The absence of chaos, conflicts and drama might just give Newcastle a chance this season

What an unconventional summer at Newcastle United.

Where's the chaos? Where are the rage-inducing decisions? Where's the conflict, the splits, the leaks and the bitching?

It's August, and Chris Hughton is a manager secure in his job, with the full backing of the fans and owner. Where's the drama in that?

Hughton is charming the country with, shall we call them sensible, quotes. He's showing a sensitive appreciation of club history by having his picture taken in front of a Sir Bobby Robson photo for every reporter who knocks on his door. Showing such class is letting the nation down. It's not what the Premier League expects.

On to those Hughton quotes dished out at a series of, it must be about 53, "exclusive interviews" this summer. Like sprinkling gold-dust onto a page. The best so far has been his innovative intention to: "Put 11 men on the pitch to win matches."

I wish Chris luck with that one, but in search of a controversy, I'd like to work myself into a lather and venture he's been foolish, naive, stupid. To reveal your tactical hand before the big kick off is a schoolboy error leading to certain defeat at Old Trafford tonight.

You can't be telling a wily manager like Sir Alex Ferguson before a game that Newcastle, with 11 men, a full quota of players, intend to try to win. By scoring goals. And not conceding any.

And what about the owner? How dare Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias not go public by making an "Official Statement" through the club's website. It's been three months since they announced there was little of no money to spend. They've not shown the common courtesy to anger us since. That's Cockneys for you. Selfish.

How dare they not put their foot in it again and rename Shearer's Bar. Surely the Ashley Arms would be more appropriate?

As for the fans? They've been a big let down too. High expectations. That's what Newcastle fans are supposed to have. Unrealistic, demanding expectations that by October will lead to Hughton being sacked.

But I've tuned into the phone ins, watched the letters pages and not one Geordie has demanded European football and a top six finish.

Instead they're talking of survival, adopting Chris Hughton's mantra of "building blocks", "financial reality" and evolution not revolution.

Of course I am being facetious, but you get the point? The Newcastle United story has changed.

A year ago Chris Hughton was the caretaker boss, with no idea whether he'd still be in charge in 24 hours, and no idea which players he'd still have to work during the fire-sale. The club was also on the market. Faced with the unpredictable rigours of the Championship, no-one from the manager, to the players and fans, knew what would happen next.

The narrative then was big club, always making the news, always a crisis around the corner, with an unpredictable owner who wanted out and prone to daft decisions. It was of stupidly loyal fans growing apart from their love. A club obsessed with big names, paying silly wages and on the road to financial ruin.

As a journalist the old Newcastle was a great story. As a person who cares about the club it was an frustrating nightmare, rare highs eclipsed by the many lows in recent years.

This season seems to be different. This new Newcastle could become an equally great story. In some ways it already is with manager, players and fans reconnected by a promotion based on a team ethic and more humble players.

But how the next chapter unfolds will probably be intriguing, rather than jaw-droppingly sensational.

The last time United returned to the Premier League Kevin Keegan declared his intention to challenge Manchester United at the top. And he did.

This time survival will do nicely. Fantasy football will be replaced by a team set up to be solid, dogged in defence, and hopefully sneak the odd goal. Don't expect it to be pretty, free flowing or blessed with guile.

The season will hinge on beating the bottom tier of teams at home, the likes of West Brom, Blackpool, Wigan and Wolves.

The squad certainly needs fresh signings beyond Sol Campbell, Dan Gosling and James Perch. Ashley is prepared to release bigger funds if the right player comes along and to break his self imposed rule of "no new capital outlay". But we'll wait to see it that player exists.

Pessimists wonder where the goals will come from, if the midfield has enough energy and pace, and whether Fabricio Coloccini's defence will be be better players than during the relegation campaign.

Optimists say that surely Newcastle won't be one of the worst three sides in the division. They were way ahead of West Brom and Blackpool in the Championship and surely can squeeze out just one other team this season?

Players who talked up the team spirit last season had better remember their words when the going gets tough after a run of defeats. Just like pundits who talked up Hughton as just what the club needed to quell the turbulence.

The next nine months will be fascinating. Newcastle is on an even keel again - for now. Back on right stage for a club who attracts 52,000 fans.

The route back to the top will means small steps and unspectacular rebuilding. It is not much of a dream compared with the European campaign for five or six years ago, but for now it will have to do.

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williamhill.com

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