It seems this Champions League lark isn’t as easy as we thought. Bouncing out of SJP after destroying PSG and being on a high for days on end having witnessed one of the greatest nights our famous old stadium has ever seen, I heard fevered claims we could win the group and at the very least win all our home games. Hell, I’ll admit to getting a bit giddy myself. I’m not ashamed, I’m just not used to this general feeling of optimism, so when injected with a great B&W vibe, I’m getting to grips with how to react.
I’m in good company having heard KK talk about United winning the Champions League a few nights earlier in the presence of Eddie Howe in front of their adoring public. If they can get ahead of themselves then it’s okay for a Gateshead gob-shite to do likewise.
I felt Dortmund was the better side. I wouldn’t have complained had one of our chances gone in and I do agree we improved greatly as the match went on but overall I felt the Germans were an altogether better prepared outfit than PSG.
Without using the typical Teutonic clichés (sorry, failed), Dortmund were well organised, brave, energetic, committed and understood what they had to do to neutralise us. They were so quick on the break and we had Pope to thank for a double save in the first half that kept us in it.
Ironically, I’d felt we were getting a grip on the game when they got their goal in front of a stunned Gallowgate End. We can’t complain, it had been coming!
They isolated Trippier and there were times in the first half when their press and ability to cut out our passes reminded me of well, us. There were times when the Ref irritated the home crowd with what appeared to be some odd decisions but I’ve not seen them replayed just yet and as a point of reference I far prefer the officiating I’ve seen so far in the CL to the shambolic stuff week on week in the PL.
Let’s be fair as well. We’ve had zero luck going into this game. Although their replacements have performed valiantly, I don’t think it’s doing them a disservice to point out the likes of Botman, Tonali and Isak were all recruited to play Champions League football but none made an impression on this game for various reasons.
Joelinton, regenerated after 24 months of Eddie Howe’s tutelage is returning from injury and not at 100%. The same can be said of Willock who made a welcome return but not enough to make an impression which would be unreasonable to expect. The injury to Murphy even in his short time as substitute put the tin hat on it for me. Harvey Barnes will be missing over an extended period so there’s not much rolling for us at the moment. Yet there we are up to sixth in the PL and placed to get into the top four by the time we’ve wrapped up the Group stages.
Whether the widely trailed Tonali ban in the media had any impact upon preparations is something only Eddie Howe can answer and he probably wouldn’t admit to it even if it was the case.
It was a manky, miserable day weather wise or dreich as my Glaswegian mates might describe it, but it didn’t stop the city centre coming alive with visitors from Germany. The general consensus bar a couple of very isolated incidents was the Dortmund fans were good crack, proper football fans and rubbed along with Mags who were similarly out all afternoon and making an occasion of it all. There’s a lot of talk about how great the Champions League is for Newcastle United but flip that over – Newcastle United, its supporters and the city is brilliant for Europe’s elite football competition too.
I’d wondered what to expect from the Dortmund fans at SJP and generally it was good – the bouncy stuff as well as the display of flags in the away end was excellent. I didn’t really mind the drum but if we were ever to have something similar, I’d hope we kept it for pre-match and moments of excitement etc. Otherwise book me in for extra paracetamol. The Germans could do with a more varied song-book but I’ll confess to singing “whoah Alan Gowling” (ask your Dad) when they diverted to the Bananarama cover from the main chant for a few seconds.
They brought more to Level 7 of the Leazes End than PSG but they were far from sold-out which surprised me given this is a club that can pull in 80,000 at the Westfalstadion, Yellow Wall and all that. I’m prepared to predict Newcastle United will have thousands more over in Dortmund and there will be no spare tickets (providing United don’t follow the pattern of this season and manage to bollocks everything up).
There has been a lot of criticism of the atmosphere for the Dortmund game which I think is a bit OTT to be honest. The pre-match display courtesy of Wor Flags was again phenomenal (please do donate what you can as these displays don’t pay for themselves – click here ) and for what its worth friends of mine who don’t support United but who were watching on TV thought the atmosphere was good. Sometimes I think we’re a bit too keen to beat ourselves up about this stuff but then that could be the nature of social media when everything is so much psychodrama.
It certainly wasn’t at the pitch for PSG but how could it be? That was a generational moment, a massive occasion as we made a return to the Champions League after two decades. There was a mood you could almost taste as soon as you entered NE1 that night. That’s not going to be replicated on a regular basis. It’s just not reasonable to expect it to be.
I have been inside SJP when the atmosphere has been better but likewise when it has been much, much worse. Let’s not be overly self-critical too – despite a challenging game when lots went against us and we lacked the pace and power of the PSG and Palace games, the crowd stayed with the players. Yes, we can all complain at some of the fire drill type behaviour just before half and full time but that’s been going on since time immemorial. There were goals for us at perfect times during the PSG game – had we got something from one of our chances then we’d have had lift-off again. That’s just the nature of it and it largely always has been.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems with tickets and who gets them. I detected more of a half and half scarf (yuk) type vibe with people I suspect along for the experience they had heard about rather than some of the zealot types who are finding it difficult to get into matches. At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who think every word written is somehow getting at them, I did detect far more non-Geordie accents around and about and I’ll not quickly forget being asked directions to SJP and where the Leazes Stand (sic) is by a couple of adults on Clayton St..*
I couldn’t help think about a few Mags I know who have been to thousands of United games in good times but mainly bad who couldn’t get tickets for this game. I make no apology for believing Newcastle United should be mindful of the loyalty of its supporters because in the lean times that is what it will have to fall back upon.
This result has brought us back down to earth but news of Milan getting whipped by PSG cheered me up a bit. It’s all to play for. Onward to Dortmund …
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892
- no, you don’t have to have a Geordie accent to support Newcastle United so don’t take offence if you don’t possess one. This isn’t targeted at you. Lots of people from all over the country support Newcastle United for various reasons – glory not being one of them – being part of the Geordie diaspora, having family connections to the NE or multiple versions of the same. Lots of people come to the NE and develop a love for the region and its number one football club. That’s great. I have great pals who are dedicated to Newcastle United who never miss a game who travel to SJP and all over following the club – they are the heart and soul of Newcastle United. They don’t have Geordie accents. There are people although born and bred in the region who don’t have Geordie accents for multiple reasons who are devoted to Newcastle United as well and have been forever. Its always been that way. The club’s appeal will grow too.Hopefully, the club’s core (and local) support will not be disadvantaged by that. Phew!