Miles Starforth’s Germany diary: Day 2

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

You can never read too much into pre-season campaigns.

Newcastle United’s visit to Wolfsburg brought back memories of a soggy tour of Germany and Austria five years ago.

It was hastily put together after a proposed visit to South Africa fell through.

The club played Chemnitzer, AS Monaco and Fenerbahce.

I remember watching the game against AS Monaco, then managed by Claudio Ranieri, behind Steve Harper’s goal at the tiny Hacker Pschoor Sport Park, Landsberg am Lech.

And I also remember the late Cheick Tiote, such a fierce competitor at the time, leaving one opponent in a heap on the turf.

“Shock”, said Harper, deadpan, from his goal.

Newcastle finished five points above the relegation zone that season, though they did reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

The previous year had seen the club undertake a gruelling tour of the USA which involved something like nine flights in 10 days.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

And everything, and everyone, overheated during an American heatwave.

Alan Pardew, unhappy at the reporting of the club’s seemingly disastrous trip across the Atlantic, boiled over at one point as things unravelled on and off the pitch.

Yet Newcastle finished fifth that season. Yes, fifth.

So you can rarely read too much into pre-season campaigns, though the warning signs were there a couple of years back when United, then coached by Steve McClaren, deservedly beaten by York City at Bootham Crescent.

McClaren said: “We failed to defend well. We failed to score from numerous attempts.”

Thankfully, Newcastle have been better at both ends of the pitch this pre-season.