Last January, following the sale of the team’s prized striker and local hero, if you had asked any Newcastle supporter to predict the 2011-12 season, it is doubtful anyone of any age would have had the courage or belief to state that the PUMA team would enter 2012 in seventh position.
Yet despite a downturn of results recently that are directly related to the club losing important players in defence, that is where the team stands.
Based on the principles of hard-work, organisation and team spirit, the Magpies have been the surprise package in the league this year. The grand old stadium again rocks on matchdays, they have an in-form striker with 14 league goals to his name and the club enters the January transfer window with genuine hope that they can attract the two or three players required to push for a place in European competition.
While it is a team rendered more than the sum of its parts by the aforementioned qualities, the midfield in particular warrant special mention. A blend of silk, steel and endurance, they are the fulcrum for the team’s European style passing game and also the chief architects of the pressing game that has made the team difficult to beat.
Witness them harrying teams into mistakes before combining to send the technically-adroit wide men into dangerous territory and it doesn’t take long to realise why the fans at this huge club are so happy.
For 60 minutes of last night’s game, they were on equal terms with a team just above them in the league, they disrupted their opponents rhythm and were only undone by two moments of individual brilliance, one by an ex-player and the other by a returning superstar.
Following the relegation two years ago, Newcastle United had to take stock and rebuild on solid foundations. Steady progress rather than financial negligence and chasing a dream was the mantra, and while initially the supporters viewed this with caution, the management team and players have shown the value of having a settled environment.
With the league now settling down into a top seven and a bottom 13, Newcastle United go into 2012 with a genuine belief they can hang on in there and continue to progress ahead of the curve set out by the people who control the club. With the supporters on side and money available in the transfer window, this could, after several false dawns, be the season that Newcastle United is re-established as one of the country’s top clubs.