View From The Away End
Ten months, one manager, several drubbings, a lot of heartache and a defeat to officially the Premier League's worst ever side later, and things look rather different. Over to Shane...
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On a lengthy train journey, sitting opposite a smartly-dressed chap who was reading the Guardian’s report of Newcastle’s final game of the season:
Shane: "Doom and gloom?"
Chap: "Nothing changes – like bein’ stuck in a bad marriage."
Shane: "One of the faithful?"
Chap: "Season ticket holder - last twenty-odd years."
Shane: "Verdict on 07/08?"
Chap: "Bloody hell! Got t’ look back, haven’t y’ – Allardyce spent a fair whack last summer – they didn’t do much."
Shane: "None of them?"
Chap: (thinks) "Beye - Habib Beye - he might be worth keepin’, and Viduka has his moments - in a part-time sort o’ way, but we still need an engine – Gerrard-style, kind o’ thing. Wi’ Allardyce it was always gonna be ugly, but I thought it’d be a bit more effective – was like watchin’ some o’ these Championship teams that get promoted."
Shane: "I was at the FA Cup game at Stoke."
Chap: "Ha! Whisker away from public humiliation – talk about on the ropes!"
Shane: "Nicky Butt seemed to have a good attitude."
Chap: "‘Attitude’ – that’s one thing."
Shane: "Mm. Seemed a bit weird, Keegan coming back."
Chap: "You’re not kiddin’ – it’ll end in tears."
Chap: "Thing is, when he’s not seein’ eye-to-eye wi’ Chris Mort or Ashley, then what kind of a player’s gonna sign – helps if the manager’s settled and confident – and looks like he’s enjoyin’ it."
Shane: "Sounded like he was just taking the edge off expectations – releasing a bit of pressure."
Chap: "We’ll see."
This brief chat summed up Newcastle’s latest plight. Whilst the final league position (12th) could have been a hell of a lot worse, taking a closer look at the table speaks of something that really didn't work – namely, defence. A fifth worst goal difference, of -20, cannot be overlooked. When the football isn’t working, then it’s fair to look about the fringes for signs of optimism or small successes. But again, it is of no consolation that Newcastle were robbed at this year’s British Soap Awards. 'EastEnders' my arse!
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Thanks to Shane - largely for having the courage to strike up a conversation about Newcastle Utd with a disgruntled fan. He could have found himself inadvertently pinned to the wall of the carriage with a whole lot more invective than that...