In the next of his end-of-season reviews, Vincent Ralph looks back on Newcastle United's campaign
The dream wasn't the season just gone; that was very much a reality. I am referring to the previous campaign. The one that ended in a fifth-place finish and manager Alan Pardew winning both the Premier League and League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year awards.
Back then, the Magpies were the toast of the top flight and their players the envy of many. And yet fast-forward 12 months and it is as if last season never happened, that it was all some gloriously prolonged but ultimately shattered dreamscape.
This year has seen Newcastle hit the ground hard, almost to the extent of falling straight through to the league below. And those players once courted by the best in the land – they suddenly don’t seem worth it.
Were it not for two games – two moments in fact – Newcastle could now be planning for at least one year in the Championship.
Had Papiss Cisse not scored with virtually the last kick of the game against Fulham, his side would have finished the season with 39 points.
While if Wigan’s James McArthur and Shaun Maloney hadn’t committed the year’s most baffling defensive mistake in Wigan’s defeat to Swansea, a Latics’ win would have seen them equal that total, match Newcastle’s goal-difference and ultimately condemn the Magpies to relegation on goals scored.
Lots of ifs, buts and maybes though it is, it is also a thought worth considering. Newcastle are very lucky still to be in this division.
At the start of the campaign I said the club had a lot to do to even get close to last year’s remarkable achievements. In the end they didn’t even try.
I also said a poor season would see the Premier League elite take a trip to Sports Direct for their summer purchases. But after such an abysmal showing this year, surely they will only go if there is a sale on.
And yet there is hope. If only in the genius of Graham Carr, a man few outside St James’ Park will have heard of and yet someone who is crucial to the future of the club.
As Newcastle’s Head Scout, Carr has pointed Pardew in the direction of the likes of Cisse, Demba Ba, Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye. Players bought for pennies (and in some cases not even that); discoveries that will have prompted many a club chairman to call their own Head Scout into their office and ask why Carr always gets there first.
Next season could see a return to form. In many ways it has to. Otherwise that eight-year contract will be good for nothing, the team will be disbanded, and they could be relying on Gabriel Obertan.
Now that would be a dream swiftly turned to a nightmare.
image: © mikebrown59