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Here's to a happier new year in Toonland!

By Lee Ryder on Dec 31, 08 12:17 PM

Another year, another 12 months of broken dreams and another topsy turvy ride on the black and white rollercoaster - 2008 even by Newcastle United's sky high dramatic standards has been another white knuckle ride in Toonland.

For genuine Geordie folk they could not have experienced much more raw emotion if they tried.

It all started with the beginning of the end for Sam Allardyce when he somehow avoided defeat with his ProZone tactics at Stoke in the cup before Kevin Keegan's sensational third coming that started with tears of joy and ended with tears of despair and then Joe Kinnear emerged from football's wilderness to take the wheel of what looked like a sinking ship - yes it's been that type of year.

Allardyce seemed to be a dead man walking shortly after results started to go against him at the end of last year, winning was one thing but without doing it in the style the Geordie nation demand Big Sam was always in a dodgy position in the Toon hotseat.

And so it proved after Stoke came close to an FA Cup shock in their own backyard.

By the time the replay arrived Big Sam had gone and after 10 days of speculation over who would take over, fans sweated when Harry Redknapp's name was bandied about before the return of the Messiah had fans dancing in the street.

For two weeks at least it seemed that the Toon owner had given fans what they'd been crying out for for years.

Keegan was back for unfinished business, he and Terry Mac posed for pictures on the pitch but all was not as it seemed.

KK spoke of being backed by funds but with time running out in the transfer window and clubs asking a fortune, there was to be no quick-fix.

Fans donned paper King Kev hats and masks but after a 0-0 draw with Bolton to start, the opening game of the third coming was a massive anti-climax.

Then soon after Keegan's shock comeback Dennis Wise was appointed in a "director of football role" which left fans feeling somewhat uneasy.

So no win in the first game and fast forward eight games later and United finally won their first game under KK against Fulham, relegation was haunting the Magpies.

Significantly Keegan sprayed cold water in the air after the 2-0 win over his old club - this stint in charge would not be champagne soaked like the last time.

Eventually Keegan addressed the slump in form in the only way he knew how, to attack.

And after a 4-1 win away to Spurs in which the Londoners were demolished in superb fashion, it looked like the Entertainers were back.

Wins over Reading and Sunderland on a day when Michael Owen bagged two gave fans every reason to believe that KK with full backing from Ashley could take their side back to the promised land.

But they soon came crashing back down to earth when Chelsea beat United 2-0 at St James's Park and after the game KK claimed that getting to the top four would be mission impossible without full backing.

The season fizzled out at Everton with a 3-1 defeat and prompted a summer of confusion.

Who would be buying the players?

The answer it seemed wasn't Keegan but the Toon manager boxed on and after signings such as Jonas, Sebastien Bassong, Fabricio Coloccini and Danny Guthrie it appeared that perhaps the system could work after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and a 1-0 win at home to Bolton.

Yet the cracks began to show at Arsenal as rumours of unrest between KK and his board coincided with a 3-0 defeat at the Emirates.

Fans protested in anger but by September 4, he had resigned from his post via a statement from the LMA.

Eight days later KK and Ashley tried to patch up their differences on the eve of the Hull City game but it failed to spark a mass protest with fans wanting the "Cockney Mafia Out."

That resulted in Ashley putting the club up for sale and takeover talk from the US to the Far East and beyond becoming part of the Toon soap opera.

Caretaker boss Chris Hughton could not prevent the team sliding to the wrong end of the table and just when fans thought it couldn't get any more unpredictable, Joe Kinnear was appointed as interim boss.

Alan Shearer stated on Match of the Day that he would not have guessed Kinnear would be appointed even with the aid of 500 guesses.

But nevertheless 52 swear words later in a brutal meeting with the national Press, Kinnear quickly showed who was in charge.

With just four points on the board, Kinnear's presence has resulted in Newcastle climbing gradually away from danger and the relegation zone but with the close nature of the Premier League this season, nobody can safely banish the dreaded R word until the golden 40 point mark is acheived.

The 5-1 loss to Liverpool to sign out showed that new signings are needed but amidst a desperate financial climate where clubs will demand top dollar for players in January there can be no promises that United can add the five quality players they need to their squad in order to achieve a respectable Premier League finish.

And with Newcastle finishing the calendar year as the club's rock bottom side in the Premier League, Kinnear must continue the upturn in fortunes since KK's stunning departure.

So here's to 2009, surely it must be better than 2008?

10 Comments

ronnie lambert said:

Glad I didn't have to summate this year Lee, my blood pressure is already way too high, I'm wrecked just reading yours. Mr. C'Ashley has a daunting task ahead if he wants to be 'sitting comfortably' with his Toon-top on 'with the lads' again. He just simply HAS to find and pay for, a bunch of GOOD players to save our status. No more Smiths, Xiscos, Cacapas and Geremis or the peasants really will be revolting this time. He's probably already lost a fortune in one-time guaranteed season tickets, but to get it wrong again will be disastrous for him, but more importantly the fans. Here's hoping for this year, it's what

ronnie lambert said:

...who's chopped the tail off my comment Lee?

Glad I didn't have to summate this year Lee, my blood pressure is already way too high, I'm wrecked just reading yours. Mr. C'Ashley has a daunting task ahead if he wants to be 'sitting comfortably' with his Toon-top on 'with the lads' again. He just simply HAS to find and pay for, a bunch of GOOD players to save our status. No more Smiths, Xiscos, Cacapas and Geremis or the peasants really will be revolting this time. He's probably already lost a fortune in one-time guaranteed season tickets, but to get it wrong again will be disastrous for him, but more importantly the fans. Here's hoping for this year, it's what we're good at. Oh Jeddi, thanks son, and if you get homesick again in Norway, checkout ronnielambert.com it'll give you a warm feeling.

bob harvey said:

After 50 years of watching Newcastle United, I know that there is only one chance that we will be different, special, unique and that is with Keegan as manager doing his own thing, with a bit of money of course. Forget all the hype about either Messiah or bottler, the evidence makes the case, even though I know that Joe Harvey won more than KK. The reality is that the only chance of NUFC standing out from the pack is under Keegan.
Happy New Year!

charlotta lindell said:

Just wanted to say it has been a devastating season even for The Swedish Toon Army.CanÂŜt even begin to imagine what it must be like for "real" Geordies!! We will keep all our fingers crossed for a better year in 2009. Bring Keegan back!!!

Restless Native said:

Good summary of a terrible year Lee - the Geordie nation's very own annus horriblis.


Got to say, my usual irrational optimism about all things black and white - which I wrongly assumed would be eternal - has all but evaporated. I just cannot find it in my heart to give Ashley and his discredited regime the benefit of the doubt.


Too many broken promises are merely a secondary factor. For me, the final straw was Ashley's subsequent, blatantly cynical attempts to spin his way out of his self-inflicted troubles. Specifically, attempting to call into question the integrity of KK - a man who's only 'character flaws' as far as I can see are being too principled and dogmatically unwilling to play politics in an industry riven with them - was a step too far. KK is family. Geordie's don't do that to family.


So, as we enter 2009, my rather forlorn hope is that, somehow, Ashley does still sell the club. Only then will my optimism truly return. Knowing that's an unlikely scenario, the return of Chris Mort, the removal of Lambias and Wise, and Ashley staying well and truly in the background seems a more realistic - if still improbable - wish.


I'm not a fan of JFK - I think he is tactically inept and that his one-dimensional brand of 'let's get out there and do them' management is already being found out - but I see little point in changing manager yet again. At least until the bigger issues are resolved.


Happy New Year KK. Happy New Year Sir Bob. And happy New Year to all my long-suffering fellow Mags.


Ashley out.

Relton said:

Ronnie Lambert - you Pure Geordie, trust you to first foot the blog. I just got sent your CD by my cousin - and spotted some of the quotes in your posts.
Lets face it one and all its our destiny to suffer, this wretched team has broke my heart more than any woman ever has. I never cried so much as I did in May 74 as a 6 year old lad.
Its what makes us strong - its what makes us what we are. I've never lost the faith - but to be honest, do we really want the success that teams like Man Ure/Chelsea have - and see fair-weather supporters from as far as USA and China pledging thier love, NO.
Happy New Year fellow sufferers, another year of heartache and pain and loving our town and our team.

John Toole said:

happy new year to all.Forget 2008, Forget KK, Forget Owen. Hopefully big ash will sort out some funds, however look at sundeerland & Man city, big spenders, still losers. At least now players will come cos they want too and not for the cash, Just hope JK can attract some decent talent!!!!!!, Not holding my breath.Being realistic for once can only be a good thing. Premiership status will do for this season. Enjoy 2009

Colin G said:

Couldn't agree more Lee, roll on 2009 and let's hope for a better season, and maybe even some silverware!

kieran said:

Our current struggles highlight how badly the club has been run for many years. Realistically we can't get the players we want in at the best of times, never mind now when we are in turmoil and have no prospect of European football. If we panic buy now we'll just end up with another crock like Viduka or Smith (I could name most of our team) so why bother? Maybe relegation would not be the worst thing for us for three good reasons I can think of;
1.We might actually win something.
2.All the expensive failures would be moved on and we could take the chance to fill the team with acadamy players like Taylor.
3.Ashley will not be able to sell for the profit he was after from day one.

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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