By Ian Cusack
Tuesday 15 Feb 2011 09:20:00
Browse all Ian Cusack articles


One of the things that I like about Chris Hughton is that he has a quiet dignity to his personality that shows he bears the stamp of a gentleman, much in the way that Sir Bobby did. In the recent history of Newcastle United, only one other manager stands out from the blabbering self-publicists and pretend tough guys who’ve occupied the dug out at SJP as being anywhere near as fine a fellow as the two previously mentioned; Glenn Roeder. Sadly, despite the fact he won us our first trophy since the Fairs Cup in 1969 when the Inter Toto Cup arrived on Tyneside (confusingly as a result of Livorno’s 1-0 win away to Auxerre in the final group stage match of the UEFA Cup on December 14th), Roeder was an atrocious manager once he’d been given the job on a permanent basis. If Shearer was Diet Souness, Roeder was Zero Carb McFaul.


Following the encouraging end to the previous season, Roeder continued to do good things initially by peddling the calamitously crap Boumsong to Juventus, but alarm bells pealed softly when a thin squad, now shorn of the retired Shearer, was not significantly strengthened in the striking department. Damien Duff arrived from three seasons of trophies that he’d done little to win at Chelsea, James Milner came back from a season on loan at Villa, Antoine Sibierski turned up on a free from Man City and put in a good season, leaving the club in the unique position of being the only French player whose exit from SJP saw his reputation enhanced by his time with us and we took Guiseppe Rossi on loan from Man Utd, for no readily apparent reason. The number 9 shirt was given to a £10m signing from Inter Milan whose age was either 21 or 28 depending on which paper you read; Obafemi Martins. In the course of the season, Roeder gave debuts, generally out of desperation, to Andy Carroll and Tim Krul, but also to David Edgar and Paul Huntington. Ironically, the latter two both notched crucial goals.


The season began in mid July with a dull 1-1 draw at home to Lillestrom on a warm afternoon, when Luque scored. Faced with a tricky away tie in the return, an Emre thunderbolt and a Shola finish saw us ease towards a 3-0 win. Three weeks later we joined the qualifiers for the UEFA Cup and won 1-0 courtesy of a Bramble goal away to Ventspils in Latvia, in a game switched to the capital Riga. The return saw us squeak through after an incident free 0-0 at home. The final qualifier for the group stages saw us continue our Baltic excursion with a trip to Levadia Talinn in Estonia, where a Sibierski goal gave us a narrow lead. The return was won by 2-1, courtesy of a Martins brace, including a stunner at the Gallowgate, taking us in to the UEFA group stages.


Suddenly, up against good sides, we began to click rather than stumble. Fenerbache were defeated 1-0 with a clinical Sibierski finish, Luque got the winner away to Palermo, when Krul’s debut saw him perform heroics to keep a clean sheet, Steven Taylor’s Forrest Gump celebration when scoring the winner as we triumphed over Celta Vigo 2-1 was a moment of sheer adulation and a 0-0 draw away to Frankfurt was a complete non event, though the variety and quality of local beers was apparently out of this world.


Through to the qualifying stages, with the Inter Toto Cup already won, we drew the hitherto obscure Belgians Zulte Waregem. A 3-1 away win was simplicity itself and a routine 1-0 home win set us up nicely for a place in the last 16 with Louis van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar to come. Two years earlier and a round later, the Sporting Lisbon tie had seen us just fail to make the away game a formality; history was about to repeat itself. After 23 minutes, we were 3-0 up courtesy of an own goal and a quickfire double by Dyer and Martins; at half time a second by the Nigerian saw us 4-1 ahead. In the second half we could and should have had more, but they grabbed a second after a dubious decision against Steven Taylor gave them a free kick. No matter, 4-2 should have seen us through. However, put Glen Roeder in a tactical battle with Van Gaal and there’s only going to be one winner; Roeder opted for a 5-4-1 formation for the return in Holland that simply didn’t work and Alkmaar swamped us; the 2-0 score reflecting exactly how many attempts we had on goal. From this moment on, Roeder and the fans knew the game was up. The likeable Cockney was a dead man walking, with good reason it has to be said when the domestic form is studied.


In the League Cup, Portsmouth were despatched 3-0 on a soaking night on Tyneside, before Watford managed to lose on penalties to Newcastle. A quarter final 1-0 loss at home to Chelsea was a fairly standard pre Christmas punch in the face by the team, though a gentle slap compared to the frankly farcical 5-1 home defeat by Birmingham in the FA Cup after a 2-2 at their place. The Premier League, where we finished 13th, offered no real consolation either.


After an opening 2-1 over Wigan in a monsoon that saw puddles all over the SJP pitch in the second half, a lousy 2-0 loss at Villa was followed by a 2-1 reverse by Fulham, with both their goals in the last 5 minutes. A surprisingly good performance at the Boleyn Ground saw a 2-0 win and Roeder abused by all sections of the home support. More crucially Shay Given stopped being invincible; a tangle with Marlon Harewood saw him stretched off with a tear to his bowel that resulted in him never quite being the genius he was previously ever again. An idea of what we were missing came in the next game when we lost 2-0 at Anfield and Alonso beat Harper from 70 yards as we went down 2-0.  Our first draw of the season was a 1-1 home to Everton, courtesy of Shola scoring from 5 yards offside, to end September in 12th place. It got worse in October; 0-2 at Old Trafford, 1-2 home to Bolton courtesy of the repulsive Doiuf, 0-1 at Smogsville and 0-0 home to Charlton.


When Sheffield United won 1-0 at SJP, on November 4th, we lay 19th in the table. A 0-0 away to Man City and a highly creditable 1-1 at the Emirates stopped the rot, before we finally won for the first time in two and a half months; Sibierski got the crucial goal at home to Pompey, then Emre’s stunner won a fabulous 5 goal thriller at home to Reading and we went to Ewood Park to turn them over 3-1 with Martins scoring an utter pearler from 40 yards. We had our usual loss to Chelsea next time out, before back-to-back home wins over Watford and Spurs, where Pavel Srnicek came on as sub for Harper to a tumultuous reception, saw us going in to Christmas in good cheer. As ever, the team spoiled any festivities, losing 2-1 at Bolton and 3-0 at Everton.


January was our last decent month of the season; David Edgar’s first goal rescued a point in a scorching 2-2 versus Man United in front of a hysterical, drunk SJP on New Year’s Day. Spurs were beaten 3-2 at the Lane; Huntington got his first, Martins scored a goal of the season contender and Nicky Butt rolled in a deserved winner. We came back from 2-0 down to draw with West Ham and edged a thrilling game 3-1 versus Villa. We stood 9th and things were looking up.


Typically, we won 2 more games this season. After losing 2-1 at Craven Cottage, we notched our last home win of the season 2-1 over Liverpool, with Nobby Solano, as so often, the hero. Then, it started to really go wrong; 0-1 at Wigan, 0-0 home to the Smogs, 0-2 in a woeful game at Charlton and 0-1 in a worse one at home to Man City brought us to Easter. Thankfully a large, loud and lairy away following at Bramall Lane saw Steven Taylor’s thumping header win us the game 2-1 and we played well in subsequent 0-0 draws at home to Arsenal and Chelsea, where Carroll was a superb home debutant from the bench, but dire losses at Portsmouth and Reading meant the 2-0 capitulation to Blackburn in the penultimate game saw Roeder fall on his sword. The final day 1-1 at Watford was notable only for misbehaviour by N’Zogbia and Martins in claiming injury and Dyer getting booed by Newcastle fans after scoring our goal.


The club was a mess and the fans were restive. Shepherd and the Halls were desperate to sell their stake and this gave us the chance to find stability in the boardroom, credibility in the dug out and support from the stands. What we got was Ashley and Allardyce. Tune in next time for the next instalment in the NUFC Relegation Rollercoaster.


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