Seeing as Wednesday’s win marked our 10th game in what will hopefully be our second and last stint in the Championship, today, I thought it would be good to make a comparison to the last time we plyed our trade in the second tier back in 2010.
Of course, the Magpies bounced straight back after being relegated to the Football League in 2009 under Chris Hughton, and with an arguably stronger squad and manager this time round, signs would point to us doing much the same.
But just how are we faring compared to last time out?
The data after 10 games as to where we were placed in the Championship back in 2009 is patchy, but my deductions are, that we were in 1st position and 4 points clear of nearest rivals West Brom. Just a single defeat to Blackpool marred what was otherwise a solid start to the season.
Now, we’re third and have already suffered three defeats. Cause for concern? Or is the only stat worth discussing, the one that we see after 46 games?
Signed from Palace for what many believe to be an over the odds price, Dwight Gayle has become our main source of goals so far this season. His hat trick against Norwich this week was hopefully the first of many, but the pedants amongst us will still argue that he needs to be less wasteful in front of goal. With 7 goals so far, should the Eagles man continue scoring at the same rate, he’d hit over 30 goals by the end of the season.
Back in 2009, Andy Carroll came to the fore for Newcastle, scoring 17 goals in his first full season for the club. Being much more youthful and inexperienced than what Gayle is now, it is perhaps not fair to compare him directly. An apt comparison, if he hadn’t have gone on loan to Barnsley, would have been to put Adam Armstrong and Carroll side by side.
Geordie Two raised concerns about our front line in his post the other day (as did others in the comments) but when you consider the fact (at the time of writing) that are we now the division’s top scorers with 21, to an outsider looking in, our concerns seem unfounded under the circumstances.
Both 2009/2010 & 2016/2017 campaigns will turn out to be difficult for very different reasons. In the former season, a strong West Brom side who were still in the process of shaking off that ‘yo-yo club’ tag, kept pace with us until the last few games. A nervy 1-1 draw on the opening game of the season (which I watched from the comfort of an expat bar in Majorca) against them was the perfect barometer to assess how strong our ‘strongest’ opposition would be. Further defeats to Nottingham Forest and Blackpool, two sides who both made the play-offs (the latter of which won the play-offs) would be small blots on what was otherwise a stellar season for the club.
This time around, defeats to the likes of Huddersfield, who have been a real surprise package under David Wagner this year, have more than kept our expectations in check. The plight of Aston Villa has certainly helped, as they, along with Norwich were fully expected to challenge for the automatic promotion spots this year. But seeing as Roberto Di Matteo’s men are now some way off the pace, it would appear our nearest rivals for the course of the season will in fact be Norwich.
Huddersfield, as good as they’ve been, shouldn’t be expected to maintain the sort of form they’ve had for the course of the season and as a result, can be tentatively discounted.
We’ve lost games but we’ve almost never failed to create chances. The stats don’t lie – we’re faring worse this time around but with a lot of personnel changes this summer, the bedding-in time for the squad is always going to be longer.
On paper, I believe this year’s Newcastle side (on-song) would win-out against the class of 2009. For some reason, things just clicked quicker than they did under Hughton, but that’s no slight on the good job Rafa has done so far. As I said, the disruption caused this summer can certainly be attributed to our ‘stuttering start’.
With the amount of money in football growing year-on-year exponentially, it wouldn’t be out the realms of possibility to consider that second flight teams of this season are inherently a lot stronger than those of 2009/2010 as well. Bulging parachute payments and increasing foreign ownership has only lended itself to a higher standard of football in the English Championship as the years have wore on.
All that said, this season’s squad, under the stewardship of Rafa should still have no problem. I believe we will go up, but the jury really is out as to whether we can do it in the same comfort we did back in 2009.