This is it! We’ve made it to the last matchday article of the season. In many ways, yesterday’s tussle with Chelsea in the bright sunshine of West London felt a bit like an epilogue to Monday’s real final chapter, but while it might have been a frustrating draw, there’s still plenty for Grace Laidler to take away from the game.
OK, so it turns out the scale of my hangover today prevented me from even counting accurately to five. So here’s five things we learned at Stamford Bridge, plus one for luck…
1. The team kept their focus.
There was talk that Howe would select some non-regulars to give them a run-out. There were whispers that the players wouldn’t give it their all, as they had nothing to really play for (and had been out drinking all week). However, our boys in black-and-white (with a rare outing for the white shorts!) proved the whisperers wrong as they gave it all they had, showing the fierce mentality that Howe and Tindall have instilled into them. This was most apparent in the first half, when we flew straight out the traps and had Chelsea scrambling to keep up with us, culminating in a goal from…
2. Antony Gordon proves himself.
Our January signing has faced a lot of criticism from our fanbase and rivals, some deserved and some just blinded by the size of his price tag. But, it was Gordon who got the last laugh (of the season, at least), as he walloped a goal straight into the back of the net within nine minutes. It was an electrifying moment, given that the unrelenting soundtrack of the day was THAT new chant, one which was being sung way before the players even stepped out onto the pitch. Very excited to see him excel next season – running down the wing as we go to Madrid.
3. Our future looks very bright.
There were plenty of missed chances (even sitters), but nothing broke everyone’s heart more than when 17 (SEVENTEEN!!) year-old Lewis Miley hit the crossbar, nearly giving us the winner. That would have been some way to make your debut. It can’t have been easy to make your first appearance in a stadium of the magnitude of Stamford Bridge, but Miley was admirably cool, calm and collected.
And there was a welcome appearance too from the Geordie Maradona, whose first goal is due any minute now (well, second if we count Forest!). These two local lads give me faith that the next generation of our team looks promising, no matter who joins over the summer.
4. Dúbravka’s still got it.
Just like you, I didn’t appreciate his attitude surrounding his loan to Man United, and, honestly, the fact that he has a League Cup winners medal makes me a bit ill. But there’s no denying that Dúbravka gave an absolutely incredible performance, with some unbelievable saves. Of course, Pope will always be first choice, but it’s a relief to know that we have such a strong back-up option ready and available (assuming he stays…).
5. But we do need a stronger side…
Our lack of squad depth has been a recurring issue for seasons on end, even post-takeover. I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day (hoping to check that in person next year), but yesterday highlighted that we still have this problem. We do have back-up players who are okay, but we’re going to need 4-5 players of a much higher quality, particularly ones that are able to help us juggle the League, the Cups, and Europe all in one go.
6. We have broken the “London Curse.”
This is explored more in an article by Scott Robson that you should definitely give a read here, but I’ll give my two-pence on it too. I’ve visited Stamford Bridge only once before, back in October 2019 when Alonso (of all people) got one over us. Most of the away games I had been to were London ones, and there was always the expectation that we’d go, get beat, come home. But here we are. We’re unbeaten in London this season, the only exception being Wembley. Every time we’ve visited the capital, it’s been a great big celebration. Who would’ve thought it? I guess that’s sort of the sentiment of the entire season, right? Who would’ve thought it?
Right, that’s it from me this season. I’ve had an delightful time watching Newcastle play some delightful football, surrounded by some even more delightful company. I’m grateful to True Faith for letting me scribble whatever nonsense comes to my mind and I am grateful to you, reader, for taking the time to give my ramblings a look over.
Signing off with an unbelievable hangover but also with unbelievable excitement to do it all over again, just in Europe!
Grace Laidler @gracewillhuntin