Newcastle United Season Guide
Nickname: The Magpies
Ground: St James' Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 4ST
Ticket Office: (0191) 261 1571
Home - Black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks
Away - Dark blue with white trim, white shorts and socks
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Official Newcastle United Website
Unofficial website - NUFC.com
|Last Season - Euro blow||Position: Fifth|
This time last year Newcastle looked set for an exciting season, but their campaign faltered inside the opening month. The Magpies suffered a shock exit in the final qualifying round of the Champions League as Lothar Matthaeus' Partizan Belgrade ousted them on penalties at St James'. And as if an early exit from the cash-rich tournament wasn't bad enough, Newcastle then had to wait until October 4 for their first win in the Premiership. Although they recovered to finish fifth, they missed out on the Champions League which caused much concern to the board. A dismal away record - they won only twice on their travels - seriously hampered their chances in the league. Although Newcastle did reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup it was no consolation for their failures elsewhere.
|Transfers - In and Out|
James Milner (Leeds) - £3.6million
Nicky Butt (Man Utd) - £2.5million
Stephen Carr (Tottenham) - Undisc.
Charles N'Zogbia (Le Havre) - Undisc.
Patrick Kluivert (Barcelona) - Free
Gary Speed (Bolton) - £750,000
Lomano LuaLua (Portsmouth) - Undisc.
Jon Woodgate (Real Madrid) - Undisc.
Stephen Caldwell (Sunderland) - Free
Andy Ferrell (Watford) - Free
Andy Griffin (Portsmouth) - Free
Brian Kerr (Motherwell) - Free
Bradley Orr (Bristol City) - Free
Calvin Zola (Tranmere) - Free
Michael Chopra (Barnsley) - Loan
Hugo Viana (Sporting) - Loan
|First Choice XI|
GK Shay Given; RB Stephen Carr, CB Titus Bramble, CB Andrew O'Brien, LB Olivier Bernard; RM Lee Bowyer, CM Nicky Butt, CM Kieron Dyer, LM Laurent Robert; CF Alan Shearer, CF Craig Bellamy.
|The Gaffer - Sir Bobby Robson|
Despite enjoying hero worship from Newcastle United fans, the vultures began to circle over Sir Bobby last season. The veteran manager desperately wants to win some silverware for the club but, if Freddy Shepherd's words are to be believed, this will be his last chance. After a disappointing 2003/04, he will have to guide Newcastle back into the Champions League. While he remains one of the best-loved and most respected faces in the game, for the first time people are beginning to question whether his time is finally up. This term sees something of a mini-rebuilding programme, with the likes of Butt, Milner and Kluivert coming in and Speed and Viana leaving. Sir Bobby will look to go out on a high after a glittering career as a coach.
|Player to Watch - Patrick Kluivert|
Dutch international Kluivert come to the Premiership with a lot to prove. He spent the 2003/04 campaign in and out of the Barcelona side in the knowledge that he would be dumped at the end of the season. The striker fell out of favour at the Nou Camp, and then suffered the indignation of being the only outfield player unused by Holland at Euro 2004 - he had also had a run-in with coach Dick Advocaat. The 28-year-old was signed by the Magpies to be groomed as Alan Shearer's successor as darling of the Gallowgate End. Although he is without doubt a bargain free transfer, he will still have to justify his wage packet. If Kluivert finds his feet in England he could be one of the bargains of the season. But first he must find a way past a fit Craig Bellamy in the first choice XI.
|Young Gun - Steven Taylor|
Taylor enjoyed an impressive rise to a Premiership debut last season, having been unknown even to many on Tyneside until he was loaned to Tony Adams' Wycombe Wanderers in December. The England Under-21 international was a rock as he made his debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, with Adams comparing the centre-back to himself at that age. He made his first Premiership appearance against Bolton in March, having featured as a substitute in a UEFA Cup tie against Mallorca. With Jonathan Woodgate continuing to battle his injury demons and Titus Bramble looking like an expensive misfit, this season could see Taylor continue his progress in the Newcastle first team.
|From the Terraces|
As ever in the world of Newcastle United, there's more going on than meets the eye. And that aphorism is especially apt this pre-season, with the club's training ground out of bounds 10 days away from the season after the outbreak of conjunctivitis.
Pre-season wasn't clever, as we proved incapable of keeping a clean sheet in any of the six games and only looked comfortable once when beating an awful Rangers side. Yet again we also trekked to the Far East under the spurious 'commercial opportunities' banner, treading a well-beaten path to no great advantage - other than sapping player morale yet further.
Of course there's the continuing sideshow of Shearer and Robson's final seasons to keep media men busy filing copy on developments, both real and imagined. It's hoped that at some stage there'll be an outbreak of football.
What'll we'll be like though is anyone's guess - the acquisitions of Kluivert, Butt and Milner seem to have satisfied supporters, but we seem hell bent on driving Olivier Bernard out of the club, meaning that our so-far fruitless search for a new right back will end up being a double pursuit.
Numerically we have a far smaller squad than in previous seasons and our latest crop of decidedly average Academy graduates have already seen first team service this season - shades of the latter days of Gullit and Dalglish's reigns at St.James' Park (playing the part of Robert Lee this year - Gary Speed.)
Much as we do every year, we yearn for trophy success, we hope for European qualification at least and we dread the club featuring on the front and back pages of the papers.
Anything could happen this season and probably will - at this stage the chances of a smiling Shearer and Sir Bobby taking their final bows together at a packed St.James' next May look remote.
As Bette Davis once said: 'Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a bumpy ride.'
|Best - Champions League||Worst - Top half|
In a season which looks to be the last for both Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer the desire for silverware should be stronger than ever. In Kluivert they finally have another proven striker who should not spend most of his time with Dr Richard Steadman and if he clicks with Shearer it could be one of the most exciting striking partnerships. But Newcastle continue to look suspect on their travels, especially defensively, and if they are to win anything this season they will have to tighten up at the back. The championship race again looks something of a closed shop, with Champions League qualification the realistic target, but the Magpies could enjoy good cup runs both at home and in the UEFA Cup.