What are Newcastle fans truly expecting? It has become a common element of Newcastle’s season, that famous pre-season hope and expectation in aiming high, and in-variably being furiously disappointed at mediocrity.
It is this same syndrome which led to the sacking of Bobby Robson at 5th place not being good enough, and the fated campaign a few seasons ago which ended in relegation, began with another aimed tilt at the European places. Now, there is nothing wrong with such ambition, and in truth it is something that makes football and sport so special, that feeling that on the opening day, everybody is equal.
Manchester City may have more money, Chelsea might be the Champions of Europe, but on that opening day in August nobody has a divine right to succeed, and all the clubs in England will believe in a good season. However, perhaps the reason for Newcastle’s brilliant season last year was down to a lack of ambition at the start of the season?
Under Pardew in his first full season, in truth the most the Toon could have aimed for would have been a top half finish, and nobody would have dreamed that heading into the final day they still had an outside chance of finishing in the Champions League places. Yet, in previous seasons this would have been what numerous fans un-realistically targeted, and maybe this had a detrimental effect on the performances and achievements on the pitch.
Now, undoubtedly, there will be heightened expectation. A lot of Newcastle fans will target a Champions League place, but realistically it is going to be extremely difficult with Arsenal and Chelsea already landing marquee signings. Therefore, is it sensible to be aimed for the top four?
Obviously the Magpies can compete with those at the top, but another factor to consider would be that they are now competing in the Europa League. Last season, we saw Tottenham surrender in this format, playing weakened sides and concentrating on the Premiership.
This leads to a dilemma and a debate question, would Newcastle fans prefer a run to the knockout stages of the Europa League and a 6th place finish, say, or finishing 5th and pushing higher but crashing out in the group stages of Europe’s second tier competition?
Whilst fans may want to charge at the Champions League spots, perhaps the former is a better option. Another issue is to filter in the two domestic cups on offer, the newly named Capital One Cup and of course the FA Cup. Exits last season at the hands of Blackburn and Brighton simply wasn’t good enough but did get brushed under the carpet some what at the great league form.
Would Newcastle’s faithful swap European football for some silverware? Of course they would, and I think Newcastle’s expectations should reflect this, and this would mean stronger teams being put out in the cup competitions. Would Newcastle be happy to finish 7th but win a trophy? I think they most certainly would be, and for the fans a day out at Wembley wouldn’t be sneered at.
One thing for certain is that competition for those European places in the 2012/13 season are going to be at a new level. Chelsea and Arsenal are strengthening, Tottenham’s dismissal of Harry Redknapp sends out a signal of serious intent, and Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers will aim high. Therefore, it would do no harm to dampen the expectation at St James’ Park this forthcoming season, and the surprise if the success was replicated would again bring great joy to the fans.
What are you aiming for this season? Would you rather win the FA Cup and finish 7th or 8th, or end the season with no silverware but in 5th again? Get involved in the debate, by either commenting on the site, or finding us on twitter @thespectoview
Comments always welcome