I really didn’t think the win over Crystal Palace would be so emphatic and comprehensive. I imagined we’d be in for a tough afternoon and although I guessed we’d win, I imagined we’d do so by a 1-0 or similar margin. We were still without Botman and we understand why Tonali did not start. Harvey Barnes is out long-term and Joelinton was only returned after a lay-off with Almiron rested perhaps on account of having flown half way around the world in the days preceding the fixture.
As it turned out, Palace returned to South London relieved to have gotten away with a 4-0 defeat when United could have scored several more. We pulverised them. Let’s remember Palace isn’t a poor side and have every chance of finishing in the top ten this season. It is only weeks since the defeated Man U at Old Trafford. They are solid defensively as their record demonstrates that this season. They aren’t poor though we made them look like they are.
There were excellent performances all over the park but it would be remiss not to point out the excellence of Kieran Trippier who I can say unequivocally is the best full-back Newcastle United has had in the 50+ years I’ve been clicking through the turnstiles. That’s not to denigrate some fantastic servants of the club but Trippier is miles ahead of everyone that’s played in his position. No-one gets near him. He is one of the best full-backs to have played in this country in those five decades too.
It’s not just that Trippier has a sublime ability himself but his maturity, competitiveness, energy, intelligence and leadership distinguish him as one of the best signings Newcastle United has ever made. The lad is a leader for our club and I’m far from the only one who purrs watching him patrol our right side and play such a pivotal role in our club’s progress. I unashamedly adore him and I’m really old enough to know better. I’d love to see him hold a trophy aloft for Newcastle United – for both him and us.
Saturday’s win took us up to 5th for a day until Villa defeated West Ham but we are back into the groove following the International break. I believe we will be in the top 5 when the Champions League Group Fixtures have completed and we are on course to do that. I’m not exactly being bold in that prediction given we’re now up to 6th. But we do need to continue to win games and especially those we’re expected to collect 3 points.
This coming Saturday away to Wolves is a test because O’Neill has his team playing well and Molineux isn’t a place we routinely visit and win. But really, if we harbour thoughts of a return to elite European competition (and we do) then we do have to go to Wolves and win.
Before then of course we have the small matter of Borrussia Dortmund at St James’ Park this Wednesday. It’s a fixture that naturally excites supporters but on the back of that phenomenal night v PSG then the level of anticipation ratchets up still further.
I have seen via social media the graft the people at Wor Flags are putting into the displays for the Champions League games and I hope we all agree they are staggering and way beyond anything any other fan-led group is delivering in this country on such a consistent basis. The displays don’t pay for themselves and they belong to all of us – I’d encourage everyone to donate what they can and that’s not just those of us lucky enough to be inside SJP for the games but those currently on the outside or who cannot make games for any reason – contributing to the Wor Flags funds makes you an active participant in what’s going on in the stands – contribute what you can here
Although I’d be happily proven wrong, I really do think Dortmund will provide a sterner test than PSG did at SJP. Borrussia were so close to pipping Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title last season (though they have lost several prominent players from that side) and having seen how the great French side were blown away, I imagine the German outfit will set up differently. For all of that however, I still make us favourites to win the game (incidentally, the bookies had us favourites to beat PSG which surprised me when I was told pre-KO).
We have so much power, confidence and talent we’ll prove too much for this great German club on Wednesday. The lads on the park will need us however and if we can recreate the atmosphere the PSG game was played in then we can lift our team and onto the level we need to be at. However the game is panning out Eddie Howe’s Mags needs everyone one of us in the stands.
How great it is to have these massive games to look forward to, to relish and store in our B&W memory banks.
As expected Sandro Tonali felt the love of St James’ Park on Saturday. We are awaiting news on what seems the inevitable ban he will receive into allegations of illegal betting in Italy but the player should know where his friends are at what is an extremely difficult time for him and his family.
The discussion around Tonali’s likely ban will generate a lot of words but at this point in time we don’t know the detail so it’s probably for the best we wait until all of that is known. Whether Sandro is available on Wednesday is unknown but whatever the case we’re all in his corner. This is who we are.
On a practical level it does mean United is likely to be without him for the rest of the season and with the injury to Harvey Barnes keeping him out longer term, the transfer business completed in the summer looks a bit of a car crash at the moment.
Both players will be huge assets in the longer term but in the muck and bullets of fixtures in the short term then both losses weaken us. That’s straightforwardly undeniable. How this shapes the club’s transfer business in January remains to be seen. We’ve seen names thrown about which might be wild speculation (e.g. Neves, Phillips) or could be accurate. We don’t know. I do think we’ll need something.
More positively we will have Willock and Botman coming back with Joelinton getting virtually a full game under his belt on Saturday with Lascelles, Murphy and Almiron transforming themselves into huge assets when only a short time ago many Mags considered them ready for the off.
There was more news last week of new sponsorship at the club with Saudia Airlines revealed as the club’s airline sponsor. I’ll confess I find all of this stuff a bit shite if I’m honest though I realise it has to be done to create revenue for the club to keep investing and it’s an area that completely disintegrated when Ashley was there and severely reduced our competiveness. That’s why Mags can be forgive the wry smiles when the lemon sucking fraternity point to PIF as a shareholder in Saudia Airlines as some kind of evidence of wrong-doing, when no-one outside our support gave a toss at SJP used as a free billboard for Ashley’s businesses or have the same outrage for Leicester (King Power) and others. Let’s not even go there with Chelsea, Everton and Man City of course.
There will be more of this to come and it is reassuring to see more money coming into United that will hopefully find its way into investment into the squad.
Here we are though, wishing the hours away until we’re back in the stands of St James’ Park and roaring on Eddie’s Mags in what promises to be another memorable night in NE1.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892