May 2010 Archives

Just over 12 months on since relegation for Newcastle United from the Premier League it still doesn't seem straight forward in the world of the black and whites.

The questions, concerns, hopes and dreams of the Toon Army are evident in a city that knows just what can be achieved at football's top table.

Is a team which contains the bulk of the players that went down 12 months ago strong enough to get to that magic 40 point mark?

That's not opinion, it's a question and one that I've heard for the last eight weeks or ever since it became obvious we we're going back up.

So James Milner could end up joining Chelsea or Man City for a whopping £30million.

All of it feels like Milner has come back to bite Newcastle on the backside - and that's before he even kicks a ball against us next season (don't forget he played out of his skin in the game that sent us down).

When Milner quit Newcastle United in 2008 his fee of £12million was deemed as good business at the time even though there is a major hullabaloo erupting over sell on fees or lack of them as teams tussle for his signature.

True, Milner had allegedly been sold Kevin Keegan's back on a failed promise that Sebastian Schweinsteiger would be his replacement.

Leon Best has played just 13 times for a Newcastle United side that romped it home at the top of the Championship table with Andy Carroll, Peter Lovenkrands and Shola Ameobi in fine form along the way.

He's still just 23 and playing for what you'd call his first big club.

In my opinion he hasn't looked like a world beater in the games he's played so far but that doesn't mean he should be battered to a pulp just because he hasn't scored a goal.

His goal record is 45 goals in 171 appearances for all of the clubs he's been at in total.

Newcastle United would have folded like a pack of cards last season without its loyal supporters.

That's a fact.

The players and Chris Hughton and his staff played a huge part but when you have fans like the Toon Army who got behind those players from the very start in the Championship, it was only going to snowball.

So when the feel-good factor was at a stage where Newcastle could take advantage of it, what do they go and do?

Release a statement that dampens that feel-good factor - even if it was supposed to be a honest and noble signal of intent.

When Newcastle United announced that they'd come to the end of the road with Kenny Wharton, the gut reaction for any Geordie fan has to be one of sadness that the Mags have lost a bloke who genuinely cared for the club.

Away from the 52,000 sell-outs and the big games on a match day at St James' Park is where Wharton spent much of a tenure at United which spanned more than 10 years.

Not in the big time, more like on a field on cold days watching just whether the next generation of Toon players have what it takes to make it through.

Less than 10 years ago Newcastle United were a Champions League club with fans having every reason to feel good about the direction in which the black and whites were heading.

Now instead of having expecations they have been managed for us via a statement.

Milan, Rotterdam, Turin, Barcelona, Kiev or anywhere - Newcastle were up for the challenge on football's top table and better still the money was pouring in too for then chairman Freddy Shepherd.

Was there a plan back then?

Yes. Stay in the top four and compete.

Chris Hughton's approach to life this season has been pretty simple and at times probably a bit mundane.

But at a football club like Newcastle United where hype has always come back to haunt us in the past, it's been a breath of fresh air and proof that as obvious as it sounds, it's what happens on the training field that really counts.

Before games, Hughton has bent over backwards to underline how much the opposition must be respected and even when United have hammered in fours, fives and sixes at times this season, later he's still reacted in a respectful way.

Not once has Hughton had a pop at any opposing manager, player or team in a season in which the knives have been out for Newcastle United.

NEWCASTLE United waved goodbye to the Coca-Cola Championship in style by bringing up their century with victory at QPR.

The Magpies, in turmoil when they were relegated 12 months ago, made short work of the second tier and became the fourth side to rack up 100 points or more in a season after romping to the title.

Peter Lovenkrands' neat 71st-minute strike ensured they signed off their brief stint outside the top flight with a win.

The bare-chested Toon fans who had made the trip south were in party mood as they celebrated their return to the Barclays Premier League.

But the carnival atmosphere had not rubbed off on referee Darren Deadman, who showed Rangers' former NUFC defender Peter Ramage a straight red card seconds after the break.

The first half was an uninspiring affair, with both sets of players in end-of-season mode on a slippy pitch which had to pass a morning inspection.

Newcastle's ex-Hoops winger Wayne Routledge tried to lift the tedium with a sharp turn and shot but his effort flew straight at home goalkeeper Radek Cerny.

At the other end, Akos Buzsaky blazed a decent chance high over the crossbar, before stand-in goalkeeper Tim Krul made a meal of holding onto Alejandro Faurlin's drive.

There was little else to get excited about until seconds before the interval when Jay Simpson raced onto Faurlin's fine long pass, but his touch let him down and Krul was able to gather.

The second half was just 15 seconds old when Ameobi charged past Ramage and was hauled down.

Deadman decided the defender was the last man and Ramage cut a disconsolate figure as he trudged off.

The dismissal seemed to spark Rangers into life and they had the ball in the net in the 55th minute, but Tamas Priskin was marginally offside when he collected Simpson's pass and chipped Krul.

But it was the visitors who eventually made the breakthrough with a goal of Premier League quality.

Joey Barton's pass split the Rangers defence and Lovenkrands, who had been on the pitch for 17 minutes, beat the offside trap before lofting his finish over Cerny and into an empty net.

Simpson could have spoiled the party and hauled Rangers level when he scampered clear again, but Krul stayed big to block his shot and the Magpies held on to chalk up their 30th win of a successful campaign.


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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