No need to panic '“ just sort the worryingly toxic home form and atmosphere and all is good for Newcastle
Sitting top of the Championship with a one-point gap between ourselves and Brighton, and then a further seven-point gap away from third-placed Huddersfield Town, one major question must be asked of Newcastle fans.
Why the worry and anxiety amongst supporters?
Well, the home form seems to be the answer to that one.
The recent results against our major rivals at the top, Brighton and Huddersfield, have kept us on track to a quick bounce back to the Premier League.
Those two away wins may well have been the results that gave us that extra push and cutting edge above the rest, despite being unable to capitalise on those results against Fulham and Birmingham City.
Both Chris Hughton and David Wagner’s sides have have remained in the leading back throughout the campaign, but when they get the chance to leap-frog or shorten the gap they also seem to crumble under the pressure.
Newcastle’s problem is their home form, and it has been for the majority of the season. Whether it is a fairly negative tactical approach towards games, the pin-drop atmosphere at St James’s Park, or the fact that every single team that visits the one-time fortress manages to give that extra 10 per cent, when that opening whistle blows it’s always a tough match.
It’s as clear as day when watching Championship games, teams will travel to Brighton’s Amex or Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium with the same approach as they’d take in to any other game, but that’s evidently not the case as they step on to the St James’s pitch.
Just look back towards the Fulham game, those players were outstanding from start to finish – they dominated the game throughout and made Newcastle look like a team fighting for survival, not a team perched top of the league.
We now have just eight games left. The pressure will build, everyone from journalists, media outlets and opposition fans are waiting for United to slip up – many would love nothing more than to see the club and manager Rafa Benitez fail.
The worrying thing now is that United have five home games remaining – five games played in a stadium where the atmosphere turns toxic at a misplaced pass. I’ve bleated on about this several times over the last few months but we need to sort this problem out. Maybe some players do find the home games and atmosphere more of a hindrance rather than a boost of encouragement.
Let’s try to stay positive though. We have no real reason to feel downbeat as fans – we are top of the league and in pole position to gain promotion. What is there to panic about?