The last time Newcastle faced Cardiff at home, the club was turmoil, a planned walkout, the club was disconnected from the fans. However, as we approach the same fixture, the club is in a completely different state with the fans back onside and are on the verge of going 10 games unbeaten in all competitions. This is a stark contrast to the mood which surrounded the club going into the previous encounter. The Magpies hadn’t won in 6 before the encounter with the Bluebirds.
So what’s changed since the last time the pair faced each other. Well to start with Alan Pardew is no more at St James’ Park, as he escaped down the A1 back to the loving arms of the adoring Crystal Palace fans which gladly took the man, whose goal took Palace to the 1990 FA Cup semi final. It’s fair to say, Pardew was not popular man on Tyneside the hate campaign which encapsulated the game continued until his departure in December of that year. This is a huge contrast to the current boss, Rafa Benitez. Since his arrival in March, Benitez has reached almost godlike status on Tyneside, in fact Benitez is everything that Pardew wanted to be however in so many ways Pardew failed to achieve such a status despite an excellent 5th place finish in 2011/12 and a decent attempt at Europa League in 2012/13. The Benitez factor has changed the mood of a club which was heading into an extremely dark place. Optimism is back at St. James’ Park despite being in a lower league, something which has long been missing from St. James’ Park. This will mean that the weekend’s game will be played in front a far happy St. James Park than the last time the teams encountered each other. This one simple change as revolutionised the club and has changed the feel around the club for the better
Furthermore, the team has changed hugely since that day in May, only four of the starting eleven from that day are still with the club today. Many of these aren’t huge players in Benitez’s squad such as Cheick Tiote. Many of the players have came and gone since then and this is definitely for the better, our current squad has far more spirit and commitment than many who were involved on that day. Many players such as Loic Remy, as useful as his goals were, he was quickly discovered to be a money grabber who has proven in recent seasons to be more than happy to sit on the sidelines at Chelsea. This is a huge contrast to players such as Matt Ritchie and Mo Diame, who have given up a season in the Premier League to join Rafa’s project.
In the two years since the last fixture, things have massively changed for the better and hopefully under Rafa Benitez they will continue to do so. Hopefully, one thing will be the same as that day as Newcastle ran out 3-0 winners a similar result this time round would make it 10 games unbeaten which was a distant fairytale back then.