The oft-repeated, but generally inaccurate, “must-win” cliché perfectly represented the situation Newcastle found themselves in when Burnley arrived at St. James’ Park. Failing to beat Burnley, having not won at home against so many of our relegation rivals already, would have rendered the prospect of survival virtually impossible.
The positivity gained from last week however, with Newcastle’s abject display at Leicester, has seemingly entirely dissipated. All the small gains Eddie Howe made across the last four weeks apparently undone.
This feeling is understandable. Our Christmas period fixture list reads like a nightmarish practical joke – cruelly devised by Ebenezer himself – and the team has hardly given the impression this season that they are capable of pulling off a scalp. As a result, the few Newcastle fans who were clinging on to some sort of hope post Norwich are now (almost) prepared to admit defeat.
Undoubtedly the two most popular items on the @tfnufc shop right now
— Alex Hurst (@tfalex1892) December 13, 2021
While the table still looks perilous, with so many points to play for, a hopefully productive January transfer window and many more hours available to the manager to instil his progressive philosophy on the training ground, there is (some) cause for optimism.
There will be many more twists and turns before the last ball is kicked and the table is configured into its final iteration. And while Howe and the players still have a hugely difficult task ahead (that Leicester performance was brutal proof of that), there is hope, and hope itself is a wonderful thing.
Hope has been all too elusive for the last 14 years at Newcastle United. And while in the short term the future looks uncertain, there is so much to look forward to – even if that future involves a season in the Championship.
Fanzines are in stock! ✊🏼
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) December 13, 2021
As one sage Newcastle fan on Twitter put it, even if we failed to win any of our games until the end of the season, the year 2021 would still represent the best season in Newcastle’s recent history. Mike Ashley is gone, enthusiastic owners have taken his place and the club finally feels alive again.
Only one other team in Premier League history has managed to survive relegation having started the season as poorly as Newcastle. But as Howe himself said, ‘why not change history?’ Expectations will remain tempered given our next win could be some time off yet – Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United up next. That said, if the takeover has shown us anything it is that we should dare to dream, hope for more and expect the unexpected.
My hope is that Burnley represents a turning point, not just for this season, but for Newcastle United’s entire future. Looking back in May, with Howe having guided Newcastle to safety and a potentially transformative summer transfer window to look forward to, that one-nil win against Burnley will look mightily significant. But progress will unlikely be linear; it rarely is.
🎅🏻 A Christmas gift for #NUFC fans
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) December 12, 2021
Perhaps understandably, the noises post-Norwich were that relegation was a forgone conclusion and those noises were repeated all the more loudly Sunday evening.
But setbacks are inevitable; this Newcastle team’s vulnerabilities are there for all to see. So when these setbacks occur, if Newcastle, for example, does return to the foot of the table, be angry, be upset, but don’t give up hope, stranger things have happened – we are, after all, the richest club in the world…