Revived Magpies on the up again

IT was the nightmare scenario which stung pride and battered egos when it became a reality, but Newcastle United can finally start to move on from the shame of relegation

IT was the nightmare scenario which stung pride and battered egos when it became a reality, but Newcastle United can finally start to move on from the shame of relegation.

For those who were involved in that humiliating capitulation at the end of last season, the experience will never leave them.

It is an embarrassing blot on every one of their CVs and you can never forget an agonising experience like that. Neither should they want to.

It is from the wreckage of that car crash a new Newcastle United has been built and the bitter memory of that dreadful day at Aston Villa on May 24 should serve as a prominent reminder of what awaits them if they do not manage to build on the positive work done this season. For now, the overwhelming emotion is one of relief. Satisfaction, pride and happiness, of course, but ultimately relief that a bad situation last summer has not become a disastrous one.

If anyone should have forgotten, Newcastle United were not supposed to bounce straight back to their feet.

Relegation was supposed to mark the onset of a lingering, painful death which would see them crumble from Champions League contenders to League One cannon fodder just as Leeds United did before them.

“There is a feeling of relief it is finally done,” said goalkeeper Steve Harper, a player with a clear understanding of how acutely relegation was felt on the club’s supporters and the psyche of the city it calls home.

“We started off the season aware we were not Premier League players and in one way we are still not, but it feels good to have done it.

“Memories from Villa Park last May are still pretty vivid, but this more than makes up for it.

“Last year was desperately disappointing, but we are back up now. We set out as a staff and a bunch of players to do this. To have done it is fantastic.

“The mental scars are still there of course. I will never forget that, it is something as a player you can never forget.

“It is a motivation, I am sure there are a lot of players in the dressing room who have used it as that to achieve what we have.”

Much has been made of how important the likes of Harper, Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith have been behind the scenes in pulling together a previously fractious dressing room.

As a group of players, Newcastle could easily have been torn apart during the months of uncertainty as Mike Ashley put the day-to-day running of the club on hold while he searched in vain for a buyer.

It is important to point out it was not just an English core which rolled up its sleeves to dig the club out of trouble, and it was not only those born and bred here who were hurt by what happened.

All three of Newcastle’s Spanish-speaking trio are candidates for player of the year and Fabricio Coloccini, José Enríque and Jonás Gutiérrez have been sensational in English football’s second tier.

Having rejected the argument they had to leave if Newcastle were not in the top flight, nobody has done more than these three to get them back there.

In turn, although promotion is an achievement which can be celebrated, Gutiérrez feels it was the least they could do after letting so many people down.

“It was a great night, there is a lot of joy,” said Gutiérrez, who will be at the World Cup with Argentina this summer. “It could not be more different to the feeling we had as Aston Villa last season when we were relegated.

“It was agony that day. It was the worse season Newcastle had in 16 years or something and it was embarrassing to be part of that.

“We knew we had let everyone down as players and this season has been about putting that right.

“I have had nightmares about that relegation ever since, dreams which have been a constant reminder of what happened.

“Hopefully they have finished. The pain lasted all summer looking back, I kept playing it over and over in my head.

“It was good to get back in the summer, to get back with the rest of the team and talk about what we needed to do about what had happened.

“I am so happy I made sure I stayed. Being in the Championship is not something Newcastle should have experienced, but at least we have got out as quickly as we could.”

With promotion secure, the title has become the sole objective inside St James’ Park this season, but outside of it attention has already shifted to what happens next.

Some of those who got Newcastle promoted will not enjoy the fruits of their labour. Some will move on and others will be brought in to replace them in a bid to improve the squad.

Newcastle have looked far too good for the Championship since the autumn, but that does not guarantee anything in the Premier League.

For now, though, it is only right the players are allowed to enjoy what they have achieved, even if they know there are bigger challenges around the corner.

Harper added: “I will start thinking about whether the Premier League is a daunting prospect on July 5.

“There are massive clubs in there, and it is going to be tough when the time comes, but I will think about it nearer the time.

“We have five games to go and we will enjoy the next few days.”

What happened to the class of 1993?

THE following XI rounded off Newcastle’s last promotion-winning season with an unforgettable 7-1 rout of Leicester at St James’ Park. Neil Farrington asks, where are they now?

PAVEL SRNICEK

LEFT Newcastle in 1998 after the arrival of Shay Given, initially returning to his former Czech club Banik Ostrava before a spell at Sheffield Wednesday and time in Italy with Brescia and AS Cosenza.

Returned to England as a back-up goalkeeper at Portsmouth and West Ham before ending his career with a two-year stint in Portugal with Beira Mar.

Srnicek now commentates on Premier League football for Czech TV, and runs goalkeeping training schools in his homeland.

MARK ROBINSON

RIGHT-BACK who struggled to overcome a bad knee injury incurred – to the fury of Kevin Keegan – by a bad tackle during a pre-season friendly at Hartlepool a few months later.

Robinson moved to Swindon for £600,000 in the summer of 1994, and made 316 appearances for the Robins before retiring in 2002, only to make a brief playing return at non-league Chippenham Town before opening his own gym.

STEVE HOWEY

HAVING gone on to win four England caps and played at Euro 96 and in the 1998 FA Cup final, Howey was dogged by injuries and sold by Sir Bobby Robson to Manchester City for £3million in August 2000.

Having managed Crook Town briefly in 2006, he coached at Middlesbrough’s Academy and played for Bishop Auckland. Now coaches at Houghall College in Durham and has co-presented BBC Radio Newcastle’s "Total Sport".

KEVIN SCOTT

LEFT Newcastle to link up with his former United manager Ossie Ardiles at Tottenham in an £850,000 move. Scott made only 18 appearances for Spurs before loan spells at Port Vale, Charlton and Norwich, signing for the latter club permanently in 1997. After a brief loan move to Darlington, Scott played Northern League football before hanging up his boots and becoming a driving instructor.

More recently, he has coached at Middlesbrough’s Academy.

JOHN BERESFORD

WENT on to win two England B caps and played in the 1998 FA Cup final before leaving for Southampton in 1998 and playing once on loan for Birmingham before retiring in 2000.

Now lives back on Tyneside, and has worked as a regular TV pundit for ITV and ESPN, in corporate entertainment and launched a fantasy sports website.

ROB LEE

SUBSEQUENTLY captained Newcastle under Kenny Dalglish, leading United out at Wembley in the 1998 FA Cup final, but famously fell out of favour under Ruud Gullit before being brought in from the cold by Sir Bobby Robson.

Sold to Derby County in 2002 for £250,000, but moved on to West Ham for a spell after the Rams’ relegation before rounding off his career – at 40 – after two seasons at Wycombe.

Has worked regularly as a pundit, most notably for Singapore’s Football Channel and Ten Sports’ Champions League coverage.

BARRY VENISON

VENISON won two England caps under Terry Venables before leaving Newcastle for Graeme Souness’ Galatasaray for £750,000 in May 1995, but followed Souness to Southampton five months later.

Spent just over a year at The Dell before retiring due to a back injury and taking up regular punditry work with Sky Sports and then ITV.

Venison founded the charity auction website bid4sport before he and his family moved to Orange County, southern California, where he carved out a successful career in property development.

LEE CLARK

LEFT – famously – for Sunderland in 1997 and earned a call-up to the England squad as well as helping the Black Cats get back into the Premiership in 1999.

However, having been – infamously – photographed wearing an anti-Sunderland T-shirt when supporting Newcastle at the 1999 FA Cup final, Clark was sold to Fulham, helping the Cottagers win promotion in 2001 and making more than 150 appearances for the club.

He returned to Newcastle in 2005, coaching and playing on a month-by-month contract, before becoming first-team coach and then reserve-team manager at St James’ Park under Glenn Roeder. Having then been Roeder’s No 2 at Norwich, Clark was appointed Huddersfield manager in December 2008.

SCOTT SELLARS

AFTER joining Bolton in 1995, Sellars made 111 appearances for the Trotters ahead of a two-season spell at Huddersfield and a brief stint in Denmark with Aarhus.

He rounded off his playing career at Mansfield before taking on a coaching role at Field Mill and then spending five years as assistant manager at Chesterfield.

Sellars is now Manchester City’s Under-18 coach.

ANDY COLE

SOLD to Manchester United in a shock £7million deal, Cole went on to make 195 appearances for the Red Devils, winning numerous medals and overcoming two broken legs before an £8 million move to Blackburn in December 2001, where he won the last of his 15 England caps.

After spells at Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Sunderland, Cole finished his playing days in 2008 at home town club Nottingham Forest.

Now coaching Huddersfield’s strikers under former team-mate Lee Clark.

DAVID KELLY

HIS hat-trick against Leicester marked his last appearance in a Newcastle shirt before Peter Beardsley’s return to St James’ Park prompted his departure to Wolves.

After two years at Molineux, he helped Sunderland win promotion in 1996 before a three-year spell at Tranmere and a season at Sheffield United were followed by stints at Motherwell, Mansfield Town and League of Ireland side Derry City.

He cut his coaching teeth as assistant to Ray Mathias at Tranmere before hooking up with his former Motherwell team-mate Billy Davies as his No 2 at Sheffield United, Preston, Derby and now Nottingham Forest.

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