A Black and White Dawn

By: bnwba

Let's face it. Newcastle have most certainly under-achieved since the glory days when Sir Bobby Robson was at the helm and played and beat teams like Barcelona and Juventus in Europe's most coveted competition. They have had lacklustre cup runs and lacklustre performances to match the two lacklustre managers that have come and gone.

The Magpies have had a torrid time with several injury ravaged seasons in the top flight to the extent that last year Glenn Roeder had to field a backline of reserves against a strong Manchester United at St James Park, a match in where the reserves and youngsters did the Toon Army proud. But they were underacheiving. And they knew it.

It was only a matter of time until then Chairman Freddy Shepherd sacked beleagued manager Glenn Roeder. Speculation was rife as who would take over with Sam Allardyce favourite. When the ex-Bolton manager quit his post with the Lancashire club it was reported that he had already negotiated a contract with the troubled Magpies. The speculation ended when, three weeks after quitting as Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce was named as Newcastle boss by Freddy Shepherd.

So the club had a new manager but, with the same backroom staff, board, chairman and more importantly the same players, did they have the recipe to succeed? Sam Allardyce certainly thought so.

The 'big man' immediately began his overhaul, releasing a host of defenders including Titus Bramble, Olivier Bernard and Craig Moore as well as Antoine Sibierski from the frontline and veteran goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek. On another front the club were subject to a takeover bid by tycoon Mike Ashley with Sir John Hall the first to sell up.

With a new owner came the new chairman, Chris Mort. Money for transfers became available with Allardyce notching up several high profile buys with Manchester City's Joey Barton arriving for a princely fee of ?5.8 million and Paris-St-Germain's Czech defender, David Rozenhal, following for ?2.9 million. A powerful striker in the form of Mark Viduka soon followed on a free transfer from Middlesbrough and utility-man, Geremi travelled to Tyneside from Chelsea, also on a free transfer.

Then everything was quiet. With just one defender brought in and three released things looked glum. Allardyce himself admitted that he was struggling in the transfer market. If Newcastle were to start the season with the squad so depleted they would certainly not be successful. Several weeks later, and after their pre-season training trip to Austria, Allardyce had still not made any headway.

Then breakthrough. Lyon's ex-captain, a veteran of European competition, Cacapa joined the North East outfit on a two year deal. The strong centre half finally eased Newcastle's nerves with the defence finally being strengthened. Another signing was soon to follow in the form of Alan Smith. The ex-Leeds striker was pleased to team up with ex-strike partner, Mark Viduka, and outlined him and Sam Allardyce's plans for the club as his main reasons for joining Newcastle.

Then came a surprise buy among many Newcastle fans. With the transfer of Jose Enrique being pushed through within a short space of time, for a fee of ?6.3 million from Spanish outfit Villareal, the British media had little time to speculate on Allardyce's next signing. The left back claimed that he was very impressed with the club and the manager's prospects for the season.

So with new signings a-plenty, a new board, a new chairman, a new owner and a new manager have Newcastle United done enough to transform from underachievers to Champions' League spot chasers? Time will tell. All I can tell you is that times look good on Tyneside.

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