Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Another article inspired by Kyle, I thought I'd talk about my favourite and least favourite things in my time following Newcastle United and I will be keeping it to from my first Toon game in January 2009.
Favourite game - 1-0 v Anzhi Makhachkala (14/03/2013)
I thought I'd start with my favourite Magpies game and for this one, I'm going to go with the 1-0 win over Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League in March 2013. With the score 0-0 in Russia a week earlier, it had been a very tense night, especially knowing that one game from the visitors would mean we needed two goals (the exact same situation Metalist Kharkiv found themselves in against us in the previous round, especially after Shola Ameobi's penalty in the second leg in Ukraine). Steven Taylor put in arguably one of his best displays for us (and won a rare England call up the following week, but unfortunately didn't play) to help keep out the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Lassana Diarra as the visitors missed Willian, who had went off injured in the first leg but has scored three times against us for Chelsea since then. Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off in the second half for two yellows but Guus Hiddink's side came close to opening the scoring in the 88th minute when Mbark Boussoufa hit the post with a free kick, had that gone in, it would've most likely sealed the end of our European adventure. The game was looking to head into extra time but just as the clock approached the end of the signalled three minutes stoppage time, Sylvain Marveaux's excellent cross found Papiss Cisse, who headed home with the last touch of the game to send us into the Europa League quarter-finals, four days after he set up the Senegalese striker to control and volley the ball in for another last minute winner as we beat Stoke City 2-1. Cisse would open the scoring in both legs when we faced Benfica in the next round but a collapse in Lisbon in the first leg and a late goal from Eduardo Salvio in the second leg on Tyneside meant we were out of the competition 4-2 on aggregate, hopefully we will be back in Europe soon under new ownership.
Favourite goal - Matty Longstaff v Manchester United (06/10/2019)
I went with this goal purely based on the fact I have Matty as a friend on Facebook (as I've bragged about many times) and got him and brother Sean to sign my programme at North Shields' 3-0 win over Bishop Auckland the day before. In what was one of those "imagine if that had gone in" moments, he hit the bar with a superb effort in the first half and his goal came in an amazing counter attack after Fabian Schar blocked a dangerous ball to prevent Marcus Rashford from opening the scoring. After the corner was cleared out to Miguel Almirón (who was getting stick for his lack of end product and should've made it 1-0 in the first half) showed an example of why we had faith in him before he finally broke his goal duck in December by playing an excellent ball to Allan Saint-Maximin, who made a very good run to find Jetro Willems, who then took Daniel James and Fred out the equation before setting up Matty to fire home what turned out to be the only goal of the game.
Favourite moment - Jonás Gutiérrez's last game v West Ham United (24/05/2015)
I could have went for Papiss Cisse's header against Anzhi Makhachkala but as I've already talked about it, I'll go with Jonás Gutiérrez's last game against West Ham United. I had given the Argentine a lot of criticism as he performed poorly during the disappointing 2012/13 season and though he'd have left after only playing four games in a loan spell with Norwich City in the second half of 2013/14 and it was eventually reported that after his first treatment for testicular cancer earlier that season that Alan Pardew told him he was no longer in his plans. However, he returned to the team two months after Pardew left for Crystal Palace and having been an unused substitute in a 1-0 win against Aston Villa, he made his return to action in a 1-0 loss against Manchester United four days later with fellow Argentine Fabricio Coloccini (who had also joined from a La Liga club in the summer of 2008) handing him the captain's armband as he replaced Ryan Taylor (who would also be released over the phone at the end of the season). He performed a lot better in his last few months at the club and really should've started more games given how spineless we were throughout those three months, it was so bad that despite sitting 11th at the start of March, we were up against Hull City, who had beaten us to survival on the last day of Jonás' first season in 2009, on the last day again after losing eight games in a row and 2-1 at already relegated Queens Park Rangers eight days earlier. We took on West Ham United and after a goalless first half, Jonás put in the cross for Moussa Sissoko (who's performances dropped massively after admitting in December that he wanted to leave) to head home the opening goal in a game we needed to win to ensure safety. Vurnon Anita, who had performed a lot better in the game that he had done most of the season, wasted a good chance to make it 2-0 on the counter attack but it was probably just as well as Gutiérrez received the ball from outside the box and his deflected shot found the back of the net and ensured we would stay in the top flight (and leapfrog rivals Sunderland into 15th). He knew that realistically, he wouldn't be offered a new deal so given the way he was treated, he cupped his ears towards Mike Ashley after mass celebrations with the rest of the squad, it was a real shame to see him treated the way he was by the board but that's something that will be mentioned in an article I will release when Mike Ashley leaves the club.
Favourite players - Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa
It was hard to decide this one so I'm going to talk about both Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa. As you probably know, I wasn't lucky enough to witness the likes of Alan Shearer and Laurent Robert so I'm going to go with, for me, our best striker since Shearer and a player with bags and bags of talent but was mismanaged by Alan Pardew. I could have went with Yohan Cabaye but I'd prefer not to given that he refused to play after he rejected an offer from Arsenal for him in August 2013 but onto Ben Arfa, who arrived on loan from Marseille in August 2010 as one of Graham Carr's first signings as a new era began on Tyneside, he netted a magnificent strike on his first start in a 1-0 win at Everton three weeks later but two weeks later, his season was ended after an awful tackle from Nigel De Jong (three months after he was extremely lucky to escape a red card in Holland's World Cup final loss to Spain) in a 2-1 loss at Manchester City. Nevertheless, we signed him permanently in January and although he didn't play any more games, he was back in training three months later, unfortunately, he picked up another injury in a 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City in pre season.
Meanwhile, that summer, Demba Ba was signed from relegated West Ham United and netted a his first three goals in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers before Ben Arfa replaced him as he made his return to league action. Ba netted further goals against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur before another hat-trick in another 3-1 win at Stoke City, who he had previously failed a medical with before joining West Ham nine months earlier and scored a penalty won by Ben Arfa to give us a 1-1 draw at reigning champions Manchester United. The Senegalese striker netted braces in losses against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion the following month and Ben Arfa scored his second Magpies goal to open the scoring a 2-0 win at struggling Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day with Ba netting soon afterwards. Ba netted yet again as we beat Manchester United 3-0 at St James' Park in our first game of 2012 before heading to the African Nations Cup and three days later, Ben Arfa scored a magnificent solo goal to equalise in an FA Cup third round tie against Blackburn Rovers, which for me, is the best Toon goal I can remember, just a shame I hadn't been there to see it live, especially when Jonás Gutiérrez sealed a 2-1 win five minutes into stoppage time. Ben Arfa also netted a consolation in a 5-2 loss at Fulham two weeks later, the first of three he'd net against them but Ba opened the scoring against Aston Villa on his return from Africa, along with fellow Senegalese striker Papiss Cissé, who had signed from Freiburg in January, it proved to be Ba's last goal of the season as Cissé essentially took over as the main man but he did provide the assist for Yohan Cabaye's second goal in a 3-0 home win over Stoke City, meaning his season finished with sixteen goals and four assists.
As for Ben Arfa, he opened the scoring in a 2-1 loss at Arsenal before netting a magnificent strike on the counter attack in a 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion whilst setting up both of Cissé's goals, he would then set up Papiss twice again in a 2-0 win over Liverpool a week later, including some superb skill before his cross found the Senegalese striker to make it 1-0. In the next home game, against Bolton Wanderers, he received a pass from Davide Santon and instantly turned Sam Ricketts to start a magnificent solo run that ended in him opening the scoring for what turned out to be Match of The Day's goal of the month winner and would've probably won goal of the season if not for Cissé's ridiculous strike at Stamford Bridge three weeks later. Personally, I feel that had Cissé not gone downhill after his first six months on Tyneside, he would've been my favourite ever player.
Both of them netted in an opening day 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in August 2012 and Ben Arfa won goal of the month again for September with a spectacular strike in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa two weeks later. Ba netted a further twelve goals before leaving for Chelsea in January whilst Ben Arfa suffered a hamstring injury against Maritimo in the Europa League in November and again after a fantastic equaliser in a 2-1 loss at Fulham in December. He made his return in a 0-0 draw at Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League but was injured yet again but was involved as Cissé's goal gave us hope in the second leg of the next round against Benfica whilst had a chance to put us ahead on away goals but couldn't take it as we exited the competition. He did hit the woodwork from a free kick in a 0-0 draw at West Ham United before winning and converting a penalty in a 2-1 win at already relegated Queens Park Rangers a week later. Although a year later, Alan Pardew got rid of him in favour of Gabriel Obertan and Sammy Ameobi by loaning him to Hull City before his contract was terminated four months later, he will be remembered by me and most fans as a once in a generation player and his magnificent skill is exactly why our current French winger Allan Saint-Maximin (who currently adopts his number ten shirt) is likened to him. In his final season for us, Ben Arfa did manage to net one last goal of the month winner as his late thunderbolt gave us a 1-0 win over Fulham in August 2013.
Favourite periods - 2009-2012 & 2016-2019
Again, I have decided to choose two different three year periods as my favourites ones following Newcastle United, both of which started with a Championship winning season. I choose 2009-2012 as it saw us go from going down with a whimper at best to finishing above a Chelsea side, who won that season's Champions League and 2016-2019 as Rafael Benítez restored hope in the club and brought back the team spirit we had been missing for three or four years before his arrival. Obviously 2009-2012 was better for us but I also choose 2016-2019 as I was able to go to all the games. The summer of 2009 saw a dressing room inquest take place after we were humiliated 6-1 at Leyton Orient in pre season to make players think about whether they'd up for the challenge of getting us back into the Premier League and Obafemi Martins, Sébastien Bassong, Habib Beye and Damien Duff would all eventually follow Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, David Edgar and Claudio Caçapa out the door (Peter Lovenkrands had already left after his short term contract expired but would eventually return on deadline day). Despite all the speculation about the club's future as well as Danny Simpson being our only new arrival, we made an excellent start to life in the Championship and caretaker manager Chris Hughton was given the job permanently as Mike Ashley took the club off the market. We eventually finished eleven points ahead of second placed West Bromwich Albion, sealing promotion just before a 2-1 win over Sheffield United on Easter Monday, clinching the title with a 2-0 win at Plymouth Argyle two weeks later and passed the hundred point mark with a 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers on the opening day whilst also going unbeaten at home in all competitions, including hammering promotion hopefuls (and eventual p