When Newcastle United win or draw there is still usually the same discussion afterwards.

On the odd occasion that Rafa’s boys lose, that discussion simply intensifies.

In one camp you have Newcastle fans saying that the football is invariably poor, there is a lack of real quality throughout most of the team, and they aren’t quite sure how we are getting promoted so relatively easily.

Opposing that view you have those who constantly argue that the number of points (84 after 41 games) proves how good Newcastle are, with also the fact that no other Championship team has scored more goals or conceded less than NUFC.

Surely the stats can’t lie?

Well they don’t, at least up to a large point, but the truth is that both sides of the argument are correct, in most cases.

Newcastle aren’t great to watch most games, there is a negative sitting back style that Rafa Benitez prefers, which relies mostly on counter-attacking, and often at home the team can look clueless for much of the 90 minutes when trying to break defensive formations down BUT it is working overall.

After 41 matches you are where you deserve to be, Newcastle only have Brighton two points ahead of them and the other 22 teams are 10 points or more behind.

That is success in anybody’s book, especially if the mission statement this season simply read ‘Promotion is success, anything else is failure’.

The two sides of the argument are really about something else altogether, they are simply talking about two different things.

Those who are glass half full are really talking about how happy/relieved they are that Newcastle are heading for promotion to the Premier League.

Whilst the other lot are worried about what happens when United get there (the Premier League).

Whatever the style of football and/or Newcastle grinding the results out, this team/squad that Rafa has assembled have proved that they are more than good enough to get promotion at the first attempt, something that Norwich and Villa have totally failed to get close to.

However, this is a team/squad for the moment, with very few players convincing that they can play any part in making a decent fist of the Premier League.

If you are looking for a core of 15 or 16 players that you would be happy to rely on in the top tier next season, I think Darlow and Shelvey are probably the only two you could include from what Rafa Benitez inherited last March.

When it comes to his signings, then I would add Gayle, Clark, Hayden, Yedlin and Ritchie as Premier League players. Maybe not all playing as first choice every week but good enough to be called upon.

There were widespread claims that Mike Ashley had made clear he wasn’t happy with Rafa’s signings when the Newcastle boss wanted more recruits in January.

However, for five of 11 permanent signings to be capable of making that step up, I think is pretty good going. Particularly when you compare it to the vast amount of money wasted thanks to the Ashley/Carr/Charnley transfer policy of excluding the Manager from having any real say.

It isn’t Rafa’s fault that Diame has proved to be a total dud, whilst others such as Murphy, Hanley and Gamez were always going to be just short-term experience/cover. Then you were always going to have one or two who simply didn’t work out, such as Lazaar.

Rafa Benitez has more than succeeded in his challenge this season and built some foundation for when/if Newcastle are promoted.

The total mess he inherited was always going to take time and significant investment to turn things around, the right backing and signings this summer can see stage two ticking more boxes for all fans as Newcastle United is rebuilt on the playing side on the watch of Rafa Benitez. With some of those signings also significantly adding to the style/entertainment side of things.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • gallowgate26

    I thought that the wins over (let’s be honest here, absolute rubbish) Wigan & Burton Albion papered over the cracks of how poor we’ve been for months now. Yesterday confirmed this 100% and I think Leeds might turn us over on Good Friday.

    • GToon

      Yep you could be right. I think we will go up because the gap is too big but we won’t go up in style. I’ve watched the lads since the mid 70s and I can’t remember a promotion feeling like this before. Previously it was about what we were going to do when we got up and how exciting it was. This season we might go up but it’s been a slog with very few great games, some very average players and distinctly average home form. Hardly something to be optimistic about. In fact I feel the glass is definitely half empty if anything as I know what will happen if we go up and try and survive with this team as it is.

      • Jezza

        Yes in 92/93 and 09/10 we stormed to promotion, sweeping aside all comers. In 83/84 even though we went up in third place we still played a lot of flamboyant attacking football and enjoyed many crushing victories on the way. After each of those promotions there was a definite buzz of anticipation about going into the top division. This time round, if we make it, we will be stumbling and falling and collapsing over the finishing line by the skin of our teeth. As you say it’s hard to be very optimistic when you think about what comes next.

  • ash1001

    The whole club should have had a big hard kickup the backside after the Reading game, we have make far to many excuses since then, as 8 points have been dropped against teams according to form we should have beaten.
    Reasons:- Players not good enough, poor form from those that are, team selection, all add up. Do not want to see dropping points becoming a habit this close to getting over the line.

    • Jezza

      You are right, our players are not good enough. We have not got the best team in the Championship. We haven’t even got a very good team. What we have got is three truly outstanding players, probably the three best in the Championship, surrounded by abject mediocrity.

  • Viru leckworth

    I am a bit worried about Gayle . Since his injury he’s been on three cylinders. His going off yesterday changed the formation. I may be wrong but I don’t see him coming back this season (at least in his pre injury form) which means a serious look at our attacking options. My stream went off ten mins before the end. What was Mitro like?

    • GToon

      He did well. He put himself about and gave their defenders a tough time.

      • Viru leckworth

        Thanks for that G

        • GToon

          Which begs the question – why did he only come on for the last ten and not twenty or thirty minutes from the end. When we are losing it isn’t a crime to play two big uns up front and hit it long. Every other team does it.

  • Geordiegiants

    I’m on the glass half full side, but it is a very glum atmosphere. Until the fat cancer sells up or dies, it’s never going to change.

  • TheNutJob

    we have 3 class players & 3 maybe`s. roll the dice on which way the Fat Lad goes in the summer it`s either funds. or [email protected]@k the Geordies

  • Mark Scott

    I think we are struggling at the moment. Gayle is nowhere near the player he has been before his injury concerns (and possibly will be out for the season now, we will see) and we have very little else up front that poses a constant threat. Shelvey and Ritchie are the two main threats but can’t do it all themselves and while I don’t think Lascelles is as bad as he is often made out, our defence isn’t as solid without Clark back there.
    I agree with @disqus_VMOUmf4Ics:disqus summed it up that the wins against mediocre opposition papered over some cracks, be it from lack of quality or just not coping with expectations/pressure. I can’t see Brighton winning every game from now on so we do still have a chance but we can not afford to be slack like we were over the past few games.
    Having said all that I said at the start of the season if we went up I wouldn’t care if it was as Champions or in 2nd spot and we are still on course to do that, I just think that we should be a little more convincing than we are currently showing.
    Who knows, maybe Rafa is just making sure we go up but not be too convincing so
    he gets more money to strengthen the squad?? Wishful thinking!

  • Mal

    We have become very predictable in the way we play which is making it comparatively easy for teams to suss us out and make it hard for us. Even poor opposition (Wigan and burton for example) almost took points off us on our own patch. Hayden, Yeldin and Clark have been big misses and the sooner they are back the better. Also as mentioned below Gayle hasn’t been the same player since his injury. We aren’t great to watch at the minute and, like many others, would like to see a more positive style of play but the main object is promotion and Rafa is dragging us over the line. I have no doubt that there will have to be a further overhaul of the squad in the summer if we do make it. Let’s hope Rafa is given the resources to carry it out. HTL

  • Leazes Ender

    An addition to the squad in January would have given us the boost we needed to see us over the line… Charnley and Ashley gambled that we were strong enough…. we may hobble over the line in second place but we will be back down again very quickly because the owner does like to play this game of Russian Roulette… with our club.

    … I see no change in Ashleys position in the running of the club, I see no Rafalution now…. or in the future.

    • bobbi fleckman

      Which player did you have in mind? Townsend? Who didn’t want to come permanently, his club didn’t want to loan and who plays in a position where our 2nd best player already plays and our most effective sub plays?

      Or do you have an imaginary player who was better than all our lads, available and a reasonable price.