STEPHEN ORD, YOUSEF HATEM, MATTHEW PHILPOTTS and SAM DALLING were all in the stands at Wembley, and all – unsurprisingly – have perspectives on yesterday’s defeat.  Here are your four TF match reports.


As I arrived back in Newcastle in the early hours of the morning, it was dark, cold and raining. It was a pretty accurate reflection of my own mood. For about twenty minutes we were in a game in a Cup Final. Except: were we? This was supposed to be a match report, but two goals in quick succession meant that we were not only on the back foot but apparently unable to compete.

I don’t think that any of the players didn’t try but this squad has clearly hit a wall. Be that through energy levels, be it through motivation, talent or maybe our rigidity in repeating what we’ve done all season, the club has hit a huge wall. One ball across the box from Longstaff was probably our best chance, that or a shot from Jacob Murphy. Neither will live long in the memory. James Perch was about twelve rows back from us – a reminder that he was a cult hero for a period, but also that this squad has come on leaps and bounds … and yet it hasn’t.

The club has moved forward, but then it hasn’t. The future might be bright but we need some proven winners in the side who can carry the others. Casemiro ran this game and any chance of us being able to get back into it was lost the moment that the cut-price Chris Wood, Wout Weghorst, found Rashford for the second.

I’m not going to get into the ticket situation other than to say there were a lot of people around me who were either new to Newcastle games or potentially here for a day out. One Man U fan was thrown out our end after celebrating their first goal.  In the end we came with more hope but trudged back like 98 and 99, well beaten and feeling worse that we didn’t actually give them much of a game.

Man City away next … sigh!

STEPHEN ORD (@smord84)

There was always a likelihood that Newcastle United would be the bridesmaid – and, until 4:30 yesterday, we had played that role to perfection, with our cans, saxophones, flags, and sense of occasion, a late winter wedding party stretching from Euston Road to Waterloo Bridge.  Most bridesmaids would, however, at least have stuck around for the formalities.  We did not.

This was a stinker of a performance.  Yes, we went into the match as underdogs against an expensively-assembled opposing side.  And yes, if you’d said – even a year ago – that Newcastle United would be at Wembley in 2023, the men in white coats would not have been far behind.  It remains true that, on any reasonable analysis, we are ahead of schedule.  It’s possible to acknowledge the veracity of those points, while still concluding that we were dreadful yesterday.

Our supposed “top” players were poor.  Wilson might as well not have been there.  Trippier, who has been poor since the win over Chelsea, failed to inspire – his set-piece deliveries, in particular, were abysmal.  Botman’s own goal, the result of not getting tight enough to Rashford in the first place, capped an unsteady display.  Bruno was energetic, but in truth played the match as if on a personal crusade, a playground footballer where a metronome should have been.  We needed finesse, control and the setting of tempo: we got a juiced-up Scott Parker.  In Bruno’s defence, he needed to over-compensate for a very subdued Joelinton: a self-inflicted hardship due to his brain-dead yellow card.  These are apparently our best players.  Never mind the others – it was hard to picture them lifting a trophy, anyway.  Nor did we lose because, where Man U could bring on over £200m of talent from the bench, we brought on Murphy, Ritchie and Anderson.  We lost because, with silverware on the line, on this stage, our big players looked frighteningly small.  They huffed, and intermittently puffed, but that was all.  Not one of them was a regular starter for their national team in Qatar.  Perhaps Van Gaal, Tite and Southgate were right after all.  Who, watching yesterday, would select Bruno ahead of the imperious Casemiro, or Trippier ahead of a rejuvenated Luke Shaw?

It’s true that Newcastle United are on the up, and that there are worse things than being a bridesmaid, after a quarter of a century without so much as a wedding invitation.  None of that made yesterday any more bearable to watch, nor should it disguise just how badly we played.  We saved our worst performance of the season – by some distance – for our biggest game.  That is not acceptable, for any team at any level.

YOUSEF HATEM (@yousef_1892)

Death, taxes, the absence of Wearside residents in northern Italy, and supine 0-2 Wembley surrenders. In our transformed footballing world of the last 12 months, maybe it’s reassuring that there are at least some things that are still certain.

We weren’t terrible. We didn’t get outclassed. We weren’t humiliated. But we could still have been playing now and not threatened to get on the scoresheet. When, with five minutes to go, the sea of black and white in the west end of Wembley picked up their flags again, there was pride and plenty of emotion from my vantage point in the (very) posh seats on halfway. But having sold a kidney for the privilege of watching us win our first trophy in my fifty years of human existence, in the end there was just emptiness and gut-wretching inevitability. Contrary to our new-found motto, it seems we weren’t there to compete after all.

For 24 hours, everywhere you turned in London there was black and white. Six deep outside every pub informing the locals that we most definitely had Bruno in the middle. In the “neutral” Club Wembley seats it was the same story, black and white being worn with varying degrees of surreptitiousness. Of red shirts there was not a single sign. Sadly that wasn’t the case on the Tube back into town as they donned their pristine shiny new scarves. I wouldn’t have minded, but they could at least have looked happy to have won what we (still) crave with every fibre.

In truth, this came a year too early. When we’re bringing on Jacob Murphy and they’re able to call on Jadon Sancho, the gulf in class is laid bare. We needed everything to go our way; instead we conceded two poor goals from what felt like their only two attempts in the first half. And that – sadly, depressingly, all too predictably – was that.


Emotionally discombobulating. Disappointment; anger; pride; gratitude; envy; and myriad others.

And that folks, is football.

Trafalgar Square as the sun clocked off was a picture. A bloomin’ brilliant black and white ocean, the odd idiot actually sodden and frozen, but largely people just soaking it in. One of those thump your pal in sheer disbelief. A privilege to witness. Friends re-UNITED. It will hopefully be the first of many welcome takeovers, but it was still the first.

And that folks, is football.

Wembley Park station. Tap out and the eyes lift. Suddenly they glisten. Wow. There they are, those arches, painted with metaphorical gold. This time ‘pal’ gets a dead arm. What’s that in my eye? Fuck me I can’t believe it.

And that folks, is football.

The concourses are bustling, albeit subdued. Where’s the noise, where are the songs? It should be bouncing. But for whatever reason it’s not. Some went too hard too early and are paying for it. Others, most in fact, are in mental agony. Now it’s real, now stomachs are churning, now the adrenaline is debilitating. Please let it be our day. Please. I’d do anything.

And that folks, is football.

Half time arrives. Two to the bad. Except United aren’t two to the bad in performance. A Rizla paper here, and a fucking deflection there.  United get going, yet never quite get going. There is a quality gap, a depth apparent. We desperately try to suck them towards us but still it’s disjointed, both on the pitch and in the seats.  The reds stand taller, their arm span greater. We are huffing, puffing, trying to throw punches. But we don’t have the reach. Barely a glancing blow lands, a sticking plaster required at best, certainly no stitches.  ETH controls it superbly. They know our strengths and know there aren’t enough of them to be troubled by.  Still, get one and they might panic. But that rarely looks likely. Blind alleys everywhere, nowhere to turn. No hiding but no leading either.  We are here to compete, not make up the numbers. Effort was there but it’s not happening. It hasn’t happened since Boxing Day.

And that folks, is football.

SAM DALLING (@SamJDalling)