It’s about f****ng time.
After the longest break from football known to man, we pick up exactly where we left off in the Premier League, at home to Spurs. If that team of losers Rafa started with in 2016 could do this lot 5-1 then logically, we can expect a repeat of the 96/97 win under Keegan.
In all seriousness, whilst it’s fair to say that Spurs have looked a better side since we got Rafa, so have we. Bollocks to the negativity around our transfer dealings. We still have the better manager and the squad is better than when we went down. Winning this is on the cards.
I’m personally excited that we got a “biggie” for our first game. It’s Rafa’s United straight into battle with the big boys. If you’re not excited about that then you probably shouldn’t attend. The atmosphere for this should be nothing short of sensational. A sellout crowd for a Newcastle United managed by Rafa Benitez in the premier league at the start of a season. This was beyond our wildest dreams 2 years ago, yet here we are.
Speaking of picking things up where we left of, Rafa’s message to the fans has not changed since last season. We need to be onside all game, every game. We need to be positive. We need to get behind this bunch of lads, because for a lot of games this season, including this weekend, we are the underdogs. But, with Rafa, we are the underdogs capable of upsets. We can contribute to that by making St James Park a fucking cauldron.
So it starts with Spurs. The only transfer activity at White Hart Lane this summer has been the mental sale of their right back to Man City for £50million. They have another right back called Kyle Walker(-Peters) anyway so they can be expected to line up as they ended last season, where they won a mental 12 of their last 13 games. They scored 15 goals in the last 3. They’ve also just beaten champions league finalists Juventus 2-0 last weekend in their final warm up game…
So fuck, we’ve got Rafa.
I’m serious, we have the manager and a squad in better shape than in recent memory. That doesn’t mean we have the best set of players we’ve had (Pardew had a team of internationals at one point) but in terms of balance, team spirit and commitment, we are miles ahead of where we were 2 years ago.
Firstly, in defence, we have more options than I can ever remember us having in the premier league. Never again will we be forced to play 5th choice centre halves and midfielders at full back. Shelvey and Hayden have a lot of potential in midfield and Merino impressed in pre-season to offer some much needed competition there. I also think we do have goals in us. We have some options on the wings now to add to Ritchie, Gayle and Perez.
For all of the worries about not signing enough PL quality, there are any number of line ups from the above that we can be happy with on Sunday. That’s a good sign. Yes another striker will be nice but with the right management (sorted) and support (sorted) we can give anyone a game, Spurs included.
The only worry for me this weekend is the prospect of Moussa Sissoko coming up against Paul Dummett! Alas, whatever your thoughts on him, he’s had some pretty big players in his back pocket since working under Rafa. He’s come good in some big games and earned the right to be in that side on Sunday.
Whatever the line-up, and ultimately whatever the result, I go back to the importance of the St James Park crowd this season. Rafa continues to bang this drum and we at True Faith will continue to do the same. The home crowd can be the difference in a season where it’s safe to say we have no idea how it could turn out. There will be a lot of close and nervous games. Let’s help the lads win as many of them as possible. Starting Sunday.
Follow Simon on twitter @SimonCampbell11