Adam Clery attempts to make sense of a miserable campaign for the Geordies that amounted to a meek surrender.
How did your club fare compared to your pre-season hopes/expectation?
As ever, pre-season expectations at Newcastle were largely chipper. For the first time in what feels like an age, the club appeared both ambitious and active in even the earliest stages of the transfer market. By the middle of July Emmanuel Riviere, Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong, Jack Colback, Ayoze Perez and Daryl Janmaat had all been snapped up, and only Mathieu Debuchy looked like going the other way.
A £20million outlay is a pittance to most clubs these days, but it was the biggest amount Ashley had forked out since our return to the league and, for once, the optimism seemed reasonably well founded. We’d added strength, skill, guile, determination, flair to both the first 11 and the squad as a whole and, at the very least, a comfortable season was expected. As ever though, it didn’t exactly go according to plan.
In an ideal world a fan should struggle to pick one highlight out of an entire season worth of football, but there was genuinely nothing that elicited more than half a smile until the last 10 minutes of the entire season.
After being told he was surplus to requirements, after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, after undergoing horrific chemotherapy, after dragging himself through one of the toughest things any human being will ever go thorough, Jonas Gutierrez single handedly kept the club up.
He put the cross in for Sissoko to open the scoring, and he rounded the afternoon off himself with an admittedly fortunate late strike from outside the box. He owes the club absolutely nothing, and there’s almost nobody involved with it who deserves him, but after admitting that it was the thought of playing at St James’ again that helped him with his recovery there can be fewer sweeter moments in football.
Season’s low point?
Where to begin. The 0-4 drubbing at Southampton, two more successive surrendering of the Tyne/Wear derby, being humiliated in the quarter final of the Capital One Cup, almost every single word that came out of John Carver’s mouth – the sooner it can all be forgotten the better.
If I had to pluck for one standout moment though, seeing the team surrender the lead to an already relegated Queens Park Rangers. A team that will arguably go down as the most gutless ever to play in the league, and with a win ensuring our own survival, showed everybody precisely how much fight, determination, and abilty are lacking from this group of players.
Player of the year
Almost nobody associated with the club, regardless of what capacity they find their employment, will look back on this season as anything other than a disaster. However there were some players to emerge with some credit to their name. Jack Colback was occasionally outplayed, but never found wanting in terms of attitude or commitment. Ayoze Perez showed that he is far, far too good to be playing for a club in our position, with every performance being a masterclass in attacking movement. Daryl Janmaat also showed touches of class (and defensive steel, a rare trait in the modern full back) when he wasn’t picking up needless bookings or sendings off.
Was there a particular goal/moment that got you out of your seat?
All goals get me out of my seat, but the one it took me the longest to sit back down again after was Gutierrez’ winner vs West Ham United. The reasons of which are as numerous as they are obvious.
Player you’d be happiest see leave this summer
Mike Williamson. I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke, but after some 6 years of watching him blow smoke out of his cheeks as younger, fitter, smarter and more skilful players run rings around him is sufficient.
He was acquired when the club were still in the Championship to provide cover for Taylor and Coloccini, how he is both a) still anywhere near the first team at 31 and b) getting 30+ games for the last two seasons is absolutely staggering.
If we can pack him off onto the same flight as Gabriel Obertan, Yoan Gouffran, Cheick Tiote and Rob Elliott, all the better.
Want your manager to still be in charge next term?
I don’t even know where to begin with this question.
You can go back in time and offer the gaffer one bit of advice prior to the season just gone based on what you know is to come. What would it be?
Well that all depends on which gaffer you’re referring to.
The smart advice for Pardew would have been to force the club to invest in something resembling a recognised centre-forward, instead of putting every single goalscoring egg in the basket of an untested young Spaniard.
It might also have been prudent not to allow two Champions League standard defenders leave for a pittance when there was simultaneously an injury crisis and no viable cover.
As for Carver, my advice would simply have been to take a long holiday at the start of the year. Somewhere with no mobile phone reception.
Which opposing player received the loudest boos and which opposing player impressed you the most?
Such was the overwhelming indifference to the opposition – a by-product of the stifling disenfranchisement in the stands – that nobody was capable of invoking the ire of the St James’ faithful.
It’s also hard to remember anyone who stood out in particular, such was the relative freedom most teams would have to play against us. Players who’ve been lauded as having good seasons certainly added Newcastle to the list of teams they excelled against, but so too did those who’ve had stinkers.
If at all, how did the media’s portrayal of your club in 2014/15 differ from the reality?
If there’s one bright spot to come out of 2014/2015, it might be that it was the year the absurd media portrayal of Newcastle United and its supporters was finally injected with some reality.
For years the disquiet against the administration has been met on Match of the Day, football phone ins, and every blog in the land with cliched remarks about “unrealistic expectations” and a geographical bias against their not-from-around-here owners. However such was the glaring mismanagement at board level that even the most sceptical sneerers were forced to admit that the fans had been right all along.
Sadly this hasn’t affected the laughable revisionism being done in the wake of Pardew’s departure. With some newspaper columnists claiming Pardew was “forced out” by a fanbase who hated him.
For clarity, Pardew left for a £1million a year pay rise and the club didn’t see fit to replace him for the remaining 5 months of the season. He wasn’t popular with the fanbase, but the gripe in the stands was that there were better managers out there who could be doing more with the players available – not that this particular chancer had to be ousted and to hell with the consequences. In order to be careful what one wishes for, one must first actually have wished for that thing.