Happy New Year United? Who knows

NICELY back on track at Bolton and a welcome boost for Hatem Ben Arfa.

NICELY back on track at Bolton and a welcome boost for Hatem Ben Arfa.

I am also pleased for the sold-out away allocation, battling the slings and arrows of outrageous public transport, for being on the road on Boxing Day for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

I don’t do those year-end hopes and dreams for the next 12 months.

I would not attempt to reveal my aspirations for the next 12 hours with Newcastle United, never mind a year.

I suspect we are about seven or eight points ahead of expectations, but the run of results pre-Bolton has been frustrating.

We are paying for not buying properly in the summer, particularly defensively.

There are too many guaranteed a place when fit, and we need the edge of competition for places. That is not to say I am disappointed with where we are or with performances.

We know we do not have a squad full of Messis or Silvas, and therefore all I ask of any player is they can look in the mirror after the game and be happy they have played to the limit of their ability.

To be fair, apart from two lapses, that is the case.

As we have seen, though, the idea we were going to get the Manchester and Chelsea games out of the way and pick up the baton again is nonsense.

We have proved in games we are good enough to challenge for a European place with our first Xl, but after that it is a struggle.

The loss of Demba Ba in January and possibly some of February will be a massive blow (could we not hide his passport?) and I don’t see a natural replacement.

If we have to pay a wee bit over the odds in January for 2 or 3 then so be it – increased prize money for maintaining even seventh place will compensate.

The only prediction I will make for 2012 and beyond is I will always refer to the ground as St James’ Park – and I urge you all to do the same.

The current name must be airbrushed out of history and, like Ian Gillan’s temporary visit to Black Sabbath, be seen just as an unfortunate aberration.

I wish you all you wish for yourselves in 2012.



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer