How soon is now?
3 Years? 4 Years? 5 Years?
All the above are timescales that were banded about by supporters of a Black and White persuasion 12 months ago when asked ‘How long before Newcastle United can challenge for a top 4 / Champions League place’ – and to be honest at the end of September, I was firmly in the 4–5 yearcamp.
What has happened since the 0-0 draw against Bournemouth on 17th September has changed my view of that timescale entirely.No longer is it 5, 4 or 3 years – it isn’t even 2 – the opportunity is real, it is here, and it is now.
Sunday saw Eddie’s Mags roll up at St Mary’s – a ground we have invariably struggled at over the years – not play to the best of their ability (Trippier and Howes words), and STILL come away with 3 points and a +3 improvement in our GD.
Whether you like the comparison or not, that is Man City, Liverpool, or Chelsea esque’.
Palace rock up to Barrack Road on Wednesday evening for a League Cup tie that Eddie Howe will be desperate to win, and as a result I don’t expect to see the wholesale changes mooted by some; he will see this competition as one that we can go far in,so I am expecting the somewhat surprising inclusion of some of our regular starters.
As ever,me and the bairn will be there, raining down our visceral support from the stands for whoever Eddie decides to entrust with a black and white shirt – but let’s be honest, Wednesday is just the appetiser because the visit of Chelsea on Saturday, out of nowhere, has become HUGE.
We have nothing to fear against Potter’s Chelsea – they have proven in recent weeks that they can be got at, and baring Man City, Eddie Howe’s Mags are the last team anyone in the Premier League would choose to face in their final game before their enforced World Cup sabbatical.
Backed by St James at her majestic, raucous, feral bestI expect us to press them high up the field from the off, and should we show no fear in the same way that bore fruit against Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham and Liverpool (almost), the opportunity to put 9 clear points between us and a Top 4 rival (I’ll never tire of typing that) is there for the taking.
Lee Forster @LeeDForster
As Eddie’s top 3 Mags cruises in third gear past a third-rate Saints side, many fans enjoyed so much singing in the rain, even Gene Kelly would have blushed. It was a solid performance against a bang average side, and we won 4-1 without really breaking too much sweat. I thought Botman looked great, but Willock was the man of the match in my view. Driving forward time after time and got the goal his recent performances have deserved. Bravo.
All of this means we are guaranteed top 4 on Christmas Day. Surreal. But great.
As we look forward to this week, I actually value Wednesday’s result more highly than I do Saturday evening. I think the League Cup represents a really good opportunity to go far into a cup competition for the first time in a long time. Palace, 10th in the league, hopefully will put some young’uns out and we can roll them over like we appear to enjoy doing of late. I’m not sure it’ll be that easy (far from it) as I’m sure many will get a rest ahead of Saturday, but we still should win.
As for Saturday, these games remain a free hit at the big boys in my mindset, for now at least. For all Chelsea’s indifference at times this season, they’re 6 points behind us with a game in hand and will present a real threat to us.
With that said, they haven’t won in the league since 16th October and St. James’ Park looks more like a fortress every week. I’m confident we’ll get something from the game, I’m just not sure it’ll be 3 points. My predictions for the week include a tight win over Palace (1-0) and a score draw against Potters Chelsea (2-2) to keep up 3rd in the league. Hopefully.
Up Eddie’s massive Mags.
Dai Rees @colemans_dream
From revival train to top four juggernaut
I wrote last season about how enthusiastically the players had got onboard Eddie Howe’s revival train. Well, that momentum has continued and it’s less of a train now, more of a juggernaut. How far can we go? Is top four a realistic achievement? And for the pessimists among us, when will the wheels fall off?
After the Ashley years, happiness is still a surreal experience for some fans, me included. Nevertheless, Howe and his coaching staff keep making me eat my words, as even Willock is now shining in a defensive midfield role – albeit against a dismal Southampton. What we are seeing is nothing short of miraculous; on Sunday a below par Toon tore apart their opponents. Let that sink in: we scored four goals on an off day.
I said that if we worked harder than Saints we would comfortably beat them and it’s rinse and repeat for Crystal Palace. We easily have more quality in our side than the Eagles, so if we match their work rate we’ll win.
I expect Eddie to ring a few changes but not enough to cause us serious problems. I get the feeling that he wants to engage on all fronts this season and why not? We fear no team right now, so surely there is no reason why we can’t win a cup? I can understand some fans want to prioritise securing top four but the romantics in our ranks can wait another year or two for Champions League football if it means a cup this season.
Bring it home, Eddie.
Dan Jenkins / @PlumsGinger
Whatever ‘it’ is, we’ve got it…
Breathe it in, folks. It doesn’t get much better than this. Eddie’s high-press high-intensity high-flying Mags were at it again at the St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday. Standing firm while the Red & White opposition flailed and flapped against the brutal obtuseness of Botman and his back line.
Even though we weren’t at our best, the feeling in the away end was one of trust and defiance. We’ll definitely score. We’ll definitely win. Eddie’s got a plan, and the opposition manager hasn’t a huttl in hell of getting his underperforming Saints to lay a glove on the soaring Barrack Road Bianconeri (nod to MM).
Those of us who weren’t part of that travelling support are unanimously jealous. Bare chests and biblical rainfall. Chris Wood scoring and Geordie Boys taking the piss. It’s just glorious. It’s literally the epitome of who we are. After a Saturday night spent acting half my age raving until the wee house in a warehouse in Manchester, I watched this game on my iPhone whilst bundled in the back of my mate’s Citroen, zooming across the M62. It was by far and away the highlight of my weekend, as goal after beautiful goal resurrected me out of my hangover, out of my seat, and eventually screaming ‘get in you bastards’ out of the window to the passing traffic.
And we only have to wait a matter of hours until we’re back in our natural habitat. I’ll be at St James’ on Wednesday, along with 50,000 others. Hopefully seeing Elliott Anderson getting a start and a goal, this beautiful unfamiliar confidence starting to fit very comfortably indeed, thank you very much. A proper cup run? Why the hell not.
And then the big one. Chelsea at home.
We have a knack of doing well against that lot. They’re in terrible form and looking a bit lost. No doubt Potter’s posse will be dreading their trip up north, and rightly so. They’re setting foot in our back yard, in our house. And we’re dangerous, we’ve got momentum. We’ve got passion. We’ve got goals. We’ve got a Champions League spot at Christmas, guaranteed. We’ve got High Performance specialist Eddie Howe. We’ve got the best fans in the world. We’ve got Bruno in the middle…
Ed Cole @edsamuelcole