By Natasha Bougourd. A quick glance at the table and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Newcastle United have made major progress since last season - where it wasn't until the penultimate game of the campaign where they sealed their survival. However, six straight defeats and unrest among fans tells a sorry tale. Newcastle fan, Natasha Bougourd gives her thoughts on a surreal season. "But you're 9th in the league, what have you got to moan about?" A sentiment I've heard from other football fans this season, predominantly those outside of the North East, and also from some sections of the media, again, from outside the North East.
If you take into consideration our league position and nothing else, then yes it's an improvement on last season, when we narrowly avoided relegation with a squad that included Yohan Cabaye and, for five months, Demba Ba, who reached double figures in that short space of time.
But everything else points to the shortcomings of this season. The heady days of November and December 2013, where we notched up wins over Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, seem like a million years ago. Even our 4-1 win away at Hull last month feels like a distant memory. Because there's a big, dark cloud hanging over Newcastle at the moment, and it's not going to go away anytime soon.It all began in the summer when we failed to bring in anyone else but the talented Loic Remy on a season-long loan. There's no doubt he's carried us on his shoulders this season but it's blindingly obvious that a) he won't be here next season as he eyes up Champions League football, and b) we're far too reliant on him.
In the 12 games we've been without Remy through suspension and injury, we've only scored one goal. January provided the perfect opportunity to bring in another goalscorer. Not only to assist Remy and take some of the goalscoring pressure off him, but to take up the top scorer mantle next season when Remy inevitably sets sail for trophies. Instead, we signed the young Luuk De Jong, a player who I rate massively as a partner for Remy (a topic perhaps I'll delve deeper into another time), with his sharp mind and keen eye for picking out a potential goal-assisting pass, but not a natural goalscorer. Should we sign him permanently in the summer, which I would not object to, we still need someone with a killer finish for him to assist.Let's compare this season to last season. In total we lost 19 league games last season. This season we've already lost 18, with the last six in a row, and 12 out of 17 in 2014. These figures have recently been picked up on, before which we were berated for being unhappy with our season. Not only this, but we don't just get beaten, we get annihilated. We've suffered four 4-0 defeats this season at the hands of better-than-us-but-hardly-worldbeaters Southampton, struggling-to-score Tottenham, in-a-massive-crisis Manchester United at home, and, admittedly, pretty-good Manchester City. Not only has the Tyne-Wear derby been turned on its head, with Sunderland winning three in a row for the first time since the 1950's, but they've beaten us 3-0 on home turf twice in a year. Everton have twice put three past us, and relegation-threatened Swansea and Hull have done it once apiece.
The two teams currently propping up the table, Cardiff and Sunderland, have only lost two more games than us this season, with Sunderland suffering arguably only three real hammerings at the hands of Swansea, Arsenal and Tottenham. But they made it to a cup final whereas we meekly surrendered in the early rounds.This season has been incredibly exciting both at the top and the bottom of the Premier League. The title race has been in the hands of each of the four top teams at one point in the season, while up to 10 teams have been fighting for survival. But, there's no doubt the quality of the majority of the games has been dreadful. With only five top quality teams in the league - the top four and Everton who have been managed superbly by Roberto Martinez - sixth place could have been a realistic target for us. Tottenham, like us, have struggled to score this season. Manchester United are in the middle of a well-documented meltdown in the post-Fergie era, and Southampton are no doubt a decent side, but nothing spectacular. We could easily be challenging these teams for that coveted (for us at least) sixth place Europa League spot, but instead we find ourselves breathing a sigh of relief that there are 10 awful teams in the league stopping us from getting into a very threatening relegation battle. Because our current form is relegation form. We have the second-worst league form in 2014.
So what does a top-half finish mean when there's nothing to really play for? Of course it's preferable to finish as high in the table as possible, but it could be a reality check for Pardew, the players and Mike Ashley should we finish in the bottom half. A current top-half position and the odd scrappy win have papered over the cracks for some, but finishing say, 11th, at the expense of Crystal Palace, who seemed destined for relegation earlier in the season, would send a clear message that this is not good enough.It was confirmed earlier this season that the staff and players were to receive a bonus if we finished in the top half of the table. Not the top four. Not even the top six. The top 10. A mediocrity bonus. I don't think for a second anyone at the club should receive any praise or gift for the shambles that has been this season.
So when you delve a little deeper than league position, it's really not a pretty picture at St James' Park at the moment.
Can Newcastle stop the rot this weekend against Cardiff? Will the fans really walk out after 60 minutes in protest? And will Alan Pardew be there next season? Follow @NatashaNUFC