Let me begin this week by thanking you for your support during the SA Blog Awards. Last week I received the superb news that The Sports Eagle, in the guise of this Super Blog, was victorious a the Best Sports Blog. The congratulations poured in and there were a few salvos fired by rival sports news houses to inform us that they would be putting up a better fight next year. Bring it on, I say! But on a very serious note, this is a humbling honour and I cannot thank you enough for throwing your weight behind this movement. May TSE and the Super Blog grow from strength to strength.
And on that note, I can only hope for the same when it comes to my beloved Newcastle United. The Magpies achieved a rare English Premier League victory on Saturday against West Bromwich Albion. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal was enough to beat a very mediocre Albion side but it should have been at least 3-0 and therein lies the problem for the Toon. Steve McClaren’s side has been poor in front of goal this season and even worse at the other end of the pitch.
A quick glance at the log above reveals United has 24 points from 25 games and will need to up its game in the final 13 fixtures of the season. The side will need around 14 points, 16 maximum, to ensure safety. When one looks around the league, the feeling is that Aston Villa are as good as gone. Although the Villans have improved a little of late, their fate may have been sealed already. Sunderland are fighting tooth and nail and that is to be expected from a Sam Allardyce team. The Black Cats will visit St James’ Park on March 20 for the latest installment of the Tyne-Wear derby and McClaren simply has to turn the recent wretched run against the Wearsiders around. Three points will not be negotiable this time around.
Similarly the Tyneside troops have home games against fellow strugglers Bournemouth and Swansea City by mid-April. These three are all winnable so let us assume the best and McClaren’s men would advance to 33 points. During this same period Newcastle visits Chelsea, Leicester City and hosts Manchester City. History, form and common sense suggests the nort east side will get nothing from those. However there are also trips to Stoke City, Norwich City and Southampton. McClaren must fancy something out of those, possibly two draws or two losses and a win. That takes the Magpies to around 35, 36.
Newcastle’s last four fixtures are: Liverpool (away), Crystal Palace (home), Aston Villa (away), Tottenham Hotspur (home). Heaven help the Toon if they need to beat Spurs on the final day. Winning at Villa Park to make sure is equally daunting should Remi Garde’s lot have seriously upped their game although that is unlikely and a win in Birmingham might not be as far-fetched. However if McClaren can achieve the results as mentioned in the previous paragraph, then Premier League safety can be secured with a home awin against Palace on April 30.
You might read this and think it is the height of optimism. You might be right. However as a Newcastle supporter, often all you have is a dream, however deluded it might be.