Newcastle fans thankful it's all over as Arsenal win their cup final

Posted by Marc Duffy

Steve Harper tears Newcastle farewellPA PhotosSteve Harper struggled to hold back the tears as the curtain came down on his 20-year career with Newcastle United

An amazing accumulative attendance of 1,202,612 people paid good money to watch Newcastle United at St James' Park this season in the most difficult economic climate in modern times. Unfortunately for them, their football club have lost nine of their 19 league games on home turf - two more than they suffered in the disastrous 2008/09 relegation season. The last three home games alone have seen Newcastle concede ten goals without managing a single one for themselves. Pathetic.

Fortunately, this season Newcastle managed to avoid the same fate as they suffered only four years ago, but that is as much to do with poor teams below them in the league as anything else.

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My day began in a bar close to Newcastle's central train station - a bar occupied by travelling fans on home match days, for obvious reasons, but I went there to meet with some Arsenal friends.

The thing that struck me was how much Arsenal now regard Spurs as a rival. In the first ten minutes I was in the bar, four of their five songs were about their North London enemies. This may well have been because they were competing directly against Tottenham for the Premier League's fourth and final (and lucrative) Champions League spot, but I remember when Arsenal were more concerned with challenging for all domestic titles.

The bar had to close early after some overly enthusiastic Arsenal fans, pumped up at the thought of the trophy for finishing fourth that Arsene Wenger talks about, began to throw bottles and glasses at the walls!

Their intense, loud pre-match atmosphere made their absolute silence in the ground seem unusual, although their players appeared to be feeling the same pressure. This was their cup final, only there was no cup to be had at the end of it.

Having secured Premier League status at QPR last weekend ,Newcastle approached the game with no pressure and had the only shot on target in the first half - an effort from Yohan Cabaye that was easily saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal offered almost nothing, but equally they never really looked under threat.

When the pitch side clocks hit 37 minutes the majority of St James' Park rose to applaud goalkeeper Steve Harper (shirt number 37) in his 148th and final league start for the club in the 20 years that he's been there.

Seven minutes after the Alan Pardew half time talk, Arsenal took the lead. Theo Walcott's freekick from the right fell to Laurent Koscielny, via Lucas Podolski, and the French centre half swivelled to fire home. 1-0.

Yohan Cabaye played five minutes after the Arsenal goal and then was taken off with yet another injury - this has not only been a season to forget for Newcastle United Football Club but for many of their players too. Recently, Cabaye has been a shadow of the player that the Geordies adored last season and he's not the only one.

Newcastle offered very little attacking threat in the second half. There were times when the Magpies actually looked to be happy to take the 0-1 result. Pardew decided to take off Yoan Gouffran, probably Newcastle's main attacking threat, and then opted to take off Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and drop Jonas Gutierrez into left-back rather than replace one of his untouchables. Bemusing. The same nonsense the supporters have watched all season.

Arsenal almost doubled their lead when Theo Walcott went through in stoppage time, but the England international only managed to hit the post when scoring seemed easier - then it was all over.

Arsenal finished fourth and their players celebrated as if they were the champions of Europe. Players throwing each other in the air, then all linking arms and saluting the travelling contingent a la Borussia Dortmund after their Champions League semi-final victory - what have UEFA done to football?

Their fans were ecstatic. Don't get me wrong, I'd be delighted if Newcastle finished fourth, but Newcastle don't have the recent history that Arsenal do. It seems that they've bought into Wenger's nonsense claim that fourth place is a trophy.

As a Newcastle supporter I'm delighted this season is over. Managerial failings with a good squad have seen the club suffer their heaviest home defeat in over 80 years, their heaviest home derby defeat in decades, nine home defeats in 19, a pathetic two away wins all season, a goal difference of -23, a 16th placed finish and another year totally wasted. They did top the Premier League long ball table though.

I'm relieved that the club were not relegated and I'm happy it's all over. I'm finding it impossible to be optimistic about next season though. Still, I doubt it will be worse than this one.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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