Part one of the season review will cover the season through 6th December, when manager Chris Hughton was fired.
Chris Hughton – this man is a hero to us
The season got off to a bit of an ominous start in our first game at Old Trafford when we went down 3-0, but if Manchester United had taken more of their chances in that second half it could have been 6-0, and we knew Newcastle looked very second best against the Red Devils in that first game.
What the lads didn’t do in that game is drop their heads at all, and they kept to their task for the full 90 minutes, and we could see the spirit in the side was strong, and that would serve the side so well for the rest of the season, as it turned out.
But then would you believe it, in our first home game back in the Premier League we simply demolished Aston Villa 6-0, and they had finished 6th in the previous three seasons in the Premier League.
Former manager Martin O’Neil had again thrown his dummy out of the pram, and left the club high and dry, only a few days before the season began.
Andy Carroll hit a hat trick in that game.
By the time we entertained Blackpool on 11th September Newcastle had taken 4 points from their previous two games, and the youngsters had seen off Accrington Stanley 3-2 in the Carling Cup and things were looking up.
But in a game in which Newcastle missed chance after chance, they created as many chances as in the previous game against Villa, Blackpool trotted out 2-0 winners and our long unbeaten streak since Fulham beat Newcastle 1-0 in May of 2009, came to a crushing and embarrassing end.
That was a low point for Newcastle – how could they let a side like Blackpool beat them at home?
But as Newcastle would do throughout the season, they came storming back with a very strong performance at Everton, and for the first time in around 9 years came away with a 1-0 win from Goodison Park, with a tremendous goal from new boy Ben Arfa – and this lad was looking the part for Newcastle.
It was a terrific fighting performance form the lads and in the next game our youngsters came away from Stamford Bridge with a magnificent 4-3 win in one of the most exciting games seen for a long time.
Newcastle deserved the plaudits for an attacking display away from home, and Shola Ameobi scored the dramatic winner in the 90th minute, with a header from a corner – and Shola had a great game that night.
So with two good performance, s what would happen in the next home game against Stoke? Surely a game Newcastle would win.
We were all over Stoke in that first half and were ahead 1-0 with a penalty just before the break from Kevin Nolan, but then in the last 25 minutes the team simply fell apart and conceded two goals in a terrible defeat – the second in a row at St. James’ Park.
To make things even worse, it was a James Perch own goal that lost Newcastle the game.
The next game at Eastlands would be a turning point for the season, as Ben Arfa had his leg broken in two places after just two minutes, by a terrible tackle from Nigel De Jong, and he didn’t even get a yellow card.
That in retrospect was the end of the season for the mercurial Frenchman, and he would not return to the Newcastle side for the rest of the season.
While it wasn’t called as a foul tackle by the Dutchman, it didn’t stop the Netherlands manager, Bert van Marwijk, from leaving him out of the next Netherlands squad – specifically because of the tackle.
In the next game, Newcastle again showed their good away form again with a good win at Upton Park 2-1.
But then virtually a second team full of youngsters were torn apart 4-0 at St. James’ Park by Arsenal – and we should have played a stronger side – and we’re sure that’s just exactly what Alan Pardew will do next season, to try to bring a trophy to Newcastle for the first time since 1969.
If a team like Birmingham can win the Carling Cup, then there’s no reason Newcastle cannot do the same thing, and like Birmingham did this season, Newcastle will surely play their best side in that competition next season.
And then we played Sunderland at home in the next game.
And in an exhilarating display of attacking football, Newcastle simply tore Sunderland apart, both in skill and in fighting spirit and won the game 5-1, with Sunderland getting their consolation goal coming in the very last minute, for the biggest derby win from Newcastle for over 50 years.
Sunderland players really let their fans down in that game, as half of them seemed to give up in the second half, as Newcastle tore them from limb to limb.
Captain Kevin Nolan got a hat trick, which will be remembered for years and years to come, and no wonder the captain is a hero on Tyneside..
Who would have thought following that game that manager Chris Hughton would be sacked in just 5 weeks. 🙁
And to keep things on the up – Newcastle then went to The Emirates Stadium and had their very first win there 1-0 with a classic header from Andy Carroll, when he out-jumped the goalkeeper, and that was three league wins on the trot with 8 goals scored and only 2 conceded.
But then Newcastle went into a bit of a slump, with a 2-1 home defeat by Blackburn and only a 0-0 against a badly performing Fulham side, at that time.
The next game would be a turning point for Newcastle and the manager, and the team looked like the had forgotten how to defend, when they were hammered at Bolton 5-1, with four goals basically giveaways from Newcastle.
That wasn’t the first time that defense fragility would harm Newcastle in the season.
Coloccini was sent of in the game in the second half, and had a terrible game, and then Mike Williamson was also given a 3 match ban after the game, for dangerous play against Elmander in the first half.
Officials had viewed videos after the game, of him bumping into the big Swede.
So Coloccini and Williamson were both out, and Joey Barton had also received a 3 game ban against Blackburn Rovers earlier, for punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest in that game.
These were the first of far too many suspension that Newcastle players suffered last season, which cost Newcastle many points.
Newcastle did well to hold Chelsea 1-1 at home in the next game, with a nice early goal from Andy Carroll, but then came a big defeat at West Brom 3-1.
And as it turned out that be the last game for Chris Hughton, who had kept the team in the dressing room for around 90 minutes after that game.
But that didn’t help him and the next day – a Monday – the manager was fired and that came as a huge shock to Newcastle fans, and to the football public in general.
Chris had Newcastle in 11th place at the time, with 19 points from the first 16 games.
As it turns out Newcastle finished one place lower than that at the end of the season.
If Newcastle had continued throughout the 38 game season with the points Chris had gained in the first 16 games, Newcastle would have ended up with 45 points – they ended up with 46 points.
Newcastle were on a poor run of only 2 points from their previous 5 league games, but it looked like Ashley and LLambias were just waiting for an excuse – any excuse – to fire Chris.
But the lads had done well through December in the league, and Chris Hughton will always be a hero at Newcastle for how he brought the club back from the depths in a short 18 months spell – from June of 2009 following relegation to December of 2010.
In between, Newcastle had magnificently won the Championship with a massive 102 points, and were a clear 32 points ahead of third placed Nottingham Forest – a wonderful achievement by Chris and the boys.
Chris Hughton was a lovely man, as they say, and simply magnificent for Newcastle.
The question at the time was – who would be brought in to replace him, before the following home game at Liverpool?
That’s all in part 2, which I’ll bring out tomorrow, which will go through what happened through end of the January transfer window – a shocking transfer window for Newcastle.
Comments on part one are very welcome.
Note: This article was written last Wednesday.