How Newcastle’s fortunes have dipped over the last year. At this stage of last season, Sam Allardyce had steered the club to 11th in the league with 18 points from 14 games. He was sacked a few short weeks later with the club still 11th, having collected 26 points from 21 matches.
Expectations have dipped to the point that Joe Kinnear would be feted as a hero if the Magpies found themselves 11th in January. Newcastle are currently 18th with 14 points from 14 games and are 4-1 to go down, but their position belies the positive effect Kinnear has had since taking the reins.
Newcastle were in turmoil following Kevin Keegan’s departure and the appointment of Kinnear was met with derision by supporters and observers alike. His expletive-filled outburst at a press conference in early October did not bode well and the first few results weren’t great.
Fast forward a few weeks and Newcastle have lost just one of their last five games and restricted Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge last weekend with an impressive defensive display. They might still be in the relegation zone but Kinnear deserves a lot of credit for taking on a difficult job that seemingly no-one else wanted. The players are showing pride in wearing the shirt again and are playing for their manager. All this achieved while carrying out the job on a temporary basis with a rolling month-by-month contract. If nothing else, Kinnear has done his future job prospects a power of good after years of being overlooked.
Kinnear is convinced Newcastle won’t go down but wants the chance to stay on in charge and buy players in the New Year. Things are so tight at the bottom of the league though that if they do pick up a couple of injuries to key players, the Magpies could find themselves marooned in the relegation zone, depite Kinnear’s best efforts. Then again, Mark Viduka is due back from injury soon and a player of his quality should soon be banging the goals in.
Allardyce, sacked for achieving mid-table mediocrity, would not have taken Newcastle down last season. If they are relegated this season, they won’t be the first (or last) club to be sabotaged by the weight of their own expectations.