match announcer then started to bring us the scores from elsewhere, the day just got better and better.
Other results, Arsenal’s in particular, meant that Newcastle had once again finished second and this season was the first when the runners-up qualified for the Champions League.
The day then went up a few more notches as results at the other end of the table were revealed, first Middlesbrough and then Sunderland confirmed as relegated. That was some night out on the Toon!
Up to the present day and whilst it isn’t quite up there with the KK and Sir Bobby achievements/moments just yet, the Rafa era is proving to show real shoots of future prosperity AND a shorter-term overload of enjoyment in recent days.
After a season that looked to be cruising to promotion for most of the time, after overcoming that difficult three match away run against Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading and emerging with seven points, the team seemed to switch off.
Including that Reading goalless draw, Newcastle only won two games in eight and those were narrow nervy one goal margin wins over Wigan and Burton. For a time United looked like they could manage to avoid automatic promotion and send us into play-off lottery territory.
However, since losing 3-1 to Ipswich and looking really really clueless on Monday 17 April, pretty much everything has gone our way after the final whistle at Portman Road.
17 April Derby 1 Huddersfield 1
21 April Norwich 2 Brighton 0
22 April Forest 3 Reading 2
22 April Huddersfield 1 Fulham 4
24 April Newcastle 4 Preston 1
26 April Middlesbrough 1 Sunderland 0
28 April Cardiff 0 Newcastle 2
29 April Leeds 3 Norwich 3
29 April Sunderland 0 Bournemouth 1
29 April Brighton 0 Bristol City 1
29 April Crystal Palace 0 Burnley 2
Yes, from the moment that Huddersfield threw away a win at Derby in the final seconds, it has been good times for Newcastle fans. If holding on 13 days ago, David Wagner’s team would have moved to within two points of Rafa’s side and life could have been very uncomfortable.
Instead, Huddersfield have imploded and along with Reading losing on the 22nd, it meant Newcastle could then get promotion in front of their own fans with that win over Preston.
With three games to play and only nine points to play for, Brighton were seven points ahead of Newcastle, now that gap is only one, two wins for United and two defeats for Hughton’s boys.
Two defeats in the space of four days has seen the Mackems tumble out of the Premier League with still 22 days and four games left to play. Despite that derby victory, Middlesbrough then look sure to follow Sunderland down.
There were even other smaller bonus moments to add to the occasion. Leeds fans have had plenty to say this season and as old rivals, not many Newcastle fans of a certain age will be upset to see them throw it so dramatically away, their draw against Norwich ensuring they miss out on the play-offs.
Finally, there is also still a faint chance that the dream relegation could happen, with Sunderland down, Boro all but down, Palace losing to Burnley means Fat Sam could also still be relegated.
Burnley are now safe but Palace are fifth bottom, with their final matches away at Man City and Man Utd, with a game at home to relegation rivals Hull in between.
Hull are four points behind Palace and Swansea seven points adrift of Allardyce’s team – but after playing at Man Utd today, Swansea end the season with home games against Everton and West Brom, with a visit to Sunderland in between.
It is rare that Newcastle fans can sit back and relax and enjoy the pain and suffering of others, enjoy it while you can!
Mike Ashley is reported to be meeting Rafa Benitez this coming week to talk about the future – allowing the Manager to have a realistic transfer budget and no interference in his running of the team/club for five years would be an ideal way to end this run of good times.
I knew it couldn’t last…
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])