After relegation in 2009, it appeared that Newcastle United was on a downward spiral, they had just lost their Premier League status and problems were rife in the board room. Premonitions of gloom circled around St. James’ Park, ones that were only heightened by the unveiling of that horrific away kit.
However, despite being dressed in yellow and orange on the road, Newcastle pulled through terrifically, and Chris Hughton’s men easily claimed the Championship title. In Andy Carroll, a new star was born, and his impressive Championship performances were further complemented by those of men like Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi. In April 2010, Newcastle was back in the Premier League, back in the limelight and ready to stay around for a long, long time.
The 2010/11 season was a very mixed one for Newcastle United. There were moments of brilliance, think back to that stunning 4-4 draw with Arsenal and a fine Carling Cup win at Stamford Bridge, but there were ones of madness as well. Due to the idiocy of owner Mike Ashley, controversy continued to follow the club around; Ashley went against popular opinion and sacked manager Chris Hughton early in the season, only to bring in a disappointing replacement in Alan Pardew.
On the football pitch though, Newcastle succeeded and with Pardew at the helm, and they continued to cruise along even after the departure of striker Andy Carroll. Their position as a Premier League club was maintained without too much duress; Pardew’s team eventually finished twelfth in the standings. So comfortable were Newcastle, that the last few games of the season became academic, and though certain players were accused of being over economical in their late season effort, United concluded the season with a three game unbeaten run.
Over the course of 2011, a new wave of stars established themselves at Newcastle; players like Cheik Tiote and Jose Enrique finished out the season while striker Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool. However, now that the season is over, Newcastle have already lost one of their most valuable assets, bizarrely, Kevin Nolan decided a couple days ago to move to Championship club West Ham United. It is strange enough for a player to elect to move from a top flight club to one in the second division, but it is even stranger that Nolan is doing so at the dawn of what could be an exciting new era for Newcastle.
Nolan is gone, but so much remains at St. James’ Park, I think that the Englishman could be missing out on being a part of the best Newcastle team since the end of Kevin Keegan’s first term as manager. With a thirty-five million war chest gleaned from the Andy Carroll sale, and a further few million coming direct from Ashley’s wallet, Newcastle are set to be highly active in the transfer market; they have sealed three signings already.
Coming in are West Ham striker Demba Ba, Lille midfield man Yoann Cabaye and Rennes star Sylvain Marveaux. All three are men of real promise, Ba has already forged a reputation as a prolific Premier League striker and both Cabaye and Mareveaux are highly rated in French football. However, that trio look to be only the start of the Newcastle revolution, there are yet more players linked to the club, including men of the caliber of Dimitar Berbatov (a boyhood Newcaste fan), Moussa Sow and Eden Hazard.
Mouth watering as those potential transfer targets are, the players they would be complementing are also cause for much encouragement. Jose Enrique and Cheik Tiote, though both linked to moves elsewhere, may be willing to stay on after the arrival of all this reinforcement and many have been guilty of forgetting about the returning likes of Hatem Ben Arfa. Potentially boasting an attack made up of Berbatov, Ba and Ben Arfa, Newcastle days of cavalier offensive play could be returning, as could a place in European football.
So as Kevin Nolan rubs Vaseline over the innumerable cuts and bruises he will have acquired in the rough and tumble World of Championship football, perhaps he will think of what could have been. Turning on Match of the Day, he will see his old teammates celebrating another blistering attacking performance, but he will neglect to watch The Football League Show; West Ham will have lost yet another game earlier in the day.
Read more by David Yaffe-Bellany at In For The Hat Trick.