Newcastle United have been branded the surprise team of the season thus far. The team have exceeded many peoples expectations and are one of only two teams that have avoided defeat in the Premier League at this stage of the season.
The press, the pundits and the neutrals were tipping Newcastle to be battling for their lives this season following the departures of Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Joey Barton. Indeed it’s early days but Alan Pardew and his team have proved a point early on and have silenced the doubters. We have had moments of class at times and although we haven’t been consistent with performances thus far we have been collecting the points. Evidence that the team spirit and willingness to fight for each other remains in the squad.
As I was looking back and reflecting over the results we have already got this season I found myself comparing them to the results we had against the same teams last term. It’s well documented that we had a few dodgy results last season and of course a new season gives the team the opportunity to rectify the wrongs. Here’s a round up of what we have done so far and how they compare to last season.
Arsenal(H)- Last season 4-4, This season 0-0
Arsenal’s visit last season proved to be one of the fixtures of the season. Newcastle infamously sparked a heroic comeback after finding themselves 4-0 down at St James’ Park by half time.
This season didn’t provide the same excitement but delivered the same outcome points wise.
Result verdict: Equal points outcome.
Sunderland(A)- Last season 1-1, This season 1-0 W
Steve Bruce developed a very unhealthy obsession with Newcastle following the 5-1 thrashing. He was hell bent on using the return fixture at their place to get revenge on the team he supported as a boy. Brucey even claimed that he had a song for the Newcastle fans ready to play at the end of the game should the Mackems be victorious. It took the scum until injury time to snatch an equalizer to cancel out Nolan’s goal and earn them a draw.
This season Steve Bruce’s bitter obsession continued into this fixture. A new look Sunderland side were ready for us this time round. Sadly for Mr Bruce his former player (at Wigan) Ryan Taylor struck a wonderful free kick to win the game for United. Ryan Taylor over the wall!
Result verdict- Improvement on last season.
Fulham(H)- Last season 0-0, This season 2-1
This fixture last season ended goalless. Fulham were then managed by Mark Hughes, the same manager who helped Fulham to victory over Newcastle in the fixture at Craven Cottage last February.
This term the lads were looking to build on the Sunderland and Arsenal results in what was deemed as a very winnable fixture. Leon Best found the net twice in the second half before Tim Krul conceded an 88th minute header from Clint Dempsey. Fulham’s consolation goal ensured a nervy end to the game, despite winning the game it certainly wasn’t the greatest performance.
Result verdict- Improvement on last season
QPR(A)- Last season N/A, This season 0-0
QPR are the only newly promoted team we have played this season. The last time we played at Loftus Road was on the final day of our Championship tour in which Peter Lovenkrands sealed a 1-0 win for Newcastle.
This season there was a lot of focus on this fixture, Joey Barton was to make his QPR debut against his former club in front of the Sky cameras. Newcastle offered very little on the night in truth and were lucky to walk away with a point after a dominating performance from last season’s Championship winners.
Result verdict- Didn’t play them last season, N/A.
Aston Villa(A)- Lat season 1-0 L, This season 1-1
Villa will always be the club that relegated us in their back yard. We can say that our relegation shaped us and made us stronger but nothing will ever quite justify that absolutely devastating feeling when your team is relegated from the top flight. Neither will I forgot the way the Villa fans reacted when they sent us down. I feel the 6-0 thumping at St James’ last season evened the score if only a little.
Last seasons visit to Villa Park ended in more misery for us, with a 1-0 loss. We were down to the bare bones with injuries and I recall Colo playing centre midfield that day.
This season saw us dominate but only walk away with a point. Former Newcastle stopper Shay Given ensured that Yohan Cabaye would have to wait longer for his first goal in English football with the Irishman pulling off a string of world class saves from Cabaye efforts.
Results verdict- Improvement
Blackburn(H)- Last season 2-1 L, This season 3-1 W
Last season saw the Blackburn jinx continue as Rovers were proved to be our bogey team. A rare mistake by the brilliant Cheik Tiote allowed Blackburn to take the lead, shortly after half time Judas managed to put us back on level terms. However it was Jason Roberts who would have the final say and struck Rovers to a 2-1 win at St James’.
This season Demba Ba scored his first three goals of the season all in the same game. Newcastle were able to comfortably see off a very poor Blackburn side. Honourable mention though for Hoillet’s excellent goal for Rovers. He is a player who needs to look to bigger things in my opinion.
Result verdict- Improvement
Wolves(A)- Last season 1-1, This season 2-1 W
When I think of the Wolves fixture last season I think instantly of Karl Henry. The midfielder was a bit tough in his tackling to put it mildly, it was an afternoon in which former United star Joey Barton’s temper was challenged, but he rose above and didn’t react. It was also former Mag Andy Carroll that earned us a point on the day.
This season we started the game well and found ourselves 2-0 up. Jonas scored an excellent goal after Ba had put us ahead from a corner. In truth we rode our luck on the day, we got away with it when Wolves had a strong penalty appeal waved away. Wolves also put the ball in Krul’s net for a second time in the game but the linesman decided that the ball went over the byline before being nodded back for Kevin Doyle.
Result verdict- Improvement
Spurs(H) Last season 1-1, This season 2-2
Last season we were guilty of conceding goals late on at times. This fixture was one of those occasions, Aaron Lennon’s strike beat Steve Harper late on in the game. The wingers goal cancelled out Fabricio Coloccini’s superb volley earlier on.
Many have suggested that the second half of the Spurs game is as entertaining as any game to be televised this season. Newcastle came from behind twice to earn a well deserved draw against a side that people branded as being our first real challenge of the season.
Result verdict- Equal outcome.
Wigan(H)- Last season 2-2, This season 1-0 W
The last time we played Wigan at home, old boy Charles N’Zogbia responded to the booing home fans by producing two goals for the visitors. Newcastle found themselves 2-0 behind at home and a bit shell shocked. It took virtually the last touch of the game for Colo to head us level after Shola found the back of the net in the second half.
On Saturday Roberto Martinez’s men visited St James’ Park following five defeats. Wigan came knowing a loss would send them to the bottom of the table, with that in mind the they had plenty of incentive to go for it. Wigan did create chances and we didn’t look our best, but in the 81st minute Yohan Cabaye opened his goal scoring account with a wonderful strike . This proved to be the winning goal and the three points came Newcastle’s way.
Result verdict- Improvement.
So that’s us up to date. The result verdict indicates whether we have bettered in results against certain teams this season. It’s nice that we haven’t in anyway gone backwards in terms of results, we haven’t lost or drawn a game that we won last season. But we have won games that we lost and drew.
I know it’s early days but what an enjoyable start to the season it’s been for our club and our fans.