Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Under Siege: The Magpies against the Championship

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Under Siege: The Magpies against the Championship

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISWAUGH

IT SEEMS just about everyone wants Newcastle United to fail this season.

Well, aside from Magpies sup porters and everyone connected with the club itself that is.

There will be no favours handed out to Newcastle between now and the end of the campaign, that's for certain.

For that reason, it is imperative that the players themselves - as well as fans - put this disappoint ing past week-and-half behind them and focus on the task ahead.

There must remain a united front at the football club and inside the stadium on match days. St James' Park needs to become a for tress once again. Those 'From the Bernabeu to Burton Albion' headlines which featured as far afield as Spain back in May highlighted the fascination not just in England, but across the Continent, with Rafa Benitez's decision to stay at St James' Park following relegation.

Then there were all those pun dits over the summer who, despite Benitez's close-tpeerless CV, predicted the Champions League winning manager may well strug gle in the Championship because he "didn't know" the second tier of English football.

After those back-tback defeats at the start of the season, many commentators were quick to claim that Benitez and Newcastle had underestimated the intensity and competitiveness of the division. It felt like quite a few were queuing up to say, 'I told you so.' Fasforward three months and, following a nine-gamwinning run which propelled Magpies to the summit of the table, suddenly Newcastle were labelled the 'para chute-payment champions' by some rival supporters - rather than have their actual achieve ments recognised.

Given that Norwich City, who lie outside the play-off spots down in seventh, and 15th-placed Aston Villa - also benefited from para chute payments - not to mention the fact that Newcastle actually ended the summer more than PS30m in profit - that felt a bit des perate.

When you also introduce into the equation the fact that every single away ground Newcastle have visited so far this season has seen a higher-thaaverage attendance when the Magpies have been in town - and that Unit ed's average Sky Sports viewing figures are more than double that of the second tier as a whole - and you begin to get an idea of how much interest there is in Benitez and his side.

There's plenty of interest but sometimes it feels like there's a desire for Newcastle to fall short in their attempt to win immediate promotion back to the Premier League.

That highly controversial defeat at Nottingham Forest last week is a case in point.

The crowd at the City Ground was 21,317 - nearly 2,000 higher than Forest's average attendance of 19,407 so far this term, despite the fact it was televised and on a Friday night - and that's largely down to how huge a draw the Magpies are in the second tier. …

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