Newcastle United Year Review – Part 1

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2016 is over and for Newcastle United it’s been a mixed year. From the highs of Rafa Benitez becoming the club’s new manager to the lows of relegation once again, it has certainly been a bittersweet year for the Magpies. As we look forward to what looks to be an exciting 2017, we look back on the highs and lows of Newcastle’s 2016.

January

January was a month of mixed emotions on Tyneside. The month started in dire fashion with United succumbing to defeat at the Emirates and being dumped out of the FA Cup once again at the 3rd Round stage, things were looking bleak for United. However, the purse strings on Tyneside were loosened as Newcastle became the highest spenders in Europe in an attempt to try and buy their way out of trouble. The first two signings made by the club were paraded in front of the St. James Park faithful, the first of which another export from France, Bordeaux Midfielder Henri Saivet. The second man in was Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and it was fair to say that these two midfielders had completely different fortunes at the club. Shelvey going on to play a key role on the pitch, whilst Saivet really had no effect at all on proceedings, finding himself mostly on the bench on Tyneside.

With Shelvey and Saivet watching on, Newcastle perhaps put in their most memorable performance of the season against Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United side, with the game ending 3-3. Perhaps the most memorable moment being the unlikely equaliser late on by Paul Dummett, sending the Gallowgate into raptures. Another two would arrive on Tyneside in the form of Tottenham winger Andro Townsend and the loaning of Seydou Doumbia. Once again theses would have mixed fortunes on Tyneside, with Doumbia becoming the forgotten man through most of the season. The new signings mixed in well with the old in their first appearances against West Ham with Newcastle being able to secure their first win of the year. The month ended with another defeat at Watford.

February

February began with yet another defeat at Goodison Park, the second 3-0 defeat in two seasons, proving a difficult place for the Magpies to get a result. However, in their next game, Newcastle secured another home victory against West Brom with Alexsander Mitrovic getting the winning goal in front of a packed St. James’. This result would prove to be Steve McClaren’s last victory in charge of Newcastle. The Magpies then travelled to the capital to face a Chelsea side who had been disappointing in the league so far. However, it proved to be another away horror show from Newcastle who were comprehensively defeated by the then reigning Champions, 5-1 . McClaren then took his side to a Spanish training camp to try and get results from United, whilst out there Newcastle beat Lillestrom in a friendly 2-1

March

The month of March was certainly eventful for Newcastle, it saw the sacking of McClaren and the appointment of Rafa Benitez. As well as this, the month also saw the visit of Sunderland to Tyneside. It’s fair to say the month started as badly as February had finished, a disappointing defeat to Stoke at the Britannia once more damaged Steve McClaren. However, with the visit of Bournemouth to St. James, McClaren finally lost the support of the fans, United crashing to 3-1 defeat coupled with a dismal performance. This led to a tense week with media reports circulating saying that United were ready to sack McClaren, these reports lasted all week until, eventually, Newcastle axed McClaren.

After much speculation to the shock of the football world, ex-Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez agreed to take over the reigns at St. James’ Park, agreeing to stay if he could manage to keep the Magpies up. His first test was a trip to top of the table Leicester, after a hard fought battle Newcastle succumbed to a 1-0 defeat. Benitez then faced the old enemy, Sunderland, in his first home game, a relegation six-pointer in front of a sold-out St. James’ Park. However, United started poorly and fell behind to a Jermain Defoe strike on the stroke of half time, despite this, the fans got behind the team and eventually in the 83rd minute, Alexsander Mitrovic headed home an equaliser to send St. James’ into raptures and gaining Benitez his first point in charge of Newcastle.

Feature Image credit: Martin Le Roy

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