I didn’t want this weekend to ever end…maybe the next one will top it
It was Cardiff 0 Newcastle 2 and what a weekend to be a Newcastle fan…
Now that the dust has settled on an eventful bank holiday weekend I want to look back at what was an incredible couple of days to be a Newcastle fan.
I wrote an article midweek discussing the three main records that looked like they may be broken this season. They were; wins in a row (unsuccessful), most goals in a season by a Newcastle player (unsuccessful) and most away wins in a season (to be confirmed at the time).
I live in the South West and don’t get the opportunity to get to loads of games but this season will be a personal record for me with (a rather paltry) seven matches. It was five before Cardiff but I managed to get hold of tickets to the last two games of the season.
I had thought tickets for the Cardiff game would be hard to get so I spoke to a girl at work whose boyfriend is a season ticket holder and he managed to get me a seat in the away end.
I have a Watford supporting mate living in Cardiff these days and I’ve been threatening to visit him for a while so this felt as good an opportunity as any. He was going to get himself a ticket in the home end but then more tickets were made available and I managed to buy one as a member. We’d be sitting separately but we’d both be amongst the Newcastle faithful. It’s a testament to how many seats had been made available that my mate and I were in different stands altogether.
So, Friday the 29th of April, I left work at 12.45 and headed over to Cardiff from Bath. Once I met my pal we went straight into town and soon came across a Geordie stronghold outside a pub in the centre. Unfortunately, my mate wanted to show me his favourite drinking establishment, so we sacrificed the camaraderie, optimism and singing for a grimy, little, graffitied spot around the corner.
Once we got to the game, the party really started. It didn’t take me long to get up-to-speed with the chants of ‘Sunderland’s going down and the Mags are going up’ as anyone on my Snapchat will testify. It was the promotion party I’d longed to be part of and I enjoyed every second of it.
And then I had to go watch the game.
The less said about the first half the better. It would have been easy to forget that you were at a football match, it was so lacking in entertainment. Yedlin reminded us though why his pace has been so missed as he bombed forward to get onto a quality, looping ball from Diame. However, the chance was from a tight angle and he did well to work the ‘keeper.
I only recall one other half decent opportunity which fell to Mbemba. He scooped over the bar from 18 yards out. Not an easy opportunity, especially for a centre back who’s still peeling off cobwebs after a lengthy exclusion from action.
Asides from those half chances, the only times I cheered were when Cardiff had goals disallowed. Both moments my head disappeared into my hands only to discover from the reaction of those around me that they’d been chalked off.
Morrison powered a header into the back of net after twenty minutes but he mistook Ciaran Clark for a vaulting horse and the goal was rightly disallowed. For the second one Hoilett bundled in a scuffed shot but was offside. Oh, how different the day might have been had the referee followed the performances of some of his predecessors this season.
In the second half I went to get my mate. I had been surprised to find there were five empty seats next to me in that first half. I went and had a swift beer and then we came back to my stand. Unfortunately, when we returned it appeared the people that had been nearest to me must have had a similar idea and the five empty seats had become zero empty seats, not even mine was available anymore. We managed to squeeze into a couple of seats nearby though and then came the 45 minutes that would create history.
played a lot better second half. Everybody had a pretty good game and Cardiff didn’t really look all that threatening.
Ten minutes into the half and Atsu was bundled to the ground twenty yards out and stepped up to take the free kick himself. There’s moments occasionally in football when you just feel like you know what’s going to happen before it happens. I knew Atsu would score. It was a fantastic free kick. The way he hit it was more the way you’d expect a player to hit a lofted through ball but it worked perfectly and zipped straight into the top corner.
The second goal I certainly didn’t know was going to happen. If Isaac Hayden kicks on next season I think we’ve got a real gem of a player on our hands. He breaks up play well, is tidy on the ball and can occasionally break forward and create too. Tonight he let loose a wonderful strike on his weaker left foot that arrowed into the bottom corner. Cue bedlam!
The fans were fantastic all game. It helped that most of us were behind a goal that we got to cheer four goals going in (2 for us and 2 disallowed for them). The singing never stopped and not many left straight away after the final whistle. We stood and clapped and cheered and sang.
The last game I was at was Reading and our first chance of beating the record. When we failed to defeat them I never imagined I would have a second shot at seeing us achieve it in person. I had wanted to go up to the Birmingham game but it sold out before it went on sale to members. If I’d managed to get to that game I’d have attended two 0-0 away games in 11 days and still not witnessed the moment of history I craved.
I have been a vocal defender of Rafa and this Newcastle side all season. I don’t think the season has been as disappointing as some people have made out. I think in twenty years time people won’t be saying, ‘they got promoted but they didn’t deserve it’ or ‘they played terrible football all season’. They’ll be saying, ‘remember when that Champions League winning manager inexplicably stayed at Newcastle and helped them get promoted at the first attempt and they broke their club record for the most away wins in a season’.
This record will stand for many years I’m sure and this squad was the one that broke it. They deserve respect for that alone. They have dragged us back into the elite and with a game to go, 91 points and a +42 goal difference really doesn’t sound all that bad. No one is questioning that Chelsea have been exciting this season and they’re only sitting on +43, although admittedly they have played 11 games less than us.
I will say this though, we have taken 46 points away from home this season, whilst we took 59 at home in our last stint in the Championship. If you add that phenomenal home season to this brilliant away one we still only end up on 105 points.
Reading got 106 in their record Championship winning campaign which shows just how unbelievable that feat was. At the Reading game they chanted at us ‘106 and you’ll never say that.’ I don’t think they’re wrong but hopefully we won’t be in the situation to be worrying about that any time soon. Good luck to them in the play-offs though. They’re my most local away game next season if they go up.
The celebrations didn’t end on Friday. Before the sun set on Saturday it had done on Sunderland’s time in the Premier League. Their ten year stay in the top division finally brought to an end by their limp home defeat to Bournemouth.
Some will say the loss of the ‘guaranteed’ points they get from us is what did it, some will say it’s because they didn’t follow their usual routine of sacking a manager and surviving off of the new manager bounce. For me, it’s been coming for such a long time. They have spent the majority of this last decade as a basement battler. Most of their signings last summer were poor and the ones in January maybe even worse. They’ve got their comeuppance at last. I look forward to tracking their ‘progress’ next season.
Then, that evening, Brighton; who boast the best home form in the Championship, somehow lost 0-1 to Bristol City at the Amex. I watched the game and couldn’t believe my luck. I may still witness us lifting a trophy next weekend.
On Sunday Middlesborough appeared to make their own job (of survival) almost impossible with am admirable, and somewhat unfortunate, draw to Man City. It’s looking like Newcastle are nailed on to be the North East’s top dog next season but I will be disappointed if/when Boro go down. It’s a shame not to have a North East derby next season although I am very happy that there won’t be one with Sunderland.
So onto next weekend. I’ll be flying up early Saturday morning and then flying back late Sunday night. Whatever happens it’ll be a great weekend but it’d be oh so sweet to see us win this cursed division. If anyone’s got any ideas on where might be a suitable place to take the party Saturday night then I’m open to suggestions in the comments below.
Looking at Villa’s performance at Blackburn, I’m not massively confident they can stop Brighton. But I have a sprinkling of faith in Steve Bruce to finally do his bit for the team he supports. The most important thing for us is to get the win against Barnsley. Get a goal early so that the news travels to Brighton and they may get nervous.
I didn’t want this weekend to ever end. Let’s see if the next one can top it.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Cardiff 0 Newcastle 2
Newcastle: Atsu 55, Hayden 65
Possession was Cardiff 42% Newcastle 58%
Total shots were Cardiff 13 Newcastle 14
Shots on target were Cardiff 3 Newcastle 5
Corners were Cardiff 5 Newcastle 4
Referee: Graham Scott
Elliot, Yedlin, Mbemba, Clark, Dummett, Perez (Sterry 90), Colback (Shelvey 73), Hayden, Atsu, Diame, Murphy (Mitrovic 66)
Darlow, Lazaar, Haidara, Gouffran
Crowd: 23,153 (Newcastle approx 4,300)
You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin
(Watch brilliant post-match footage of Newcastle fans HERE)
(Read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction after Cardiff match HERE
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