Newcastle United's 2018 review: A year that offered hope to fans
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Newcastle United's 2018 review: A year that offered hope to fans

Another year of struggle and hope that was ultimately crushed by everyone involved in an unsuccessful takeover period

Aaron Hindhaugh

Newcastle United fans, players, owner and manager never seemed to be too far away from the media limelight and always seemed to be trouble around the corner in 2018.

However, 2018 had many highlights including victories against three of the top five which saw the Magpies safe from relegation after a great change in form after January.

2018 results

2018 threw up many surprising results for the Magpies in more good ways than bad as a change in fortunes turned Newcastle's season around.

However, those good results came mainly during the 2017/18 season and at the end of 2018 Newcastle sit 15th in the Premier League and only three points ahead of Burnley in 18th.

At the end of the 2017/18 season, the Magpies found themselves in the dizzy heights of 10th place.

This saw Rafa Benitez nominated for the Manager of the year award.

Many memorable results helped Newcastle achieve a top half finish with victories against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea which all came in the second half of the season.

Newcastle were only beaten by West Bromwich Albion at home between January and May which is the polar opposite to their home form this season having only won two games so far at St James' Park.

Another great result was the 2-1 away win over Leicester which included the club's goal of the season when Ayoze Perez lobbed Kasper Schmeichel from about 25-yards out.

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Best player

This could be a number of players because of their form during the second half of last season with the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles both being instrumental in their excellent form.

However, it has to be over the course of the 2018 and not just half a season so it has to go to one of the bargains of the century, Martin Dubravka who Newcastle signed in January on loan.

The Slovakian made a big difference when he arrived and made his debut against Man United when the Magpies were in the bottom three and it was a very memorable game.

This was a sign of what was to come as he continued to command his box and organise the defence throughout every game as well as being confident enough to play out from the back.

This season Dubravka has kept six clean sheets which is more than David De Gea, Bernd Leno and Jordan Pickford.

Dubravka was signed for £4 million pounds in the summer and it is truly the best piece of business Benitez has done at the club.

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Most improved player

This could only go to one player that has and still does receives the most abuse out of any Newcastle player despite being one of the most important.

Paul Dummett has once again had another great year which has resulted in him getting a recall to the Welsh national side from Ryan Giggs.

Dummett is what Newcastle are all about, not the best technical player but gives 100%, puts his body on the line and loves the club.

Having come through the club's academy and being told he was not good enough and would never make the first team by Alan Pardew, Dummett is now one of the most important players at the club.

When the full-back does not play his presence is felt more than any other player as he brings a calmness to the defence and knows how to defend very well as he never focuses on attacking.

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Best result

This was a very close one between beating rivals Man United 1-0 or Chelsea 3-0 on the final day of the season.

However, for how important the three points were and the way the game was one it has to be the 1-0 victory of Man United.

Newcastle found themselves in the bottom three before kick-off and when Anthony Martial raced through one-on-one within the first half an hour many thought it was going to be a bad day.

However, on his debut Dubravka made a superb save to keep out the Frenchmen and from then on the crowd were really up for the game and tried to push on the players to get an unlikely three points.

The goal came in a strange way when Chris Smalling dived on the halfway line and from the resulting free-kick, Florian Lejeune won a header against Paul Pogba before Matt Ritchie smashed the ball home.

This sent the home fans into delirium as they could not believe they were ahead.

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Worst result

There has been many poor performances and results for Newcastle so far this season but the 3-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup has to be the worst of them all.

The Magpies never got going in a game they should have won but with players playing out of position and youngsters making their debuts it was a game Benitez did not take seriously enough.

The Magpies went behind early on after ex-player Daryl Murphy scored to pile more misery onto his former side.

The game was not short of late drama with new signing Salomon Rondon scoring an undeserved equaliser only for the home side to go back in front minutes later.

Newcastle were denied what must have been one of the most stonewall penalties ever seen when the Forest 'Keeper wiped out Perez and nothing was given.

Forest's third goal summed up the Magpies' performance as Kenedy lost the ball next to his own box and showed no desire to track back leaving Karl Darlow helpless to concede a third at his former ground.

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What to expect in 2019?

Expect another tough relegation scrap like last season but with this one looking closer than last seasons.

As well as what is happening on the pitch there is talk of an apparent takeover which was the main story of 2018 for Newcastle.

In 2018 it was Amanda Staveley that was ready to take over the club from Mike Ashley and in 2019 it looks like it is Peter Kenyon who is ready to buy the club.

Most fans do not expect anything to happen after the amazing collapse last time out with Staveley so until it is official it is difficult to believe any of the reports or rumours.

On the pitch, however, Benitez will be hoping to keep Newcastle in the Premier League again.

With not much money being available in January it will be a great achievement if the Spaniard can pull it off again.

2019 could be the final year that we see Benitez as the manager of Newcastle or it could be the start of a great adventure under a new owner that backs Benitez's vision and ideas.