Season Preview – #13 Newcastle
Without any financial backing Chris Hughton has managed to rescue Newcastle United from the Championship and lead them back into the Premier League after a one season absence. It is all a far cry from Champions League football which they achieved under their legendary manager and recently deceased Sir Bobby Robson. This season, Hughton will have an even tougher job on his hands if he is to keep the Magpies in the Premier League.
When he was given the job as permanently the former Irish international stated “It’s a very proud day for me to be named as the manager of this magnificent football club,” and that he “will be doing everything in my power to get the club back into the Premier League at the first time of asking” He duly delivered his promise as Newcastle secured automatic promotion on April 5th with five games remaining – Only 316 days after being relegated on the final day of the 2008/2009 Season.
Winning the Championship in style was all down to Newcastle’s league form – the Magpies were defeated on just four occasions all season while also going on a 17 game unbeaten run from the middle of February till the end of the season where they finished the season on 102 points – a club record – along with remaining unbeaten at home all season long.
If relegation was ever a good thing for a club, then Newcastle could well benefit from receiving that harsh dose of reality which was needed after a quick succession of changes to the managerial position and the ownership debacle of Mike Ashley erecting a for-sale sign only to remove it soon after appointing Hughton permanently. Now that they have experienced relegation after sixteen consecutive seasons in the Premier League, they won’t want to be dropping down a league again.
Similarly with last season there is no money in the transfer kitty for the manager to work with so it means the club will have to rely on either free transfers or short-term loan deals to bolster the squad for the season ahead. Already, Dan Gosling has been snapped up on a free-transfer from Everton, along with Sol Campbell who was released at the end of the season by Arsenal. The Magpies have also managed to prise James Perch away from Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee. Nine players have been released from the club; the most notable departure is that of Nicky Butt.
The fans will be expecting a lot from their key players who have previous experience in the Premier League – most notably – Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith, Shola Ameobi, Steve Harper, Jonas and Sol Campbell. The strikeforce of Andy Carroll, Peter Lovenkrands, and Shola Ameobi of which scored a collective 40 goals last season will also be expected to deliver. However, as we all know, goals from promoted sides are usually few and far between, but anything is better than a drought from your strikers.
A year away from the top flight will have done Newcastle the world of good – gone are the expectations of having to contest with the big boys at the top of the table – for now at least. Obviously, miracles are not expected from the Magpies in their first season back in the Premier League, they will however, need to consolidate their position in the league as soon as possible. That will mean finishing in 15th, 16th or 17th place, just above the relegation places and then to aim even higher for next year. No doubt, there will a small threat of relegation, but the other two promoted teams are far weaker than this squad.