Why Newcastle’s season SHOULD be celebrated – whatever the result at St James’s Park

Newcastle United players and fans celebrate another goal at St Jamess Park against Preston North End last month.
Newcastle United players and fans celebrate another goal at St Jamess Park against Preston North End last month.

There used to be a sign above a place in Byker.

“Win or lose, let’s home some booze”, it read.

Once the party’s over, it’ll be time for owner Mike Ashley to show Benitez the money.

You don’t have to drink to have a good time, but the sentiment should apply to Newcastle United’s home game against Barnsley on Sunday.

It should be a day of celebration whatever the results at St James’s Park and Villa Park.

If second-placed Newcastle better Brighton and Hove Albion’s result against Aston Villa, they will win the title.

It’s that simple.

Brighton have seen their seven-point lead cut to just one over the past couple of weeks.

Chris Hughton’s side have suffered back-to-back defeats since securing promotion to the Premier League.

Newcastle, however, didn’t let up against Cardiff City a week ago.

The title would be nice, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all for United.

Nor Brighton.

This season was about promotion, and both clubs will be playing Premier League football next season.

And deservedly so.

DeAndre Yedlin this week said the 46-game Championship has been a bit of a “whirlwind”.

It has. It’s been relentless.

There’s been so much at stake both in footballing and financial terms.

Yedlin and his team-mates want to win the title.

The momentum is seemingly with them following successive wins.

They are relaxed and confident, though Benitez will be without a number of players including the injured Jamaal Lascelles and the suspended Matt Ritchie.

Can Brighton, so strong all season, pick themselves up one last time? Maybe. Maybe not.

Then there’s Steve Bruce, Villa’s Geordie manager.

Villa, an illustration of how things can go wrong in the Championship for relegated clubs, are 12th in the table.

But Bruce, a boyhood United fan, needs a result.

With the top two and play-off places decided, Sky Sports are focusing on two key games involving relegation-threatened teams.

A year ago, Newcastle were 17th in the Premier League.

Their fate was confirmed before the final game of the season, but, thanks to Benitez and a stunning performance against Tottenham Hotspur, that day was a memorable one.

Whatever the result against Barnsley, and whatever the result between Brighton and Villa, this day should also be a memorable one. St James’s Park will be sold out. Again.

And supporters can happily drink responsibly before and after the game knowing their team has done its job.

United have had their critics this season.

The club with the best manager and the best squad has gone up. So what?

However, Villa have spent tens of millions of pounds, and look at where they are.

Newcastle have struggled at home at times and weaknesses in the squad have been exposed.

And United have a lot of work to do this summer – Benitez needs at least half a dozen new players – but the spirit forged in the Championship should prove invaluable in the Premier League.

It did last time in the 2010-11 season, when the club finished in a comfortable 12th position.

Benitez will want to do better than that.

Newcastle’s players will wear their Wonga jerseys for the last time against Barnsley, and once the party’s over, it’ll be time for owner Mike Ashley to show Benitez the money.