Why Newcastle fans should be optimistic this season
August 25, 2007
Every single year, Newcastle fans start the season off with raised expectations of how their team will do. Despite the failures of the year prior, fans dubbed one of the most passionate in England feel that the coming year may be different, before inevitably viewing a year of losing to mediocre teams, a horrible team and a distinct lack of silverware. This year however, it may be different- and here I write to tell you why.
While ex-owner of the club Freddy Shepherd regularly courted both controversy and embarrassment by his outbursts in the press, new owner Mike Ashley has quietly stayed in the background while offering new manager Sam Allardyce funds to spend. Although Newcastle have had a series of bad managers in the past, Allardyce seems a step in the right direction after his strong spell at Bolton Wanderers, leading a club in the bottom half of the England’s second tier to become a respectable mid-table team in the Premier League. The highlight of Allardyce’s time at Bolton has to be taking the club into the UEFA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. Bolton Wanderers were known as a tight defensive unit- something that Newcastle were the complete opposite of.
Immediately after arriving at Newcastle, Allardyce cleared out much of the “dead wood”- players such as Titus Bramble and Oguchi Onyewu. These players had not been up to the task they were supposed to do- defend, and it clearly shown in the goals conceded column of the Premier League table. Some of Newcastle’s transfer dealings during this window have been very astute, and here I will look at the new players that will be playing in black and white for season 2007/08.
Up front, Mark Viduka and Alan Smith have been added to the ranks. These are excellent additions to a striking lineup that already included the likes of Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins, and is surely guaranteed to score goals. Mark Viduka is a proven Premier League player, having scored goals for the likes of Middlesbrough and Leeds United before joining the Geordies. Alan Smith will provide able backup should injuries occur, and has an added bonus of being able to play in central midfield- something that will benefit Newcastle with their well known about injury problems. Although Michael Owen is injured at the moment, Viduka and Martins should form a powerful partnership that Premiership defenses will find hard to cope with.
In midfield, ex-Real Madrid player Geremi and ex-Manchester City hothead Joey Barton join the club. Geremi is a versatile player that can fill in at defense if need be, while Barton will add some passion to a side that looked lifeless at times last season. Coupled with the likes of Emre, Nicky Butt and N’Zogbia, there are quite a few players in that Newcastle midfield that could cause problems for even the best teams in the game.
Lastly, it is defense that needed the most strengthening and this has been done. With Rozenthal, Enrique and Cacapa having already joined the club, Newcastle are also rumoured to be in talks with Leighton Baines and/or Nicky Shorey. The Toon have also done well to keep hold of goalkeeper Shay Given- a player who saves them at least 5-10 points per season. With all these dealings in the transfer market, Newcastle fans will be ecstatic to know that after so many seasons of defensive woe, they finally have a manager that looks at bolstering the defence.
So, why exactly should Newcastle be optimistic about the upcoming season? With a few more additions to the talented squad they already have, there is no reason why they will not be in the reckoning for European places come May 2008. With an attacking line-up almost guaranteed to get goals and a solid midfield, if Allardyce makes the defence anywhere near as strong as Bolton’s defence was, Newcastle will be right up there with Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City battling out for that fifth place slot (and UEFA Cup football). Although I think it is too early for them to qualify for the Champions League, with a couple of successful seasons who knows what could happen. The start they have had thus far will only help increased the sense of optimism- a strong preseason, where they beat the likes of Juventus and Celtic followed up with a thrashing of Bolton and a draw against Aston Villa in the Premiership. While Newcastle will definitely not be in contention for the Premiership title, fans should expect a strong push in the domestic cups- and maybe even some silverware if the club gets a few lucky breaks in the FA and Carling Cup.