In the eternal words of Credence Clearwater Revival, ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’
The last time the Magpies played the Florence-based Serie A side back in 2011, nobody can really remember the scoreline. This is because, well, it didn’t really finish with one. Instead, the heavens opened over St. James’ Park, and a torrential downpour ensued, prompting the game to be abandoned altogether. Flash forward 12 years and, judging by this summer’s weather, another abandonment could’ve been on the cards.
Whilst the weather might still be abysmal, it’s safe to say that Newcastle United aren’t any more. Today, we won 2-0 in this competitive, but not overtly challenging, pre-season friendly. We topped the possession statistic, but Fiorentina were strong on the counter-attack. It seemed as though for every chance we had, they had one too.
Most of ours fell to Anthony Gordon, who has taken up the coveted number 10 position that Allan Saint-Maximin left behind. Those are big boots to fill, but his partnership with the Geordie Maradona fills me with confidence. They provided potential assists to each other frequently throughout the game, showing that the dynamic energy that ASM had is still very much present within the team.
Whilst Gordon was unable to convert any chances, a certain Miguel Almirón could! Twelve minutes before the end of the first half, Isak put the ball in for Almirón, who slotted it home. They made an excellent pair today, and it got me thinking about Miggy…
Almirón is quite a polarising figure within our fanbase: one half think he’s a crucial asset to the team, and his contribution to the team before the World Cup was a huge aspect of our top-four finish; the other half believe that his scoring streak was a flash in the pan and he is simply not up to our ever-increasing standards. Watching this game, I was inclined to agree with the latter, as he held onto the ball for too long and squandered plenty of chances. But then, he scores, so I’m back to square one on him.
Do Almirón’s flashes of brilliance make up for his moments of inefficiency? We know that players can change: one kiss in the form of a red card for Ciaran Clark transformed Joelinton from Steve Bruce’s centre-forward frog to Eddie Howe’s midfield prince. But, with Almirón, it’s constantly hot and cold. Quite the enigma, that one. An enig-miggy, if you’ll forgive me!
If there’s a man who frowns as much as Miggy smiles, it’s our new midfielder Sandro Tonali (although he did look in high spirits on arrival at SJP today). He is looking a promising addition to the team, with his free kick narrowly missing the goalpost in the second half. He has a nice partnership with Trippier forming, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops over the upcoming season. Inevitably Tripps was involved in the second goal, his corner leading to Isak’s header bouncing past the Fiorentina goalkeeper.
Speaking of the upcoming season, let’s address the topic of conversation on everybody’s lips at the moment: the digital tickets. Personally, I found the system very easy and accessible: for Android users, you scan your QR code on the ticket machine; for iPhone users, you simply tap your phone onto the contactless symbol, much like you would with Apple Pay.
However, because I’m so accustomed to Apple Pay, I never take my card out with me. This is particularly great when you find out on the metro that the card machines in the ground are down and everything is cash-only. And it’s even better when there is a massive sign in Bar 1892 ironically declaring that the till is strictly cashless and card-only. Right then. Teething problems, hopefully.
Overall, it wasn’t the most entertaining game I’ve watched, but the 90 minutes didn’t drag. It was nice to see the youngsters have a run-out, as we do suddenly seem to have some talented prospects emerging from the academy.
Speaking of youngsters, there were a lot of families in the stands, with children who enjoyed waving the flags double their size and watching the game with wonder. I was impressed at their concentration, actually. When I was their age, I would tap out after ten minutes and play colouring-in games on my dad’s phone. When was the last time I did that? Oh yeah, it was the last time we played Fiorentina!
See you at Villa! HWTL
Grace Laidler @gracewillhuntin