I am a Newcastle United fan. I am also a realist. Over the years those two concepts were like chalk and cheese, that is, until we got relegated. When we achieved promotion right back to the Premier League it was almost as if Newcastle United fans were not allowed to be ambitious again, that is was heresy to say we could push the top 6 again. However, we have done that in recent years with an arguably weaker squad than we had then. Yes it was an over achievement, yes we got very lucky but it was where a club of our stature should be aiming for year in year out.
It was not to last, and the powers that be tried to temper such enthusiasm by not investing in the squad, scaling down our targets and setting a much more modest goalposts to aim at. As a result, many Newcastle United fans would see finishing inside the top 10 as a respectable league finish, and finishing inside the top 8 as a huge bonus. That is not on in my view. Despite a stuttering start to the Premier League, Newcastle United have seen a massive upturn in their recent fortunes – beating 2 of the London team who have eyes for the top 4, or even more, and beating a side managed by our former manager Chris Hughton, who no doubt had a point to prove.
Make no mistake, these were 3 excellent results, which will be followed up by another eminently winnable home game next weekend against West Brom, which could see us in a very strong position in the league going into December – a notoriously difficult month for Newcastle United over the years.
If Newcastle United were to make it through December in the top 10, then they would be an a delicately poised position. The question then is one of ambition. If we are top 10 going into the January transfer window it is then up to Ashley to decide what he wants from us as a club. By dipping into the coffers and signing one or two players in January (not simply freebies, or someone whose contract is running out, but genuine quality to take us forward) Newcastle United could make a push on not only the top 8, but the top 6. If Ashley keeps his short hands out of his deep pockets and accept the position we are in, we could well finish inside the top 10, or maybe just outside it.
Would that be success to you?
Given how there is a World Cup coming up in which a number of our key players will be performing on the biggest stage, it would serve Newcastle United well to demonstrate some ambition to keep heads from turning. Yohan Cabaye has already shown himself to be suffering from itchy feet, an itch that will probably only be satisfied when playing for a club whose ambition is silverware and European football. The same might be said for a number of other players who have been more diplomatic than wor Yohan.
The overriding point is that we have been having a good season, but the consequences of letting that head of steam dissipate could be very serious indeed. Not only in the short term by finishing in a lower league position than we are capable of, but in the long run of keeping this bunch of talented players together. It will be interesting to see how Mr Ashley plays this one out.