With five games to go, Newcastle need nine points from a possible fifteen to guarantee automatic promotion back to the Premier League. An interesting debate is to compare the current side to the Championship winning team of 2009/10.
2009/10: The statistics for this season were impressive. A total of 102 points after 46 games meant we won the league by 11 points and had an incredible gap of 23 points over 3rd place Nottingham Forest.
2016/7: Well set to go up, it looks like we will finish on around 90-95 points and a fight on our hands to finish top over Brighton. Although a smaller points total, the standard of teams does feel slightly higher this time round. Huddersfield are likely to finish are more points than 3rd place in 2010 and there are some decent sides in the play offs like Sheffield Wednesday, who have done the double over us.
Chris Hughton: Hughton stepped into the breach from assistant manager during pre-season after our relegation. After a 6-0 hammering to Leyton Orient in pre-season, along with senior players, he helped build a spirit in the group that would see us celebrating come May. He was harshly sacked with us sitting 10th in the Premiership the season after. Looking at the squads, you could argue he had a stronger group to work with, even if it still takes an excellent manager to bring it all together, like he did that year.
Rafa Benitez: As brilliant a job Hughton did on Tyneside, and continues to do at Brighton now, he perhaps doesn’t have the credentials or standing of Benitez. It has felt at times this season Rafa has had to guide players to results, the tactical masterclass at Huddersfield springs to mind, than the self managing characters we had under Houghton. Both have done brilliantly for us in a time of need, but there is a sense that if promoted, exciting times lie ahead under Rafa. His contacts in the game and ability to attract players could really help take us to the next level.
- 2009/10: Harper, Enrique, Coloccini, Jonas, Nolan, Barton, Smith, Guthrie, Lovenkrands, Ameobi and Carroll.
- 2016/7: Darlow, Clark, Lascelles, Shelvey, Ritchie, Gayle.
In 09/10, Newcastle were blessed with a nucleus of experienced players. Once we trimmed the relegated squad from the previous season, we had numerous leaders who were well equipped for the challenge of the Championship. This was perhaps noted by Benitez in pushing through deals for Ritchie and Gayle last summer, who have proved to be fantastic signings. Interestingly, both teams have a British core, which is something Newcastle have not had enough of in recent times.
Looking at current core players, this season they are fewer than 2010. This has been due to Rafa rotating (Anita/ Yedlin, Colback/Hayden, Diame/Perez) and Newcastle not having as much depth this time round. The current crop are far younger though, which might explain some inconsistent results. The likes of Lascelles and Darlow have more room to improve. Looking at the current core though problems emerge – we need strengthening in most areas. A new left back, winger, centre midfielder and number 10 will be priorities this summer.
Equipped for the Premiership?
As mentioned, we have less depth than last time we were promoted. We will need significant investment this summer, more than that of 2010. The key difference could be Mike Ashley though, he has finally begun to invest in the transfer market and has hopefully learned from the dismissal of Hughton. If we avoid manager turmoil and we can keep Benitez, there is a good opportunity to finally get back into the top half and focus on a cup run.
Verdict: Stats show the team of 09/10 was better but we have every reason to believe that we now have a brighter future ahead.