Is Newcastle the unluckiest team in the Premiership?
When Newcastle went to West Brom nine weeks ago and comprehensively beat them 3-0, they looked to me a side finally ready to fulfil its potential.
Emre and Scott Parker were tenacious and skilful in the CM.
Steven Taylor was continuing his rapid development in the CB role alongside the first-choice French international Jean-Alain Boumsong.
Michael Owen put on a display of goal-scoring that reminded everyone why he is worthy of a £17m pound tag.
And Kieron Dyer then came off the bench after a long injury lay-off and showed the dribbling prowess that made him an England international squad regular; eventually setting up Alan Shearer for yet another goal to the striking legend.
Add the outstanding Shay Given, plus the mix of talent and experience of Carr, N'Zogbia, Luque, and Solano, and I was reckoning that this was now the time that Newcastle would finally break-free of the injury, disciplinary and general behind-the-scenes problems that had unsettled the club for a prolonged period. But I should have known better.
There seems to be a permanent cloud over St James'. Dyer, Emre, Taylor, and Owen were soon injured after the West Brom match. Taylor then returned against Liverpool last Monday only to re-dislocate his shoulder and put him out for a lengthy period.
And then yesterday at Spurs, Michael Owen broke his metatarsal and is expected to be out for a minimum of 8-10 weeks. As an AFC fan I know this injury is a bad one and will be surprised if Owen does make it back in the specified minimum time-period. Ashley Cole has been out for over three months with this injury, whilst Gael Clichy is expected to have a recovery time of 5 months for the same injury.
To compound this injury woe, Newcastle's most consistently excellent player, Shay Given, damaged his thumb in yesterday's match and it is unclear yet whether or not it is broken.
Newcastle is a heavy-investment side. They are full of players with big price-tags and big potential. But injuries keeps preventing them from fielding their full side and maximising their collective potential. All teams have injuries but Newcastle seem particularly plagued by them over the last few seasons.
Do Newcastle need to overhaul their fitness-training/medical staff? Or is it just a consistent run of bad-luck that seems to have no end?
Whatever the case, Graeme Souness, in my opinion, should not be held solely responsible. Matches against West Brom, Arsenal, and West Ham showed that a team coming close to his first choice is capable of good things. I think its fair only to definitively judge him once he has been able to field his full, first-choice team on a consistent basis; not whilst Newcastle continue to be badly struck down by injuries to key players.