Getting beat by Manchester City is becoming a regular occurrence for us Newcastle fans. We’ve never won at the Etihad, we haven’t won at City since Shearer scored at Maine Road and we haven’t even beaten them at home since 2005. So, to say the away support wasn’t overly expectant going into yesterday’s game is an understatement.
As a football fan, and especially a Newcastle fan, it’s sometimes good to have these low expectations. It means you don’t get too down after a drubbing at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge, and if by some small chance a miracle happens and you somehow come away with the points, it makes it all the more sweeter.
Unfortunately for us, there was no miracle at the Etihad yesterday, far from it. Newcastle, with a patched up back line thanks to injuries to Dubuchy, Santon, Coloccini and infamously Haidara, were awful and just never even tried to get into the game from the word go. It seems that both Alan Pardew and players alike hit the game with the attitude that this was a match to get over and done with before the real business starts. No game plan, no desire to win, a thoroughly abject performance.
Yesterday was not good day as a Newcastle fan, rubbish even, but from here on in, now is the time to really dig deep and make a charge for the finish line.
This defeat leaves us on 33 points, from this point on it’s do or die for Newcastle. The upcoming fixture list looks relatively kind on paper with homes games against Fulham, Liverpool and the great unwashed from down the road all coming up in April. If Newcastle is going to salvage something from this most frustrating of seasons, now is the time to dust ourselves down and kick on.
Fulham have been very hit and miss on their travels this season, as have Liverpool, but it is the game against Sunderland on the 16th that is shaping up to be a monster of epic proportions. Tyne-Wear derbies are ferocious affairs at the best of times but given the league position of both teams, any potential victory could have momentous repercussions for both sides. Given Sunderland’s recent form and fixtures, the game could provide Newcastle the opportunity to push their bitter rival closer to the abyss. By the other token, the Mackems would like nothing more than to drag the old enemy back into the mire with them.
Of course we all know there are no easy games in the Premier League, especially in a derby too, but these home games, along with an away trip to West Brom in the middle of the month, give Newcastle a great opportunity to really put the possible spectre of relegation to bed and push for a top ten finish. As has been consistent throughout this season though, the Europa League will complicate matters, but, it is an enjoyable problem to have.
A European quarter-final against a team like Benfica is something many fans would never have dared to dream about again after the relegation of 2009, yet just three years later, here we are. Whisper it very quietly, but there is even a quiet confidence about the Europa League growing steadily on Tyneside, after all we do have a very good record at the Stadium of Light.
The excitement of the Europa League is slowly starting to a take a hold amongst the Newcastle public, and has become a welcome distraction from the rather tedious league campaign. However, this is the business end of the season and as yesterday suggests, Newcastle cannot afford to take their eye off the ball. If Alan Pardew and his team put too much emphasis on Benfica and place all their eggs in the one basket then they could well be in trouble. With the teams at the bottom fighting for their lives and starting to pick up points, Newcastle still need new two, three maybe even four more wins to be 100% safe.
The fixture list offers Newcastle this opportunity, but, if we have learnt nothing from 2008/09 it’s that the best way to get relegated is to drop points at home to the teams around you. Home points have already been dropped against West Ham, Swansea, Reading, Everton and Villa this season. Fulham, Liverpool and the Mackems now offer a chance at redemption. Failure to do and the jubilation and optimism garnered thanks to the Europa League will soon be lost.