What did we learn yesterday? That Newcastle are pretty good? That Crystal Palace aren’t? SCOTT ROBSON gets into the detail…
(1) We can always rely on Jacob Murphy.
There have been quite a few sentences lately starting with the term “no one epitomises Eddie Howe and Newcastle more than…” before adding the latest player to play perfectly after being either shunned or a laughing stock three years ago. Jacob Murphy though surely tops anyone in this regard. Think of him hitting the post continually from open goals. Think of that attempted chip at Watford in injury time. Now, think of the player we had on our hands yesterday. Howe knows exactly when to use him of course, but Murphy, when called upon this calendar year, has been absolutely electric. The sight of him ignoring Trippier (six assists in four games, remember) overlapping for the second goal and deciding to whip in a lethal cross for Gordon himself summed up his performance for me. The confidence must be running through his veins. That right hand side was poetry in motion. Mitchell must have been done in after twenty minutes. Murphy knows he isn’t playing every game but when he does play he gives us something different. Trippier obviously likes him in front of him as well which helps.
(2) Just when Palace thought they had us where they wanted us, we were at our most lethal.
Make no mistake, Newcastle were incredible in that first half and the way we swarmed at them from the kick off was reminiscent of us against Southampton in the League Cup Semi and Tottenham and Manchester United last season but a big take from me on Saturday was how deadly we are when the other team seem to think they hold all the aces. Numerous times we robbed Palace deep in our defensive areas and seconds later we were either scoring or going very close. The fourth goal saw around twelve seconds between Pope passing to Trippier and then Wilson scoring and it was even less just before when defending a Palace corner we roared upfield and Ward cleared a certain goal. Much was made about Palace’s defensive qualities and with four clean sheets, they are no mugs, but they are just that: defensive. A good coach can do his homework and reel them in. Luckily we have a fantastic coach and I’m assuming the teams that couldn’t work this out, don’t. Hello Manchester United.
(3) Substitute (my coke for gin).
Much was made on Saturday about us being four up and then bringing on four players including one of the best in Europe in the 67th minute. Every club and management team involved in Europe dreams about that scenario: being able to rest key players for a midweek Champions League game safe in the knowledge the game was won. Manchester City are masters at it. Also I’ve heard claims comparing how weak our bench used to be then and now. But actually it wasn’t. Take the Palace game for Graeme Jones’ first game as caretaker boss a few years ago. Our bench had Schar, Murphy, Willock, Almiron and Joelinton on that day (OK, it also had Hendrick and Gayle but it just proves that the previous regime was useless with the squad they had at their disposal…). The transformation in our squad has been remarkable and though the money has helped put cherries on top, the hard work by the players still around since those dark days has saved a hell of a lot more than we’ve spent. Every team in the division, including Palace, could have bought all the players in our starting eleven today.
(4) We learned that Palace have flags as well.
My response to the flag that the Palace fans put up today is please, please don’t bite. The Eagles supporters seem hellbent on creating a rivalry and portray themselves as holier than thou. Neither could be further from the truth. The sentiment I agree with, I don’t particularly like what our owners do in the dark arts of world geopolitical issues either, but I certainly don’t need a lecture from Crystal Palace fans about supporting my own team. Please don’t spend the weekend on social media arguing against this, just take stuff like this on the chin. Don’t put up Saudi flags when you get back from the pub. After all, it’s only going to get worse. Dortmund fans will fill the away end with these sorts of banners on Wednesday and in Germany and the more successful we get, the more we will get it with both barrels. Don’t fuel the fire! Tonali’s reception today was also mentioned in dispatches. What should we do? Boo a young footballer because of an addiction knowing that he’s in a new country and a new club? Not the way it works up here, I’m afraid.
(5) RIP Bobby Charlton.
Half time brought the sad news that one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game had died. A magnificent footballer but whose time nearly came earlier than he thought. Any kid of the nineties would remember the Bobby Charlton soccer schools and the great man used to get all the kids to practice shooting by saying “aim for my face”. Most kids used to get excited and hit his ankles rather than his dial, but one unassuming kid from our school who always kept himself to himself hit a shot that Roberto Carlos would have been impressed with and almost took his face off. Despite the European Cups and hometown hero worship, it was that lad I thought of today. Just how Bobby would have liked it. RIP.