For the third season in a row Newcastle are fighting against relegation, to the dismay of many Newcastle fans.
Joe Kinnear – back for Spurs game on 18th April
And when you look at the tough run-in the club has in the last 10 league games, it’s by no means a certainty that we’ll survive.
We have just a single win and 4 draws in our last 12 league and cup games, and in the league just 6 points from our last 10 games.
So if we continue that form and get 6 points in the last 10 games remaining, we’ll end up with 34 points and be relegated. Last year 36 poionts saw Reading relegated in 3rd bottom place.
Newcastle have 28 points from 28 games and are one point above Blackburn (3rd bottom), level on points with Portsmouth (4th bottom), with a superior goal average, but both teams have a game in hand on the Magpies.
Last year after 28 games Derby had 9 points and Fulham had 19, so things are a lot more crowded at the bottom than last year. Of course Fulham won 4 of their last 5 games last season to escape the drop but it will probably take at least 40 points for safety this year, which would be 4 points more than last time.
The bottom line is Newcastle must win games, as draws will just not get us the points the club needs. Joe Kinnear has said he will come back for the April 18th game at Stoke City, which will be a crucial game, but whether Joe can have input before then to keep the players upbeat and inspired is really not known.
Steve Harper played very well indeed during the run-in last year, and is already showing the same good form this season. Harper thinks the experience most of the team had at the end of last season, when they pulled clear of the relegation zone, with a seven-game unbeaten run, could assist them in this season’s survival.
The away games at Hull City this Saturday, and Stoke on 11th April, along with our three home games against Middlesbrough, Fulham and Portsmouth, are probably the five games we have the best chance of winning, but Harper does not necessarily agree with that view.
“It’s very similar to last season and I didn’t think I would be saying that again.” “But we finished the season well last year and we can do the same this time.”
“People keep talking about the games we’ve got at home, but the away games are just as important.”
“We’ve got winnable games against other teams around us in the table, but we’re not going into the games against Arsenal and Chelsea writing them off.”
“It’s not the attitude we have. We’ve got a point at Manchester United and Chelsea this season and had decent results against the big teams at home in recent years.”
“We can’t sit there and say we’ll get the points here or there, you get them where you can, whoever the opposition are.”
“The performance against Man United at home should give us plenty of encouragement.”
But Steve illustrates in his comments what the Newcastle problem is this year. We play great against teams like Man United and Chelsea, but don’t win, and yet play hopeless against teams like Bolton, Wigan and Hull and get beat.
We need our top performance against the other relegation teams to maximize our chances of survival.
If we can do that we should be OK and if we cannot we’ll probably deserve the drop.