A year, they say, is a long time in football. Leicester are testament to that. What a year they’ve had. What a story. The antidote to Lee Charnley and the other Premier League MD’s who think they ‘know their place’. Leicester’s side is made up of practically the same eleven that were bottom this time last year. There should be hope that even the eleven playing for Newcastle United, could be competing at the right end of the table. A year has also been a long time for Newcastle United. Honestly it has felt like 10. I’m 27 and while I haven’t experienced the really bad days – this has been my worst year supporting Newcastle United and I know countless others who feel the same. Even the relegation year of 2009 we had the post September resurgence and saw a team playing in front of good crowds, in a good atmosphere (due to Level 7) racking up win after win. I looked forward to going to the match when United were in England’s second tier. Not to say that I want us to return there.
To date, United have won just seven games this calendar year. Pathetic. The people running the club should feel humiliated, but I’d wager they don’t. Even if we win these two, very winnable games, United would end 2015 with 9 wins in the year from 38 games. Form that sends you down with the mackems/Vile. Why am I going on about the calendar year and 12 months as a United fan? It’s because Everton at home, a watershed moment for Newcastle United, was almost a year ago to the day in 2014. It was Alan Pardew’s last game as Newcastle United manager and we found our self-10th in the table. Fast forward a year and we’re 17th. That game against Everton is little remembered but it was a brilliant game. Unlike so many of Pardew’s previous 80 or so home games as United manager, it was fun. Pardew has already told the story of how he told the players of the interest from Crystal Palace and this would likely be his last game as manager. The game was end to end and a fantastic spectacle – with United winning 3 2, dominating the game, hitting the post twice and missing a host of other chances. Everton were incredibly lucky to walk away with a 3 2 defeat. Maybe it was the manager not caring whether he won or lost. Maybe the players had one final go for the departing gaffer (unlikely), but that game was a glimpse into what Newcastle United could and should be. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe it was one game and Everton were that bad that anyone, even Vile, could have torn them apart that day. But how many terrible, disgraceful outfits have turned up at SJP to see us labour to the win, or worse.
Burnley turned up at SJP two days later, and United were awful as the Lancashire side turned up and should have won. I
noted on the podcast I host that the players seemed to have no idea what they were doing, and Carver was as clueless as I’d ever seen a manager. I picked up stick on social media for saying the match and performance were a farce and Carver was a dangerous candidate. Time proved those of us that weren’t blinded by anti-Pardew delusions that John Carver was not an upgrade on the manager. Not that it matters – I’m wrong on almost everything else I predict with United (apart from the Vile game, which I correctly predicted as a 1 1 draw). Back to Everton and Pardew and that performance and game was probably the most enjoyable game in over the year. No threat of relegation, stress free. I miss those days. That doesn’t exonerate Alan Pardew – that a run of the mill, enjoyable victory with a bit of attacking football is etched into my memory as the last decent day I had at St James’ is testament to the garbage he served up in the last years of his reign.
I can’t stress how bad 2015 has been. Many people who I respect on Newcastle United forgive John Carver. Feel he was a pawn in a much bigger game. He is the man who nearly made me give up going to the match, stop recording a podcast and stop writing for true faith. It wasn’t that we were shit, we are all used to that, it was that we were shit and John Carver was still desperate to land the job full time. He’d have happily managed in the Championship, or League One with the club (in my opinion) as long as he was in the job. Having to listen to him talk about wrestling, blame the players, Sir Bobby Robson etc and then turn up and be expected to support the team when he clearly had no idea what he was doing, yet still talk about getting the job, made me almost walk away for the first time ever. I’ll always hold that over him and Charnley. So Everton at home represents a nice line in the sand, 363 days on. One year on and we’re worse than Pardew’s flawed, average side. Much worse. That should make us all angry. In that time we’ve lost our best left back, who plays for the best team in Italy. We’ve lost Jonas, the only player who tried every game and when final played in his proper position by Carver on the last day of last season, was excellent. We’ve added Winjladum and Mbemba to the first team. That’s it. From a team that was only kept up by Sam Allardyce.
Here we are though, almost a year to the day. Everton again. They haven’t changed. Nice football. Terrible defending and below par results. Everton dominate games and then they don’t. I’ve watched them twice in recent weeks. At home to Palace and away to Norwich. They should have been three nil up in both games. They weren’t and ended up clinging on for draws. When it happens as often as it does, it’s not bad luck, much like the injury list at Newcastle United. I honestly don’t know how Lee Charnley kept his job after the capitulation of his team’s performance in 2015 based on his decision to appoint John Carver. Everton though, haven’t really improved despite the wealth of resources at Martinez’s disposal. This time last year it was the Europa League which was to blame for their poor league form. This year Martinez is more honest and acknowledges the bad defending and mentality.
Things aren’t actually that bad at Everton. The defeat at home to Leicester (who are just better than them, they’re better than every team right now) was their first in 8 games. Everton are in a League Cup semi-final. They draw too many games. They’ve drawn 8 – only Spurs have drawn as many. The frustrating thing for Everton fans is that most of those draws (the same as Spurs) should have been wins. Everton have only lost 4 times this season. Only Leicester, Spurs and Arsenal have lost less. Yet Everton are tenth and United would have gone just four points behind them if Siem De Jong had done his job. Romelu Lukaku has scored in his last seven games and he loves playing against United and Colocinni. Rudi Guestede he is not, yet the Vile sub caused chaos in our back four. Everton have four consecutive games at Goodison after this game with Stoke, Spurs, City (in the cup semi) and a League two team to follow. What bearing that has on them I have no idea. Realistically Everton could still have a great season. Their side is full of good footballers. Lukaku, Stones, Delafeu are probably worth £80 million between them. United are allegedly after £12 million for our best player, Sissoko.
United’s draw with the worst team in the league was infuriating on so many levels. I was furious after the game. That was before I heard McCLaren’s predictable comments about 7 points in 9 being decent. How decent is 17 points in 17 McClaren? Fraud. The man is a fraud. He started off saying the right things. He’s now no better than Pardew or Carver. He is a fraud. We could have played 2 up front against a terrible Villa team. He didn’t. Villa were the better team in the second half. I don’t think Villa have been the better team for 10 minutes in any game this season. After the year we’ve had, the ‘performances’ McClaren’s side have put in against Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Sheff Wed – for McClaren to proclaim Saturday as a positive result and performance proves he doesn’t ‘get’ us – or any football fans. Not good enough.
Their long balls up to the big man caused chaos in the back 4. Pathetic. Paul Dummet (who has his own small army of Corbyn/SNP like twitter army who rage at any suggestion he shouldn’t be in the team) is not good enough to play left back in the Premier League when being OK defensively isn’t enough. We needed him to get forward more than he did. He needs to be an attacking threat against the poorer sides in the league. The ridiculous Sunday league tackles evident against Mahrez and against Vile totally negate him as he picks up the early booking and then can’t put in a tackle for the rest of the game. What is he doing? Even more frustrating than his limitations as an attacking force at left back (which means Winjaldum is annoynmous unitl he’s moved inside and Thauvin is brought on) is that he is simply our best aerial centre half. I wanted to cry on Saturday watching Colo and Mbemba flounder time and time again against the long balls.
Why McClaren didn’t just move Mebema to left back or right back and let Dummet, who has an excellent leap and is really good in the air, man mark Guestede (I think I’ve spelt his name three different times in this piece) – only him and his crack coaching team know. It depresses me writing this, but I think that me, and the others around me in the Corner seem to know more than McClaren about how bad this team is at certain aspects of the game. It’s such a cliché and laughed at by most, as football fans always know more than their manger, but our two centre halves just took to allowing Guested to bringing the ball down on his chest unchallenged. It doesn’t happen in the Conference for fuck sake.
So that brings me on to £28 million goal machine Romalu Lukaku. He will have a field day. He always does against us.
He’s in the form of us like. The only saving grace is that Everton don’t play many long balls. They should. If Martinez has anything about him he’ll play lofted passes into Lukaku’s chest in the knowledge he will be able to bring the ball down unchallenged and bring their skilful midfielders into play. Maybe McClaren will see sense and Dummet will get the nod at Centre Baack, or he’s play a back three to negate the threat of the big man with Janmaat and Mbabu given license to attack and therefore push Everton’s attacking players back – but he won’t.
And for that reason I don’t see how United can win this game. Everton have shot themselves in the foot so many times, they’re bound to click at some point and dish out a hiding.
Prediction: NUFC 1-4 Everton. Merry Christmas.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892