Championship champions Newcastle United ensured that they would end the season unbeaten at home by drawing 2-2 against Ipswich Town. The result means that Newcastle have matched a club record that has stood since 1907.
Undoubtedly the club’s home form has been the bedrock to their success this season with 18 wins and just five draws coming from their 23 home games. It would have been something of an anti-climax if the Magpies had suffered their only defeat of the campaign in front of a capacity crowd ready for another promotion party. But it is testament to the current crop of players that they were determined to secure yet another milestone against a fired-up Ipswich side. After the final whistle, Newcastle’s Championship winning players and backroom staff were given a rousing reception as they received some long-awaited silverware. It may not yet be a major trophy but it will do for now after the fans’ hurt from the last few seasons of turmoil. Next season will be a greater test for Chris Hughton’s men but for now the club can savour some glory.
Newcastle were denied from ending their home campaign with another victory by a late leveller with more than a hint of offside. But it would have taken more than that to put a dampener on the day’s celebrations. The Magpies were never at their most fluent best against Roy Keane’s Ipswich side, who looked determined to spoil the Geordies’ party. Newcastle’s opening goal was typical of many that have occurred this season – a cross swung over from a wide position and Andy Carroll scoring with a towering header. At the beginning of the season Carroll was one of the lesser lights in the Newcastle side whose future was far from certain. But this term he has taken the responsibility for leading Newcastle’s attack against some experienced and wily defenders in the Championship. He now jointly leads the club’s scoring charts alongside Kevin Nolan with 17 goals apiece. His off-the-field problems are still a cause for concern but many Newcastle supporters have taken the Gateshead lad to their hearts. Next season will be a test to see if he can make the step-up where so many prolific Championship strikers have failed – to score consistently in the Premier League.
While Carroll’s career is still in its infancy, for another Newcastle player their career is nearing an end. Veteran midfielder Nicky Butt confirmed in his programme notes on Saturday that he will be leaving Newcastle when his contract expires in the summer. The 35-year-old has yet to decide whether he will retire from playing or try for another season of league football. Saturday’s game was one of the highlights of Butt’s Newcastle career as he lifted the Championship title aloft along with vice-skipper Alan Smith. He may have made a limited impact on the pitch this season but his winning experience has been a big factor in the dressing room. He may have won countless Premier League titles, a European Cup and starred for England in a World Cup but he counts winning the Championship as one of the highlights of his career. He said: “Sir Alex Ferguson told me when I won my very first medal, you always have to enjoy it. Don’t be embarrassed to enjoy it and celebrate. Whether it is the Premier League, the Youth Cup or this, I have enjoyed them exactly the same. The highs of winning the league and the Champions League are just the same as this. You don’t sit there looking at your medal thinking it is not the same as the rest because it is the Championship. You have won it. You are just happy. The scenes out there could have been the Champions League and you just have to enjoy them.”
On a separate note, four Newcastle players made it into the Championship Team of the Season, which was announced over the weekend. Defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Jose Enrique were both selected alongside Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll. All four have had outstanding seasons and could easily have been joined by goalkeeper Steve Harper and winger Jonas Gutierrez.
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