June 4, 2011
A 12th place finish is above the pre-season expectations of most (including me) which is great, but also disappointing in some ways. In the 89th minute of our final game of the season we were set for 9th place - a top half finish in our first season back would have been the icing on the cake. A couple of minutes later we were 12th and ¬£2.4 million lighter.
Tempered expectations came from another summer of little investment - the summer transfer window saw us bring in James Perch (¬£1m), Dan Gosling (Free and long term injured), Sol Campbell (Free), Hatem Ben Arfa (Loan) and crucially Cheick Tiote (¬£3.5m). Most of us felt that we needed more than that in order to avoid another relegation struggle.
We were also handed the toughest start possible - an away day to the eventual champions at Old Trafford. We were soundly beaten (3 v 0) but we had our moments and it was a decent enough performance and at least that one was out of the way.
Six days later and Villa were heading to SJP for our first home game back in the Premier League. As we all know, Villa were the last team that we played in the relegation season and the despicable behaviour of their fans left a bad taste that the home crowd were seeking revenge for. Villa were in some turmoil themselves with Martin O'Neill walking out days before the season start. No one expected the absolute slaughter that we would subject them to. Andy Carroll was phenomenal - he scored 3 of our 6 goals on the day - the first treble by a Newcastle player in the PL at home since Alan Shearer vs Sheff Wed in 1999! (6 v 0) and we were back in the big time. http://blogs.soccernet.com/newcastleunited/archives/2010/08/sixy_football_nufc_6_v_avfc_0.php
Wolves away was a brutal game. We were very unlucky to leave with only 1 point on an afternoon when the Wolves players, clearly under instruction to do so, took turns at hacking Joey Barton. Some of the tackles were horrendous - most notably from Karl Henry. Credit to Barton, who managed to keep his head and did not rise to the provocation - one of the biggest improvements in his game this season. Unfortunately Match of The Day highlighted the lot and they found it hilarious including, disappointingly, Alan Shearer. The same programme also failed to highlight an absolutely disgraceful tackle on Barton at Chelsea 9 months later. If it had been Barton flying through the back of Lampard it would have been replayed hundreds of times since - but that is a different story‚Ä¶