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Opinion

‘Is this where Newcastle United are really aiming for next season?’

3 weeks ago
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We all know the Newcastle United drill.

It’s all about building a solid base and making slow progress.

Aim for a top ten finish next season, win the league within 5 – 10 years, blah, blah, blah, yawwwwwn!

It’s known in business as Expectation Management. Or for those of you who have had Mike Ashley inflicted on you for the last 14 years, you may recognize it as “Disappointment Encouragement”.

I’m OCD and a bit of a perfectionist, so anything I do just has to be the best and most organised I can do it, but not everyone shares my obsession for perfect, and life has taught me that if you expect great all the time, well then you’d better get used to being disappointed.

Sorry – that should be “Ashley has taught me…”

So I’m what’s known as a happy pessimist. Do the best you can but when it comes to your expectations of others, aim low.

It makes sense that our new Newcastle United owners should set out their stall and tell us what their plans are,
but I can’t help thinking that they are aiming deliberately low. Yes, I know these things take time, and we can’t expect excellence overnight, but I can’t help thinking that we are a little further on than they are willing to admit.

I appreciate that our appalling start to the season was probably the main motivation for our stunning recovery, but you can’t help wonder where Newcastle United could have been “if only”.

If only Callum Wilson hadn’t torn a calf muscle against Man U in December and been out for four months. There were a few games during that period where we either drew, or lost by a single goal. What a difference having a “proper” striker on the park could have made!

If only Kieren Trippier hadn’t fractured a bone in his foot against villa in February. In the few games he played, he’d already shown us how much he could influence games.

It was a masterstroke from Howe to ease Bruno into games slowly. I watched some of his antics at Lyon and I think that had he just been lobbed in straight away, he could have learned the hard way that Premier League teams don’t offer the same space and respect that he got in France.

If only we could have used him earlier.

The biggest “if only”, though, has to be the one where we wonder what could have been, had we not been sitting, up to our necks in the relegation zone at New Year with a paltry ten points?

Yes, the second half of our season was exceptional, but had we started the season with those additional players that we bought in January, would it really be expecting too much to think Newcastle United could have been looking at displacing the likes of Leicester, West Ham or even Man U from their final positions?

What I’m getting at here is that Newcastle United already have the makings of, say, a top eight team, so why are we being so cautious about our ambitions for next season?

I can already see the “injuries” and “strength in depth” comments rolling in but I would counter, by pointing out that most of the players who started last season as our stars will be our cover for the coming season.

Aaaand we’re back to Expectation Management!

It has been said many times that we still have a long way to go, and we do, but the length of that particular journey has been calculated based on a handful of pretty poor performances against the big six. We have already shown that realistically points are up for grabs (and even expected) from the other 13 teams in the Premier League and the capabilities of our current team will only improve over the summer months, as another handful of decent players come through the door.

Yes, the sensible thing all round is to play it down. After all, mathematically, top ten is better than eleventh, and improvement is what we’re all after, but excuse me if, having just watched the Geordie version of The Great Escape, I think we can get over that fence and across the border just that little bit quicker.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we shouldn’t be aiming too high, getting our hopes up and all that, but if the best Newcastle United can do with this team and a few others next season is tenth, I for one am going to be disappointed.

I guess the happy pessimist in me is taking some time off.

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