It is with a certain degree of relief that Newcastle United brought the curtain down on the year 2009 with a draw against Derby.
There can be no disputing that 2009 has been a memorable year for Newcastle fans – primarily for all the wrong reasons. Little has gone right on and off the pitch in yet another dramatic year on Tyneside. Over the space of 12 months there have been three different managers in permanent charge, along with some spells under the caretaker charge of current gaffer Chris Hughton. Despite the appointment of local hero Alan Shearer in the final months of the 2008-09 season it was not enough to save Newcastle from relegation. Off the field, Mike Ashley’s attempts to sell the club have been unsuccessful and the businessman caused outrage by changing the name of Newcastle’s ground to advertise his own sportswear company. The end of the year has seen an upturn in fortunes with Newcastle leading the Championship and looking much more of a team.
It was perhaps fitting that Newcastle ended a traumatic year with a disappointing run of results over the festive period. A return of just two points from games against lowly Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County have to be viewed as poor. As a result it has allowed West Brom and Nottingham Forest to make up some ground on a team who some people were already hailing as Championship title certainties. They now lead West Brom by just six points and the Baggies also have a game in hand. While it is a stutter Newcastle must ensure they return to winning form in the New Year.
The Sheffield Wednesday game saw a number of defensive errors as Newcastle looked shaky as the back for the first time in a long time. There was also a rare error from goalkeeper Steve Harper who dropped the ball under heavy pressure leading to Wednesday’s second goal. In the next game against Derby County the Magpies dominated for long spells of the match but were wasteful with their finishing, especially in the first half. In the second half of the game Newcastle looked devoid of creativity with Jonas Gutierrez providing the only creative spark. January should prove to be a decisive month in the Championship title race with games against West Brom and Leicester City the standout fixtures.
Newcastle may look to add to their squad in the January transfer window with defensive and attacking reinforcements the priority. The number one transfer target would appear to be Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford. Newcastle have been long time admirers of the prolific marksman and look set to bid for his services. The striker is out of contract in the summer so his value has been reduced greatly, a figure of around £1.5 million could be enough to tempt Leeds to sell. Chris Hughton stated: “Jermaine Beckford is one of a few players that will of course be of interest to us. In the work that we’ve done over the last few weeks and months, there have been numerous names that have been thrown at us .There’ll continue to be players that become available that we thought wouldn’t be available. We have to look at all the options we have, but, certainly, Jermaine’s a player that will come into those options.” Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon may also be brought in to provide cover if either Newcastle’s first choice centre halves get injured.
Controversial midfielder Joey Barton has again come out with some controversial comments undermining most of his professional peers. Speaking on a special BBC Radio Four programme Barton said: “A lot of them are so detached from reality it’s untrue, and there was a stage when I was like that. It’s only the fact I’m grounded by the trouble I have been in that’s forced me away from being in the football world. Driving round in flash cars and changing them like you change your socks, wearing stupid diamond watches and spending money like it’s going out of fashion in the middle of a recession when some people are struggling to put food on the table for the kids, it’s not the way to do it.” His comments are unlikely to go down well with many of his team mates. Newcastle make the long trip to Plymouth for a third round FA Cup tie this weekend. Chris Hughton may make some changes to freshen up a side who looked slightly jaded over the Christmas period.