That stomach-gnawing sense of disappointment still persists for sure. As ever, after a blow it’s important to identify what, who and where it went wrong in order to look forward with hope and purpose.
If you’ll permit me one last furtive glance back over the shoulder of the 2015-16 season in alphabetical form…
A is for Alex. He was always going to make mistakes as a top level virgin, but maybe made more than anticipated though. He became overly concerned with stopping the opposition at the expense of our own ‘foot forward’ philosophy, which was proudly on show up to that Geordie six-pack. Too many game-to-game changes in personnel and formation from then on in for any kind of consistent fluency to emerge. All of that said, he’s now older and wiser and, in most eyes, he’s the man to (hopefully) bring back the good times.
B is for Bassong. Oh Seb – magnificent in the early Hughton years but increasingly at sixes and sevens when confronted by pace and power. Every quality striker gave him a decisive skinning. Relegation was not his fault alone but his frailty played a major role. But for Klose’s knee going pop at Palace, Seb probably would have sat out those remaining games and maybe, just maybe…
C is for clappers. Once again their presence failed to save us. In the hands of Leicester fans, they are seen as a wonderful expression of passionate fandom; in our hands, a source of great mirth to radio/TV commentators and pundits. Please let’s consign them to the bin of history.
D is for dumped. Dumped back to the ravages of the Championship; the glittering spires of Old Trafford and Anfield consigned to the memory banks for now as the travelling army girds its collective loins for those long trips to less impressive destinations.
E is for enraged. That Cameron Jerome overhead ‘goal’ on day one. Still a big sense of injustice from a ref who was subsequently banished from the PL – a clear admission from his superiors of a terrible decision which may or may not have made a difference (assuming a number of other self-inflicted clangers never happened). The Costa offside that was never given also falls into this category.
F is for fragile. Applied to the defence, the squad confidence and the fans’ belief. A horrible domino effect that seemed to knock the collective conviction as the first half of 2016 unfurled before our eyes.
G is for goals. Mainly a lack of, although we weren’t the worst offenders in not sticking it in the net enough. With a solid back-four and keeper, 39 could have seen us safe but ‘ifs and maybes’ don’t win points.
H is for hobble. Tettey – Klose – Howson. Key serious injuries to our three best performers, which thrust a huge spanner in the works. Klose’s was especially cruel as he had galvanised both team and fans and came right before that crucial clash with Sunderland.
I is for insufficient. Top flight quality front, middle and back. Debated to death from last summer onwards – I won’t go back over ground which has been dug over and raked to death.
J is for jubilation. There was some to be had amongst the debris: Old Trafford – last gasp Benitez bashing – Watford walloping… blimey, that’s about it.
K is for Klopp’s glasses – smashing. Humour amongst the pain of a pivotal game.
L is for Lafferty – genius or idiot? Takes Becchio’s ‘golden bench’ award for services to the dugout.
M is for McNally. Hero or villain? Whatever your inclination, he’s left the club in far better shape than he found it. “He took the blows and did it his way.
N is for naughty. That inexplicable Gary O’Neil touchline scythe at Stoke – further inflamed by the ignominy of the third kit being given an outing in the unforgiving Potteries’ winter breeze. Costly and somehow portentous.
O is for outrageous. The Tettey toe-poke that left de Gea flummoxed and Van Gaal fumbling.
P is for pushing and punching. That unseemly yet hilarious to-do between respective benches at the start of the Sunderland home game, with Big Sam sadly coming out on top in all respects.
Q is for quick. As in a return to the top flight.
R is for relegation. Nuff said.
S is for seismic. As in our unfortunate part in the recorded local geological response to Leicester scoring in the 89th minute.
T is for tumble. 10 of them in our box as punished by the ref – the most conceded by any team.
U is for undreamed riches, which we’ll be missing out on for next season.
V is for vacancy. ‘Interested in being the CEO of a smashing club with great potential and plenty of cash to spend? Apply c/o Carrow Road.’
W is for wholesale. The squad needs a major makeover for next time out? Or a subtle tweaking?
X is for x-rated. The only description possible for the defensive blunders that cost us so dear, so many times.
Y is for yearn. For a return to the positive front-foot approach of last season from Alex and boys.
Z is for zero chance of a stress-free Championship.
Please send in any alternatives you have to my selections and have a great summer.