After the disastrous conclusion to the 2008-09 season saw Newcastle fall in to the Championship, the only conclusion they wanted to last season was promotion. No other result was acceptable and the club cantered over the finish line as April began. A complete reversal of fortune from the doldrums the club went through prior to its relegation, The Magpies breezed to the title in imperious form.
With a squad with the quality of players such as Kevin Nolan, Steve Harper and Jose Enrique, they were always going to be favourites to return. Avoiding the perils of stagnation or losing large chunks of their squad to Premiership clubs, Newcastle were able to use the pain of relegation as a driving force for redemption.
Placing the quiet and softly spoken Chris Hughton as manager paid dividends for the club. As a player he’d played in some major matches for both club and country but last season was surely the pinnacle of his professional career so far. 102 points amassed, a goal difference of +55, unbeaten at home and only 4 defeats in the league. It was an impressive campaign from start to finish and 4 players, Nolan, Enrique, Carroll and Coloccini were all chosen in the Championship Team of the season. To top it off, Hughton was voted the Championship manager of the season too.
A more reflective sense of perspective seems to have descended on St. James Park this summer, as the club reflect on the forthcoming Premiership season. Transfer wise only two fairly low key signings have arrived, James Perch, the utility player from Nottingham Forest and Dan Gosling who has walked on Everton through a transfer loophole. Gosling is likely to be unavailable until at least Christmas as he recovers from a cruciate ligament injury.
It’s certainly not the usual hubbub of transfer action that we expect from the North East, but it seems lessons have been learnt from previous recruitment drives. My only concern is the lack of strength up front, though Andy Carroll certainly cemented a consistency that added to the expectations that had been laid upon him. The Newcastle fans love nothing more than one of their own leading the line and Carroll continues a tradition that goes back all the way to Jackie Milburn and beyond. Niall Ranger could also be another rough diamond that needs a polish up.
The majority of the squad know all about the Premiership, so for a promoted side it is unusual for them to not look towards major surgery. Getting Joey Barton fully fit and concentrating solely on football would be like signing a new player, such were the issues that over took his career in the last couple of years. There is top level experience running throughout the squad and Hughton knows that will be vital to keeping Newcastle up. Adding a few more bargains to strengthen the squad should be the main transfer aim before the deadline comes down.
Forget crazy ideas of finishing in the top ten, this club needs to concentrate on re-establishing itself in the Premiership before anything else comes to mind. No doubt Sky Sports will be scouring the town to look for the over optimistic nutters they only ever use when discussing Newcastle United who will be banging on about European qualification, but most Geordies know that stability and consolidation are the key words to any success, anything above 18th is all they need to worry about.
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