Hey that was a brilliant round of football wasn’t it?

I generally have a rule about weekends when Newcastle United, for whatever reason, aren’t playing.

My family gets my undivided attention, without even the distraction of me being zoned out for a couple of hours, refreshing Twitter and double-checking the league table. This week was different though. With United pushed back to Monday night it may have been possible to ignore the games altogether but I spent an afternoon repeatedly going back to the iPhone, incredulous as both Huddersfield and Reading collapsed to leave us a mere two points away from a promotion that has long looked inevitable, but recently wobbled to an extent the borderline hypertension did not need.

The match with Preston now has the potential to be immense, one of those uber-memorable games that makes all the surrounding dross worthwhile.

Any old win will do, be it a repeat of the league cup demolition job or one of those edgy, everyone-plays-rubbish-apart-from-Ritchie bumsqueaks we’ve grown accustomed to of late. The fact that even failure could see the job done 24 hours later when Huddersfield face in-form Wolves should underpin the confidence a bit and surely we’ll get there?

Of course, this will seal promotion only, as the recent shockers at Portman Road and Hillsborough have allowed Brighton to get one hand on the Championship trophy.

There is a scenario where we can catch them, which works a bit like this: we beat Preston, then better their result next weekend (this will be where it is likely to fail as the Seagulls face a Bristol City side no longer threatened by relegation), all of which would mean the final day sees a win against Barnsley necessary while Brighton have a difficult journey to Villa.

It’s hugely unlikely and it shouldn’t be begrudged. If you consider we did the double over Chris Hughton’s team, the points they’ve taken from the rest of the division is far more than we’ve pulled in on average. Given the respect our former manager commands round here, I’m sure we’ll all agree that if we had to lose out to someone in this league, it would be him.

Of course, there’s another viewpoint, that no one in this league should have got near Newcastle United, let alone taken the trophy off us. The relative means of our club v the rest, some very poor performances and perceived negative tactics have all added up to an uncertainty that will be exacerbated by finishing second best.

I hope this isn’t the narrative of the summer, or used by anyone other than bitter mackems to define the progress of the “Rafalution”.

Here’s a quick exercise: quickly answer the question ‘Who won the Championship last year?’ You had to think about it didn’t you?

The answer is Burnley, and it’s true that they have fared best among the promoted trio, but this isn’t always the case. The fundamentals of promotion is that it’s a means to an end and 12 months down the line no one is going to care how you got there, it’s all about what you actually do when you’re there.

You see, what happened next is the next bit. It’s also the most important bit.

For me there are two solutions to the recent inertia at NUFC and being in the Premier League is vital for both.

The first solution is for Mike Ashley to sell up to someone who will run the club with ambition and dignity, striving to meet its full potential. This will be the dream scenario until the day it happens.

The second, more likely, way forward is that the regime backs Rafa Benitez to the extent that he can recapture some of the success he has proven capable of at former clubs.

This team needs a colossal overhaul to have a chance of kicking on in the top flight. Some have served well at the lower level, others not so much. The priority next season will be consolidation but Rafa will have designs on bigger things and with the right additions these could still be reality.

Kevin Keegan said recently that this summer is as big as any time in the club’s recent history and it’s difficult to argue with the great man. The real test comes between now and the end of August and the machinations of how we escape the Championship are irrelevant to the bigger picture.

Promotion is merely the first step to giving us a shot at something better. I hope everyone can enjoy the final three games before the real nerves set in for the transfer window.

It would be nice if Brighton choked though.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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  • Damon Horner

    True. We can’t assume either way if there could be a competitive appetite within the club but if there is then this likely promotion has a lot of irrelevant detail surrounding it, only an issue if it doesn’t materialise. What happens in the summer is the main significance.

  • Leazes Ender

    Promotion is merely putting us where we were 12 months ago with a better manager and a worse squad…. in the meantime a top elite group has formed of seven or so clubs…. a mini league…. a top echelon…. with larger grounds and more ambition than tenth place…..

    • Wor Monga

      You seem to have an unhealthy recurring obsession with some repetitive theme about… the ‘lack of ambition’ and ‘finishing 10th place’, but why should it bother you when you haven’t gone for years now, (except when someone is daft enough to lend you their ticket)?…

      …haven’t you twigged yet that your gloomy predictions of misery…even after the disastrous relegation we’ve just had haven’t lessened our enthusiasm, in the slightest…

      • Leazes Ender

        … that’s because you’re a moron. I haven’t made any predictions apart from us going up in second place and seven points behind the south coast club…. and that was months ago.

        I don’t know why you see the need for delusional ‘positive” thoughts, oh yes your’e a religious nutcase that’s the reason….. I’ve given you the facts of the world as it is not how it is in your mind…

        Which part of that post is incorrect, which part is a prediction…. the gloom which surrounds the club is there because Ashley is there, its there because of what he’s doing to United….

    • Lofty

      That elite group is no different to what it has always been? It’s hasn’t suddenly appeared since we went down last year. The big five who forced the creation of the premier league (Man Utd, Arsenal,Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton) have been joined by new (big) money clubs Man City and Chelsea. The fact Newcastle are still ninth- below all the clubs mentioned – on the all time trophy list having won nowt for so long is proof of the status quo never changing too much. I agree to a point about ambition, but even when we had some we won nowt!

    • Lord

      There’s always been a top echelon but now we have a lot to do to catchup with mid table clubs like Everton, Southampton and West Ham.

  • Viru leckworth

    I fervently hope we do the biz on Monday. Please don’t want a Huddersfield loss decide our promotion. Surely nerves must be out of the window and a return to true form on the menu.

    • Kneebotherm8

      Divvnt worry kidda, we’ll beat Preston fower-nowt man.

  • Jezza

    “The second, more likely, way forward is that the regime backs Rafa Benitez to the extent that he can recapture some of the success he has proven capable of at former clubs.”

    We have had 20 transfer windows since Ashley took over. To the best of my recollection there have been at the most 2 or 3 in which NUFC made any net spend. All the rest saw the club break even or in most cases make a substantial profit. This precedent leads me to believe those of you expecting or even hoping that Ashley will make significant funds available in the summer are sadly misguided.

    • Lord

      I don’t think funds will be the main problem. Rafa likes to sell as well as buy (although we haven’t got as much value in the team now) and I reckon money will be available. My worry is the ridiculous controls Mike puts on buying young ‘assets’ with an eye on future resale.

      Summer 15/16, we had one of the biggest net spends in the division but went down. And it’s since been confirmed by McClaren that he didn’t have control on the players bought (not that he would have done well if he had).

      If Mike’s dumb enough to repeat that trick, we can look forward to a swift trip back down.

  • Lord

    There’s another aspect to a good finish – taking a winning mentality into the Premier League.

    Imagine losing the next 3 and going up with closing form of one point in 18. Often teams start the next season how they finished the last – hopefully it will be with a few wins!

    Still, I reckon we’ll win tomorrow.