The ‘I f*cking love this game’ highlight of the season?
Where do I start? Ryan Taylor realising that Mingolet was off his line. Newcastle United “Doing it against Stoke on a cold Monday night”. Battling for a point at Old Trafford, then pulling down the pants of the defending champions in the return fixture. Ben Arfa steamrollering through the massed ranks of Bolton Wanderers, and Pappis Cisse defying the laws of physics at Stamford Bridge. All of the above.
On a personal level though, my moment of the season was the winning goal in our FA Cup 3rd Round win over Blackburn. Bear with me here...
Having been out the night before I'd gone and bought tickets on my mobile for me and friend. Steaming drunk, and insisting we needed to bond more, I'd just done it on a whim and by the time I peeled my face off the kitchen floor the next morning and remembered about it, there was only an hour and half until kick off. In no state to face reality, nevermind a football match, I forced myself to go and sat very uncomfortably for the opening hour.
After being the better side for all but the 3 seconds it took David Goodwillie to give Blackburn the lead, I genuinely just wanted to curl up into a ball and die. Hatem Ben Arfa equalised with one of the greatest goals I'd ever seen, and we push on, and on, and on for a winner. To no avail.
But then, right in the very last minute, when it looked like we'd be making the trip to Ewood for another energy depleting fixture, Leon Best poked the ball through to an on rushing Jonas Gutierrez who held his nerve and lifted it gracefully into the net. I was about 30 yards away, near the front, fighting to stay awake, fighting to not be sick, and the hardest working player I've ever seen had just given me a win to go home with. I'm not ashamed to admit this, but as soon as I caught sight of him putting on that Spiderman mask, I started crying.
“He's just put such a shift in *sniff*, he really deserves that goal *sob sob*”.
The season ticket shredding moment?
Genuinely, not one. The rebranding of the stadium invoked quite a bit of pub ire, but (despite what you might have read in the press about an army of raging Geordies) the overriding reaction to this was something along the lines of “Well, look where the fat lad's got us in the table. We can't really complain about him trying to squeeze a few more quid out”. Besides, nobody's ever not going to call it St James' Park.
Got the right manager?
The Premier League and the LMA certainly seem to think so.
Player of the season?
A tough call, as everyone in the squad played a greater part than I think anyone really expected of them. The likes of Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa were the headline grabbers in the side, whilst the contributions of Cabaye, Tiote, Guiterrez, and Krul were recognised by everyone in the industry. The likes of Perch, Williamson and Guthrie showed that, despite how it looked 12 months ago, they're all of Premier League standard, and even Leon Best managed to nab us the odd goal when it looked like nobody else would.
However, it's almost impossible to look past Fabricio Coloccini for this accolade. Deservedly included in the Premier League's team of the year, he marshalled a defence which managed to keep a staggering 15 clean sheets this season.
That's Newcastle United, that Newcastle United, looking defensively sound for an entire season. I never thought I'd see the day.
What would you change next term if you were the gaffer?
Very little. However the stark reality of our situation is that we're probably in for another summer of upheaval. We're not, despite our now lofty standing, a buying club in the classic sense. Every player currently on our books was brought in for a modest sum, is on modest wages, and our business model dictates that if anyone's stupid enough to offer us silly money, we'll pack their bags for them.
Krul, Ba, Cabaye, Tiote, Santon, and Ben Arfa will all be targets for “bigger clubs” and the men upstairs will already have decided what their price is... and who we'd get in to replace them. It was the same last season though, when the supposed heart of the team was ripped out and replaced with nobodies from France.
Which player would you like to sign?
Cover right across the defence is the priority. The two names constantly being linked are Erik Pieters at PSV, a strong and technically gifted left-back who can shift across into the centre, and Mathieu Debuchy at Lille, who just happens to be Cabaye's best mate. Both would be excellent signings at the right price.
Slightly less imminent is the need for more options from the bench, Jay Rodriguez at Burnley, Jordan Rhodes at Huddersfield, all offer something different to the current crop and represent excellent sell-on value. The emergence of the likes of Vuckic, Abied, and Ferguson might help here though.
Again, Cisse's second against Chelsea will take all the plaudits here. Rightly so, as well.
But, just to be awkward, I thought Ben Arfa's against Bolton was better. You see mind bending strikes of the modern football all the time, but how often do you see a player get the ball on the halfway line and just decide to go at everyone?
Nobody really invoked our anger in any way that we can't look back at and chuckle now. So a special mention to every pundit and member of the press who told us we “couldn't do it”, that our “bubble would burst”, and we'd “predictably self-destruct”. You get paid for those opinions lads.
Phil Thompson's face when he was given the news Reina had just been sent off.
Player’s tweet of the season?
As tempting as it is too quote from the Gospel According To Joey here, he's not out problem any more. So...
@Sammy_Ameobi: Can't wait for #fifa12...wonder if I'll look like the standard black guy they always produce for the lesser players lol
Best laugh you had all season?
Jose Enrique, he who swanned off to chase Champions League football and challenge for titles at Liverpool, having to play in goal against us after we'd thoroughly humiliated Kenny's Klan of overpriced, overrated flops.
The man scored the goal that sent us up two years ago, so he'll always have a place in my heart, but you have to laugh at these things.
Handbags End of Season Show is on Sunday 20th May 5pm
Bored of Match of the Day? It's time for proper football analysis from the fans. We'll be discussing the Champions League Final, Championship Play-Off Final and The England Squad
Watch it live here https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/100521839192254059609/
Or from Sunday night here http://www.youtube.com/user/SThangouts
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