It was unglamorous Wigan Athletic who burst the brief bubble of Graeme Souness's tenure at St James's Park, beating us in both league and league cup at their JJB stadium during 2004-05, and proving that the long tail-off of Bobby Robson's final season was about far more than Bobby's declining energies. Such quality players as we had didn't perform when they had to; the poor ones (including one Titus Bramble) were too numerous as well as generally not up to it; and the truculent, tactically backward Souness wouldn't be digging us out of that hole. All of this, Wigan served to made clear: NUFC were back firmly among the mediocre, and looking behind them nervously.
Still, Souness didn't take us down, and nor did Glenn Roeder. Allardyce and Keegan didn't last as long as a full season. We'd never have guessed at that succession back in 2004-05, much less that Joe Kinnear would be in charge at the point this evening when we simply have to be a bookmaker's favourite to go down as one of three set for the old League Division Two come 2009-2010.
And what was the crowning misery of today's 2-2 draw with Wigan at SJP? I refer you to what I wrote back on August 30 after Arsenal (0-3 away), what now seems like halcyon days: 'That's the Toon for you, forever freely handing out good vibes to opposing teams and their fans - e.g. your ropiest striker who hasn't scored in two-dozen starts is nailed on for a brace against Newcastle, as is that hamstrung ex-NUFC player you have on your books...'
Titus Bramble, though? Last minute equaliser? Titus effing Bramble? This can only be the Devil's work. I see His dreadful handiwork all over it.