Headbutts, player sales and fan discontent mar Toon’s season, writes Matt Allen...
Some clubs seem to operate in state of permanent political chaos. Daniel Levy's Tottenham Hotspur are one, Mike Ashley's Newcastle United another. But while Spurs’ struggles centre on their eternal struggle for a top-four place, the Toon’s troubles take place at a lower level – much to their fans’ disgust.
Last season Newcastle competed in the Europa League, and Alan Pardew’s astutely assembled squad looked capable of pushing again for a top-six place. But as boardroom issues and fan disgruntlement moved centre stage, the team fell apart with the first shoots of spring.
It's hard not to feel sorry for a manager when key decisions are being dictated by the men above him; Ashley's appointment last June of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football was a particularly divisive choice, while the late-January sale of key man Yohan Cabaye appeared to confirm the owner valued business sense far above footballing sensibility. This time, though, Pardew was very much the victim of his own stupidity.
Having apparently ended a wobble of six defeats in eight games, Newcastle were en route to a 4-1 win at Hull when their manager head-butted Tigers player David Meyler. The predictable media hoopla and ensuing seven-game ban merely helped confirm the team’s collapse.
With Pardew consigned to the stands at best, Newcastle lost seven of their next eight league games and endured home defeats to Manchester United (4-0), Everton (3-0) and Swansea (2-1); the 19 league games in 2014 yielded just 16 points. In a predictable end to a miserable season, the fans called for the departure of both Pardew and Ashley. As a pre-planned gesture, many walked out of the last home game in the 69th minute; in truth, the season had all but ended four months before.
Would they have taken this in August?
No. Given the players at his disposal, Pardew would have fancied a sustained charge at Europa League qualification, albeit as outsiders.
Would they have taken this in January?
Maybe. Selling Cabaye clearly revealed Newcastle’s ambitions, or rather lack thereof. Mid-table mediocrity was a painful inevitability, especially after a string of defeats in January and February.
Winning at Old Trafford in December. At the time, it appeared a major coup, though some sheen was taken off the result as Manchester United continued to be vulnerable at home, while Cabaye’s matchwinner merely confirmed his suitability for the watching PSG.
When Director of Football Kinnear made enquiries about signing left-back Shane Ferguson from Birmingham City. Ferguson was on loan. From Newcastle.
Hero of the season
Striker Loic Remy is one of the few players to have finished this season with his reputation enhanced. Problem is, he's a loan player, and unlikely to be at St James' Park for much longer. A number of more stable outfits than Newcastle are set to register their interest in securing him from QPR during the coming weeks.
Villain of the season
In a season of many, Kinnear inevitably leaps to the top of the pack. Having been appointed in the summer, he immediately planted a foot in his gob with an ill-advised radio interview in which he referred to Yohan Cabaye as Yohan Kebab. He left the club in February.
The season in microcosm
Alan Pardew's headbutt on Meyler was as embarrassing as it was disastrous. With their manager punished with a stadium and touchline ban, many fans were left to wonder at the extent of the rot eating away at their football club.
D. Self-destructive, disappointing and showing little signs of improvement.