Newcastle United went into 2017 top of the Championship table but now find themselves second to Brighton Hove Albion, however, it’s not all doom and gloom, despite being two points behind and having played a game more.

This time last year, Newcastle United were sat miserably in 18th position in the Barclays Premier League under then boss Steve McClaren. Despite picking up four points against Manchester United and West Ham in the middle of January, McClaren never recovered from the failings of the first half of the season and was finally sacked in March.

That already feels like a long time ago and Toon fans really did have nothing to be excited about apart from McClaren hopefully getting the boot. This time around, Newcastle again have started the new year disappointingly after an abysmal defeat away at Blackburn and an average showing in the FA Cup draw at Birmingham. However, this time there is a lot to be positive about even when it often is easy to forget and here’s why…

Same number of points as this stage in last Championship campaign:

Last time round in the Championship in 2009/10, Newcastle won the title comfortably under now Brighton boss Chris Hughton with an impressive tally of 102 points – eleven points clear of second place. But after 25 matches now, United have the exact number of points (52) now as they did in the 09/10 season. Although form patterns are different, this highlights the need for fans to be patient and stick with the side and the tactics of the manager, which were heavily criticised after the Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn defeats.

January transfer window: 

In one of Benitez’ most recent press conferences, he hinted heavily at the prospect of bringing in new faces to the Newcastle squad. No specific names were mentioned by the Spaniard but he made it clear that any incomings would be that of “Premier League/European quality players” with the assumption of achieving promotion come May. Benitez gave off the impression that himself and Lee Charnley would take a strategic approach to the window in order to bring in the correct players, regardless of price and that the fans may have to be patient as they make sure the players coming into the club are right for everyone. It’s clear that the manager has the financial backing of the powers above him to hopefully propel Newcastle back to the top tier of English football.

The ‘run-in’:

As far as Championship run-ins go, United have quite an appealing one at the latter end of the season. Out of the last eight games (all in April/May), Newcastle are at home five times all against Burton, Wigan, Leeds, Preston and Barnsley. Nothing is to be taken for granted in this league as defeats to Blackburn (twice) will show, however, Rafa Benitez’s men should look at these fixtures and be confident of taking points. The fixtures are subject to change depending on when the Brighton away match is rearranged for because of FA Cup commitments but even then this shouldn’t put off the 2009/10 winners.

 

United are back in league action this coming Saturday, January 14th, when they face Brentford at Griffin Park, 3pm kick-off.

Feature Image Credit: Yellow Book Limited

 

Alex Storey

 

 

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