WHEN Newcastle United got relegated to the Championship (England’s second tier football division) last May amidst a full scale crisis on and off the field, everyone from the press, to the rival fans, analysts, even some of the club’s faithful forecasted nothing but doom for one of England’s traditional clubs.
Make no mistake, Newcastle is one giants of the English game, believe it or not, the English Premiership is better off with than without Newcastle United….and if you haven’t started following the Premier League during the “invincible” times of Arsenal early this decade, then you know what am talking about.
But eleven months after that fateful afternoon at Villa Park, when a Damien Duff own goal condemned the proud Magpies to the Championship, a division, which is as hard as they come, where when a team gets down there, there is no guarantee of an immediate return.
In my hotel room at Silver springs Hotel in Nairobi, alone, I took in the game at Villa Park where Newcastle needed just to draw and hope that Hull City got beat by Manchester United, but after those long and hard 90 minutes, the ‘mighty’ Magpies finally swallowed the bitter tab, called reality.
As a fan since the good old last times of King Kev, I was one of those who never believed the club can actually get relegated in the first place, let alone ‘walk’ through that beast of a division and back to where it truly belongs. The English call it the ‘big time’.
Again, nobody should make the mistake of thinking Newcastle United’s promotion back to the Premier League ( the big time) was a formality and anyone who does clearly has a very short memory. People were talking of the club doing a Leeds United!
The Magpies were expected to be the new Leeds United. But in the cub’s most difficult days since gaining promotion to the Premier League during the 1993/94 season, we have seen a new Newcastle United, driven, focused, determined and unified in their quest to return to the Premier League.
Critics will talk of the standard of the Championship or the “supposed” gulf between the two divisions, but when I see what Birmingham City and Wolves have done this season in the big time league, I think they have done okay for themselves – Newcastle should enjoy their success because they deserve it.
A club in crisis, and the owner wants to sell, then the global financial situation, with the third last largest wage bill in the Premier League, if anyone told you that Newcastle would get promoted back to the Premier League with five games to go, you would say he was mad.
In football, you can only beat what is put in front of you, and Newcastle have taken on everyone who has fancied their chances this season in the Championship. Only West Bromwich Albion and Derby County have avoided losing to them, at least until now.
Being Newcastle United, at least those who known the English game will agree with me, they were the team everybody wanted to beat in the lower ranks, they were the big scalp in the division but, amidst high team spirit, they’ve kept hold of their scalp.
Again as a fan, I’ve kept following anything Newcastle United for over a decade…Newcastle have lost only four times in the league and three of those came before the end of October when they were still coming to terms with their fall from the big time.
The club has retained the same core values of a new-found team work and hard work, which initially protected them from the turmoil off the pitch at the start of the season and have turned them into a winning formula.
And it is not just a formula to get them out of the Championship. With the right signings over the summer, they are the same core values which will keep them up, the same core values which were so obviously missing when they crashed out of the top flight in such humiliating fashion as Aston Villa.
All through last season, I kept insisting, at least to those to cared to listen to my arguments, that Newcastle is too big to go down but they did yet they should never have been in the Championship, I insisted they were too big for that division, and now they are out, I can once against look forward to the visits to Old Trafford, Emirates Stadium, Stanford Bridge, Anfield and the rest. Honestly, I’m excited!