This has been a horrible week if I’m honest. I just want it to be Saturday. I just want Stoke v Sunderland done with and out the way. I need to know where we stand on it all. I can’t get the scenario out of my head where Sunderland and Norwich lose both of their next two games and we win our next two. If that happens (and we win by a couple and they lose by a couple each time) then we’d need a point from our final game, presuming Norwich and Sunderland won both of their games in hand against Watford and Everton at home respectively, which is a stretch itself. Starting to believe? I can think of little else. Little things are starting to happen. Spurs out of the title race. Ali banned for three. Little bits of luck. Sunderland played an Arsenal side who most sides would have beaten convincingly. It was two points dropped. They draw to many games. Norwich look done for. Painfully short on quality.
We aren’t short on quality. We’re lacking in areas and depth but most of the squad in back fit, but there are options on the bench. Goufrann & Riviere not in the match day squad. This side has made its own luck recently. The harder you work the luckier you get. That’s why until March this year, the luck went every other teams way. The downpour at SJP against Vile which aided them, not us. The offside flag at Man City away which stopped us going two up on the half hour. Colo’s red card. Everton at SJP. All signs of a side just destined to be relegated. Things are changing. The tide is turning. Yes Aguero’s goal at our place was another farce but they didn’t get the pen. We never gave up at Anfield against a far superior team playing with more confidence than they have since 2014 – and we got the bits of luck, through our hard work, to take something away from that game.
We need more of the same. Palace have quality, but also flaws. They haven’t won just once in almost 5 months for nothing. I’m still nervous. Two pacy, powerful wingers against our faux-fullbacks. Perez nowhere in the last two games. Townsend defensively negligent at times. The flip side is two lads who gave everything they had at full back. Everything. You can tell as a fan when a player gives you everything. No celebrations from Vurnon Anita or Paul Dummet at Anfield. Just exhaustion. Teams continue to target them. Teams continue to come away with nothing from these two lads.
Then there’s Townsend going forwards. I’ll be honest and some mags do my head in. No one specific. Poeople saying that Townsend was a ‘waste of money’ or ‘overpriced’. He’s another lad the minority were and are desperate to crucify. I have no idea why as he’s the real deal. Imagine him with a preseason under him. 10 starts in a row. He plays a full season in the Premier League he gets 10 goals easy and 10 assists. At least. When is the last time we had a winger with that type of output. Robert? So lay off him, next time he runs into no man’s land. You were wrong about him. That should be a good thing.
Another player worthy of recognition is Papisse Cisse. Still, sections of our support chanted ‘Mitro’ just after the half hour when he lost control of the ball at Anfield. I couldn’t have less time for these people. More interested in their own distorted views and chances to sing songs than support the players on the pitch. Rafa rates Cisse in this side and in this role. If you disagree with him playing, fine, but you’re wrong. Mitrovic lacks the maturity and the mobility to lead the line for United. I really like him, and he could be a huge player for us. I much prefer him from the bench. If you’re a centre back playing in a tight game, the last thing you want to see is Mitro bounding off the bench after 70 minutes. Cisse is everything his colleagues should have been all season. He never stands still. Always pressing, always running. He didn’t sign up for this, but he’s happy playing his role for the team. He deserves more than he’s getting from this fan base. Rafa knows best.
This Saturday is about keeping Benitez. It’s about support (again) and about winning. I could write about cup finals and the national media belittling us but I won’t go into detail. The popularity of Pardew and the unpopularity of Benitez across the nation’s pundits and football writers tells you all you need to know about these people. They’re less relevant than they think they are. If others want to constantly talk about Pardew, his record at United and ‘being careful what you wish for’ then let them keep talking, writing and thinking about United – the club they insist is so small that it dominates conversations between the people who say we matter the least.
It pains some mags admit it, but Alan Pardew did a great job at Newcastle United from 2010 – summer 2012. His record speaks for his self. We weren’t lucky in this period. We were a good side. In small spells we were a great side. But mostly a good side capable of spectacular implosions. The only good Newcastle United side in the past decade. Fair play to him. He was good for us until he became very bad, very quickly. The period 2012 – 2015 has been spoken about enough by mags. Let’s say it’s a good thing he left, and what he does from here on in is nothing to do with us.
Pardew for better or (much) worse has dominated the recent history of Newcastle United. It’s not a history I’d like to see repeated. He plays no part in our future, which is all I’m interested in. If you’re going to pay him any kind of reception, try and remember the good times and not the bad. Saturday should be about positivity, not wasting breath booing a man with no ties or connection to the football club. I appreciate Europe, 11-12 and a few choice highs. I’ll give him a clap, and forget about him. No songs. Save them for the people that count.
Perez can’t start for me. I appreciate his graft but the last two he’s been nowhere. Winjladum did all his good work for United on the left wing, at home. It can happen again. Otherwise the team picks itself.
Palace are eminently beatable. Yohan Cabaye returns to St James’ Park for the first time. How is that Champions League treating you Yohan?
All we can do is win. Win well and goal difference could start to swing in our favour. Anything else makes survival unlikely, so let’s just win the game and go from there.
Rafa Benitez’s Black and White Army.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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