ASTON Villa away, Sunday, May 24, 2009. A disastrous, horrific day at the end of a dreadful, horrible season. A day Newcastle United will always remember for all the wrong reasons.
With Alan Shearer as manager and results going their way on the final day, Newcastle only needed a point to save themselves but fittingly, at the end of a campaign in which so many of their big name players had under-performed and a football club had lost its way they could not even manage that.
They lost 1-0 on the day, but they were defeated long before that.
Relegation was not just a shock to the system, it shattered egos and dismantled reputations on Tyneside, much to the delight of the Aston Villa fans who revelled in the misery they had created.
Mocking and crowing, football fans at their cruellest.
The Newcastle players who took part in that bleakest of defeats have just about earned forgiveness for such a meek surrender of their Premier League status, firstly in the Championship and now back in the division they should never have left.
However, United fans have neither forgiven nor forgotten the jubilation that accompanied their misery in Birmingham.
The boot, though, is on the other foot this weekend and United will go to Birmingham with an axe and hopefully find something to grind it on. While Danny Guthrie (pictured right) may play down talk of a grudge match, he cannot resist drawing comparisons with the Newcastle team which let everyone down two years ago and the Villa one which has swapped a European challenge for a relegation battle this season.
“Before the game we were all optimistic about staying up,” said Guthrie, whose return to form in the centre of midfield against Wolves last weekend was a pleasant surprise after a previously disappointing campaign.
“We needed a point if Hull lost so we went into the game with a bit of confidence, but as the match wore on, it was one of those days you never forget.
“Afterwards, it was awful, really quiet. The manager spoke, but there was no need for words. Everyone knew the situation.
“I just remember the final whistle blowing when you would normally go over to your fans to give them a clap.
“It felt embarrassing. We had let them down.
“That really sticks in my mind. I wanted to go over, but did not really dare go over because we all knew we had let the club down.
“It was a sick feeling inside, really emotional, I had a knot in my stomach, it was horrible. I could not wait just to go on holiday and try to forget about it all.
“We went straight to the changing rooms, heads down, there was no post-match drink or anything like that.
“We flew back, but no one spoke on the journey.”
“Hopefully, we can give our fans something to cheer about this time.”
The United vintage of 2011 blended first by Chris Hughton, now by Alan Pardew, is different and much improved to the sour-tasting vinegar which left such a bad taste in the mouth two years ago.
There is a togetherness and a genuine affection for each other, sadly lacking the last time the Magpies landed at Villa Park.
They are problems Guthrie suspects are now damaging tomorrow’s opponents. The midfielder said: “The team spirit is better than it was down there two years ago.
“ I do not know if we are better individually, but that is not always the best way to be with better individuals but worse team spirit.
“We are all on the same page, all want the same things now. Whereas two years ago, maybe it was not like that. Maybe Villa are now on the same page we were two years ago.
“On paper, you watch England with (Stewart) Downing and (Ashley) Young the best players.
“You have to think that maybe something is not right at Villa. They are in a similar boat to what we were two years ago.
“That is what springs to mind when I see them and where they are.”
Should Newcastle add to their woes tomorrow, it will be the Magpies’ turn to crow.
Guthrie added: “They should look at what happened to us and realise you cannot be too good to go down.
“If the team is not pulling in the same direction, then it does not matter who is in the team you will lose games.
“Once you get stuck in a rut, it is very, very difficult to get out of it because the pressure then grows from the fans.
“At this stage of the season a good team spirit is more important than quality.
“Of course individuals can still produce a little bit of magic, but if team spirit is not right at this stage you could find yourself in trouble.”