Our match today involves a 2.15 PM kick off against West Ham United, so we want to reflect on our past fixtures against the Hammers. In a nutshell, the results over the past few seasons have been mixed. Both teams have been on the receiving end of 3-0 defeats, while there has not be a draw in this fixture since 2013.
The fixture does however present us with one of the most memorable moments in the last decade of Newcastle United, that Jonas Gutierez goal.
The 2014/15 season on Tyneside was not a pleasant one. Admittedly it marked the end of Alan Pardew’s spell in charge which was thoroughly overdue.
With John Carver, the self acclaimed ‘best coach in the Premier League’ stepping in to replace the departed Pardew, things somehow got worse. 8 consecutive defeats placed us in the midst of a relegation dogfight.
Thankfully QPR and Burnley were already sunk, but heading into the final match day of the season it was all to play for. A win was required to avoid relegation, with Hull City, Sunderland, Aston Villa and ourselves desperate for a win.
The importance of the match was perhaps underlined by the rare public appearance of Mike Ashley. Before the kick off he spoke to Sky Sports, claiming we could not compete with some of the other Premier League clubs, such as those based in Manchester who are backed by ‘entire countries’.
He also claimed he would not sell the club until we won a trophy, now that has to send shivers down the spine.
Of course confidence was low within the team, without a win in over 3 months, we had forgotten the feeling of 3 points. This had to become a past memory, otherwise our downward spiral would end in the Championship.
West Ham on the other hand were safe. The main news from the London based club was the confirmed departure of manager Sam Allardyce. It was determined pre-match that his contract would not be renewed, with the match offering him a chance to end his spell on a high.
Mirroring the entire 2014/15 campaign, our effectiveness in front of goal was pretty much non-existent. Fast out the blocks our misfiring forward, Riviere missed a number of decent opportunities inside the box, before West Ham found their stride.
Anxiety grew further as Krul was called into action to deny Stewart Downing before halftime.
The scoreline was stagnant at half-time with neither team finding the back of the net. 45 minutes remained for Newcastle United to save their season, even save our club.
In the second half our tempo on the pitch increased, and in the 54th minute our cravings were answered. Jonas Gutierez placed a ball on to the head of Moussa Sissoko and he duly directed it into the back of the net. We were almost there, and you could feel it throughout the stadium.
In classic Newcastle United fashion, we could not add to this lead further, as chances were spurned. This was until the adopted Georide stepped up. Returning to the pitch after battling a testicular cancer, Gutierez confirmed his legendary status at the club.
He picked up the ball on the edge of the box and drilled a low drive past the West Ham keeper, Adrian. The aftermath which followed this goal will live forever in our memories, the emotions will stay with us, and the importance will always be remembered.
Gutierez seized the opportunity to direct his anger at our owner, he was truly one of us.
We saw out the game to earn a vital 2-0 win and stave off relegation, at the expense of Hull City.
Main Talking Point
Premier League status retained. In a campaign with so much negativity, I would place this win as the most important 3 points in the last decade of Newcastle United. Do not get me wrong, we have bounced back from the Championship at the first time of asking when relegated, but I believe that would have been different.
With a host of players not enjoying their spell at St James’, a manager which appeared clueless and the monumental divide between our fans and the club hierarchy, I dont think we would have recovered for a long time.
What Happened Next
It seemed Mike Ashley had received an inkling of a wake up call. The squad needed investment, and he did offer this. Mitrovic, Wijnaldum, Mbemba, and Florian Thauvin were welcome additions. Unfortunately the appointment of Steve McClaren revered all of this.
To sum up the following season, it was like placing a granny behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Steve McClaren had no idea how best to utilise one of our most talented squads in recent years. With him steering us full speed into a concrete wall, his dismissal came far too late.
Rafa Benitez joined the club with 10 games remaining and delivered instant improvements. The drastic upturn of results however were wasted as our destine had already been set in stone. We were relegated at the end of the season, however we had the experience of Rafa Benitez to guide us back to the top.
Of course a lot has changed since then, Benitez left behind the frustrations of Mike Ashley for China, while we are seemingly weeks away from the end of the Ashley era, while the wait for silverware continues.
With our match today reversing the roles between the teams, we can utilise our league position to takeaway the pressures, and hopefully continue our recent impressive form. West Ham on the other hand will be desperate for 3 points to calm their relegation fears.
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