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Opinion

Connecting years of failure

2 months ago
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I often now hear Newcastle United fans crying out, when are things ever going to change?

The answer is, they already have.

What I am talking about, is Newcastle United fans connecting these below.

1974 FA Cup Final

Liverpool 3 Newcastle 0

1976 League Cup Final

Man City 2 Newcastle 1

1995/96 Premier League

Second in the final table, four points behind Man U

1996/97 Premier League

Second in the final table, seven points behind Man U

1998 FA Cup Final

Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0

1999 FA Cup Final

Man U 2 Newcastle 0

2000 FA Cup Semi-Final

Chelsea 2 Newcastle 1

2004 UEFA Cup Sem-Final

Marseille 2 Newcastle 0 (On aggregate)

2023 League Cup Final

Man U 2 Newcastle 0

Newcastle United fans connecting up this series of failures and asking when things are going to change.

In reality, you look at the list above and two of them were semi-finals and in 1996/97 Newcastle never came close to winning the league, indeed, it was a great finish to the season that even got second on the very final day. That class day when as well as getting second, the mackems (and Boro!) were relegated.

So the list of failures these past 55 years are basically – three FA Cup finals, two League Cup finals and the 1995/96 Premier League title.

Reality is that Newcastle United were massive underdogs in all of these three FA Cup finals, really unlucky that when NUFC got to Wembley in this competition three times since winning it last in 1955, they were playing basically the best team in the country.

In 1999 Man U won the treble, in 1998 Arsenal won the double, whilst in 1974, Liverpool actually finished behind Leeds in the First Division BUT between 1972/73 and 1979/80 the scousers won the title five times and were runners-up the other three. Newcastle United incidentally ended up 15th that 1973/74 season, so really up against it in that final.

Newcastle and Arsenal Fans Wembley Way FA Cup Final 1989

The two League Cup finals were better bets, Newcastle still underdogs both times, but not to the same degree. In 1975/76 Man City ended eighth in the top tier and Newcastle 15th, whilst last season Man U were third and Newcastle fourth. Despite losing both these finals, Newcastle United were competitive in each of them, on another day they could have won either / both of them.

So I think it is fair to say that we were unlucky to lose both of them BUT they were 47 years apart!

Which I think is at the heart of what I am trying to say, this is only a series of failures for Newcastle United fans who are canny old.

Even if you want to add the FA Cup finals in the late 1990s, well you would now be in your 40s at least, to have been an adult back in 1998 and 1999. Realistically almost everybody now in their 70s or older, to drag in the two final defeats of 1974 and 1976.

This is not a case of endless failure for Newcastle United at the last moment, losing final after final, year after year.

Instead, it is a failure to even compete, decade after decade, that is the problem.

Which is why I say at the start that things have indeed changed already.

Newcastle United fans are feeling sore at the moment because at the last gasp NUFC failed to get through to the Champions League knockout stages and even last gasping, failed to make their second League Cup semi-final in a row. As well as falling off the pace a bit for the Champions League qualifying places via the league.

Just read that back a bit, it says everything.

Newcastle United are not winning things, just yet, but they are showing very very strong signs of getting competitive, both currently and most importantly, for the long-term.

In these last two years, Newcastle United had the third best form in the Premier League across the entire second half of the season in 2021/22, the fourth best form across the entire 2022/23 season, got to that 2023 League Cup final, came within a minute or two injury time of getting to another League Cup semi-final and then potential final again.

This is to a backdrop of prior to Eddie Howe and this ownership, Newcastle United had only ever been to one League Cup final in over 60 years of the competition and had only previously been in the Champions League group stage twice, never having played in the European Cup previous to the change in format and name.

The entire history of the club, winning and losing, is important to us all as a fanbase.

However, it is not a millstone that needs to be carried about by Eddie Howe or the current Newcastle United ownership / hierarchy.

Nor indeed us as a fanbase, unless we want to that is.

I can’t think there is anybody at all still involved at Newcastle United who was involved back when we played those 1970s cup finals.

Then whilst I’m sure there will be some staff still there in some capacity from those Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson management eras, there will be nobody in any kind of senior position.

This is an entirely new club in reality.

Indeed, you can say it pretty much even is, from just the Mike Ashley era.

Mike Ashley

Certainly in terms of people in any kind of authority.

Ashley had stripped the club down to the very bare bones and especially where staffing was concerned, on both the football and especially business side. He had Lee Charnley as effectively just a caretaker / office manager and used Sports Direct people like Keith Bishop and Justin Barnes to oversee stuff at the club remotely and on very part-time basis.

Graeme Jones on Eddie Howe’s coaching staff is about as high profile as it gets, apart from players, when you talk about links to even 2021.

I honestly think that if either the Kevin Keegan or Sir Bobby eras could have gone on a few more years, especially under KK, Newcastle would have started picking up trophies.

We were so unlucky as well that SBR couldn’t come in and replace Keegan directly, those in between years were so costly.

Under both managers Newcastle United were competitive season after season and if you do that, you eventually win stuff.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten 1995/96, I wish I could!

Like all of you that also lived through this, it was gutting.

Though yet again, this was in splendid isolation.

Calling on you historians, even since 1927 have Newcastle United come as remotely close as they did when almost winning the top tier in 1996?

As for that 1995/96 ‘so close’ season, as much as Newcastle United lost it, Manchester United won it.

In their final 15 Premier League matches, Man U won 13 and only lost one. That is phenomenal. Cantona and Schmeichel two world class players who did it for them.

For anybody to criticise KK for ‘losing’ it is crazy, he came within 90 minutes of winning it! That final day of the season, if Newcastle had won and Man U lost, NUFC would have been champions.

Kevin Keegan Ant Dec

As for KK supposedly reckless, absolute nonsense. He played generally very attacking football and it won loads of games.

However, it wasn’t a disaster at the back, Newcastle only conceded two more than Man U that season.

Plus, towards the very end of that season, Keegan showed he was adaptable.

In the fifth last, fourth last and third last games of the season, Newcastle won 1-0 against all of Villa, Southampton and Leeds.

In the second last game they did the same at Forest, Beardsley scoring after 15 minutes and Newcastle dominating and cruising, only for a Woan wonder goal 15 minutes from time out of nowhere, ruining it.

That Forest game is so little talked about, when Newcastle United fans torture themselves about that season.

However, the reality is, if NUFC had seen out that win, there would have been massively more pressure on Man U on the final day, both clubs level on points.

Anyway, I digress.

This is now a new Newcastle United.

Us as Newcastle United fans will continue to be haunted by Graham Fenton, Ian Woan and a certain night at Anfield…

However, no need for NUFC as a football club to be, certainly not Eddie Howe and the rest of the club hierarchy and ownership.

A competitive club and team is being built for the long-term.

One that will trophies as well, sooner or later.

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