Saturday, 14 March 2009
Early on a Saturday morning, I'm up and about and preparing to go to a game. Its that wonderful quietness of an unsullied day, combined with the fervent hope that Newcastle United will make my 300 mile round trip worthwhile. Calm and excitement, stillness and anticipation all combining.
As ever, I find my mind wandering and in an attempt to think happy thoughts - I cast my mind back to the 95/96 season... The season of the 'ohhhh... that was close, maybe next year' for NUFC or the Keegan 'I'd just love it' season for those non-NUFC delusionalists. In fact, its with the benefit of hindsight that 95/96 season was the high-point of the last fifty years, Newcastle United (Sky dubbed the team "The Entertainers" - imagine that being applied to the current squad!) 12 points ahead at Christmas and then managing to come second...
I recall that season so well, I'd just moved to the North-West, and living and working near so many Manure fans was a challenge to say the least. Admittedly, it was a self inflicted challenge - as I'd got my gloating in early... before their team woke up, overhauled our lead with Ferguson allowing Keegan to implode with one of his best examples of mind-games ever (Benetiz please read your history books, you ain't going to win this one). The highs and lows of that season were so intense. I recall the most amazing game that I'd ever seen at SJP, when Newcastle completely battered Manure, and thanks almost entirely to a Dane and a Frenchman, Manure won 1-0. Then we all knew that things were slipping away. That was nothing thought to the pain of a televised 2-1 defeat at Blackburn, leading with 5 mins to go, only for a Geordie lad, Graham Fenton to score two goals against us - and effectively destroy any remaining hope that Newcastle United had of winning the league.
So, now that the history lesson is over, if I fast forward to today, one of the reasons that I started thinking about 95/96 season is that the performance against Manure was a watershed for that season, the team played extraordinarily well, but ended up empty handed. Sound familar? Perhaps Newcastle didn't play extraordinarily well in 2009, but it was a huge improvement on the complete garbage that I've witnessed over the past few months. With a pessimistic head on, I wonder if this will have the same effect as 13 years ago? If Newcastle do end up loosing against Hull today, it will have a disastrous effect on our season, just in the same way that Blackburn did...
Its also interesting to see what the ultimate effect of coming second had on the team - the same league position was achieved the next season, but without any of the panache or self-belief and ultimately the squad then disassembled and migrated back to the more lucrative areas of the Premiership, for those who were good enough. The what-ifs are legion, if Cantona hadn't managed to squeeze that ball into the back of the net, or if Graham bloody Fenton had said on the morning of the game that his ankle injury wasn't good enough for him even to be on the subs bench then everything could have been so different.
The last couple of weeks have been challenging ones for me in my job, I've experienced coming second as well for something that was important, and also combined with something that I expected to at least reach the semi final of.. and didn't. I've done a load of 'what-if' thinking and concluded that its important to learn, but not to obsess on the past.
It's time for me to move on - and its time for NUFC to move on... I'll be the lunatic at the KC Stadium, screeching for more effort and commitment from EMO (who appears in the press to be charging in on his white steed to rescue the whole of the season for Newcastle) and Graham Fenton will be completely forgotten.
Howay the Lads