Newcastle United: A Year in Review

2015 has been an insufferable calendar year for Newcastle United’s fans and players alike. A miserly eight victories in all competitions saw the Magpies survive relegation on the final day of the 2014/15 season, and at the close of 2015 they find themselves slumped in the unfavourable bottom three at the halfway stage of the 2015/16 campaign.

Of course it hasn’t been all doom and gloom; the extraordinary return of Jonas Gutierrez from testicular cancer being one of the best moments of 2015 for United, topped only by the Argentine’s pivotal role in saving the club from relegation in the final five minutes of the season, bowing out in the most fitting way in a black and white shirt.

Newcastle United: A Year in Review

January saw former Newcastle manager Alan Pardew depart for his beloved Crystal Palace, leaving caretaker boss John Carver in charge until the end of the season. United were cruelly knocked out of the FA Cup Third Round by Leicester City in a game where a Remy Cabella effort was wrongly ruled out for offside.

A sad moment for many fans saw the mutual termination of Hatem Ben Arfa’s contract following his long-running dispute with the club’s management. French side OGC Nice snapped up the winger on a free transfer however he was ineligible to play competitively for the rest of the season due to already having played for Newcastle’s U21 side and Hull City whilst loaned out to the Humberside club.

Following spirited defeats to Chelsea and Southampton, Newcastle recorded an emphatic 3-0 away win at the KC Stadium, with goals from Remy Cabella, Sammy Ameobi and Yoan Gouffran defeating Hull City. This win proved to be vital in Newcastle’s survival bid as the Tigers were relegated at their expense on the final day.

February began with the news that left-back Davide Santon would be leaving Tyneside for former side Inter Milan on loan until the end of the season, with an option to buy in the agreement of the loan deal which was later exercised by the Nerazzurri for a mere £3.3m.
Owner Mike Ashley’s holdings in Glasgow Rangers prompted the infamous ‘Rangers Five‘ on Transfer Deadline Day with five United players joining the Scottish club on loan. This sparked rumours that Ashley had a say in team selection which would have been a conflict of interest and breached FIFA regulations for club ownership.

On the pitch Newcastle slumped to a 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, before registering their penultimate win of the season, a 1-0 home win against Tim Sherwood’s struggling Aston Villa side.

March 4th saw St James’ Park and the rest of the footballing world welcome back Jonas Gutierrez to the Premier League, as a second-half substitute in United’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United. All of the headlines belonged to Gutierrez for all of the right reasons, while on the less inspirational side of things Papiss Cisse and Jonny Evans were caught up in a scandalous spitting incident, which saw the pair fall subject to lengthy bans from the FA.
Cisse’s suspension coincided with a severe dip in form as United lost to Everton and Arsenal too, registering zero points for the entire month.

Captain Coloccini came under criticism from both fans and pundits for a foolish challenge which resulted in him seeing red in the defeat at Goodison Park.

April presented Newcastle with four fixtures, all of which ended in defeat, including an infamous fifth derby loss in a row. Following the dismal form since the turn of the year, Newcastle had plummeted from the relative comfort of mid-table to dangerously close to the relegation zone.

The home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur saw a social media initiative to #BoycottSpurs in order to make a statement to Mike Ashley about the lack of investment, ambition and the overall discontent at the running of the club. The campaign was largely unsuccessful and only served to divide fans’ opinions on the matter, and did not change the team’s fortunes on the pitch.

May was a month of scintillating highs and sombre lows for Newcastle United. Mixed results saw United faced with the prospect of relegation heading into the final game of the season, following a defeat to fellow relegation candidates QPR; a game in which United surrendered the lead after Emmanuel Rivere registered his first goal of the season, almost a year after joining the club.

Newcastle lined up on the 24th May 2015 at home in a full-capacity St James’ Park against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side who were already sweetly nestled in mid-table. Allardyce fielded a weakened team in his final match as Hammers boss but United still had to work hard to win 2-0, in a game which was must-win to guarantee survival. Luckily for Newcastle, Hull City who were subsequently relegated only laboured to draw 0-0 against Manchester United meaning the Magpies were safe for another year thanks to goals from Moussa Sissoko and Jonas Gutierrez’s clincher.

June was a month of change on Tyneside, filled with optimism as United sacked interim bosses John Carver and Steve Stone. Former England manager Steve McClaren was appointed as the club’s new head coach on a three-year deal, with an option to extend to eight years. McClaren was also appointed to the Board of Directors, along with chief scout Graham Carr and club ambassador Bob Moncur in a shake up which saw Mike Ashley step down from his seat on the board and take a back-seat from footballing decisions. This decision was taken after his tell-all Sky Sports interview prior to the last game of the season.

July saw McClaren take charge of his pre-season alongside his new coaching staff for the first time, while the club announced their first summer signing; the £14.5m move of Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV, a hefty price tag that was United’s third highest transfer fee in the club’s history.
United announced the summer signing of Serbian frontman Aleksandar Mitrovic from Belgian side RSC Anderlecht, before signing prosperous Congolese centre-back Chancel Mbemba from Anderlecht also.

August began with a flurry of transfer and contract activity, with Fabricio Coloccini signing a contract extension to the end of the 2016/17 season.
The departure of Mehdi Abeid to Greek side Panathanaikos was met with mixed feelings from Newcastle supporters, many of whom felt the Algerian had deputised admirably during the 2014/15 season.

Youngster Ivan Toney joined from Northampton Town, whilst a swap deal involving Remy Cabella and Florian Thauvin took place with French side Olympique Marseille. Newcastle negotiated a £12m fee with L’OM with Remy Cabella going the other way on loan, with an option to buy for around £6m.

United kicked off their 2015/16 campaign in style, drawing 2-2 in an entertaining fixture at home to an impressive Southampton side, before drawing with Manchester United at Old Trafford also.

September prolonged the run without a win but ended optimistically after a 2-2 draw against Champions Chelsea in which the team played excellently.

On a more embarrassing note, United were knocked out of the League Cup to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat at home.

October was a month of painful inconsistency, losing 6-1 to Manchester City, totally collapsing in the second half after a good first 45 minutes display. That dismal showing was followed by the first win of the season, an enthralling 6-2 victory over Norwich City in which Georginio Wijnaldum netted four times.

Then sadly, Newcastle were unable to follow on from their astounding victory, losing 3-0 to Sunderland in a match marred by poor refereeing which saw Newcastle denied a penalty before Sunderland were awarded one themselves. To compound the agony, Coloccini was unjustly sent off for the challenge that conceded the penalty.

November started positively but yet again inconsistently, securing a vital away victory on the south coast against AFC Bournemouth; a game in which Rob Elliot deputised excellently in Tim Krul’s season-long absence due to injury. Newcastle followed their victory yet again with two heavy defeats at the hands of table-topping Leicester City and Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. These defeats resulted in Newcastle being cemented in the bottom three for a large proportion of November, something that reflected the side’s recent form.

December summed up Newcastle’s year perfectly, beginning with full of optimism after two victories against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, before drawing against a lacklustre Aston Villa and succumbing to two agonisingly late defeats at home to Everton and at The Hawthorns, in which Karl Darlow made his competitive debut between the Newcastle United posts.
Newcastle ended the year in 18th position, with one of the worst records in the country.

A year in which Newcastle endured an eight-game losing streak in the league, survived relegation on the last day of the season and spent £50m in the summer transfer market, was a year of monumental highs but was dominated with prolonged, disappointing lows.