Two games in the last week just ended and one point from a possible six as we battle to get over the line of Champions League qualification. Of course it doesn’t tell the whole tale and picking out a couple of games from a whole season isn’t right of course but I’d like to make a few points from Arsenal at home and Leeds away.
Firstly, so far I’m not seeing how playing Isak and Wilson together is working. We haven’t scored a goal from open play over those games and for me neither man is replicating their form when they were being played on a rotational basis.
With goals from open play not happening in the last couple of games you’d hope our corners and set-pieces would be more potent but they have been disappointing to put it mildly. Yes, my chin hit my chest when Trippier fired that free-kick into the Leeds wall in the last few minutes on Saturday lunchtime. We really needed something more then but we did from the multiple corners we had at Elland Road that come to nought.
We are unquestionably missing the energy, work-rate and athleticism of Longstaff in the middle of the park. Bruno is being scrutinised in a way he hasn’t since his arrival but for me that’s unfair. He’s by far our best midfielder but I’d ask questions of Willock and Joelinton over the last couple of matches who haven’t reached the standards they have set this season.
Should we mention that at 1-2 up at Leeds, the substitutions upset the balance of the side and the equaliser came because we were unable to manage the game correctly, persisted in losing possession and provided an opportunity to a side who were there for the taking?
I may be being horribly unfair. We were unlucky on two counts namely travelling to Elland Road at a time when whatever Allardyce has (and let’s not be silly, he does have something, though it’s not anything we want) was at its most potent following his depressing arrival. A fortnight earlier and we’d have taken a demoralised Leeds to the cleaners. After we conceded the second in West Yorkshire I decided not to bother putting the lottery on. For the second game in succession we conceded a deflected goal. That was a sickener.
Anyway, as many have commented, all of this remains in our hands but if we don’t beat Brighton this Thursday then things will get away from us. Personally I’m not in the queue to comfort myself with mealy mouthed stuff about how we’re better off than we thought we would be and all of that blather. We are close to achieving something special and if we don’t I’ll be as disappointed, possibly moreso when we lost the League Cup Final back in February.
There are some who reference the shibboleth about not demanding a team that wins, only one that tries. I’ve never subscribed to that point of view and want Newcastle United to win, win, win, win, win! It’s a loser’s attitude and I want Newcastle United fumigated of such defeatism.
The “taking part” baloney can be used as warm words to tearful 8-year olds with second best rosettes on school sports days. It doesn’t apply to a Newcastle United which if it is to be truly re-born has to win these kinds of challenges.
Let’s get up for Brighton this Thursday. Nothing but a win, however it is achieved, will suffice.
I went off on one last week about VAR and I’m going to return to that subject in specific reference to the Leeds game just gone.
Can anyone tell me after the Ref had given us the first penalty why he needed to check the decision via VAR he’d given following the foul on Isak? Why? I don’t think you’ll see a more clear-cut penalty. Was it really so different to Joelinton’s clumsy challenge for the Leeds’ pen which didn’t need a check?
Similarly, did the Ref really need the assistance of VAR to award our second penalty? It was laughable that it needed to be checked.
Am I pushing this too hard to ask why there was no VAR for the clear push into Wilson’s back for a possible spot-kick? Or would awarding a third penalty go against some crazy rule the PL now has in connection to Newcastle United?
I’ll say one last thing about the gash refereeing on Saturday. It was absolutely correct the Ref gave Bruno a yellow card for what is euphemistically referred to as simulation. We all hate this stuff so if that represented officials cracking down on it then he has my vote.
But we know it isn’t and we all know officiating in this area is so random to defy to logic. Had the Ref from the Arsenal game officiated in the same way he’d have repetitive strain injury getting his card out of his top pocket and returning it to deal with what is described as “gamesmanship” when applied to the London club but “dark arts” in reference to Newcastle United.
And now the media … that overinflated, largely, self-regarding, puffed-up unintelligent blob of stuff and nonsense that despite best intentions can boil our piss too regularly.
I’ll take the Arsenal game first. I’m not whingeing about this but Arsenal deployed a way of playing they haven’t all season when they came to SJP. They play-acted, wasted time, dived, and all the rest of it all game. I don’t blame them. They were deluding themselves they have a chance of winning the PL title so can be expected to scratch and claw when the prize is so great.
But some reportage I saw in The Times laughably blamed Newcastle United for Arsenal’s behaviour and elevated The Gunners’ performance beyond credulity for anyone who actually watched the game from start to finish. It was laughable and failed to recognise the game was a tight one where Arsenal (admittedly slightly the superior side) benefitted from the now customary VAR bollocks for our penalty and some narrow misses from United.
Then we move onto Leeds and the complete idiot who confronted Eddie Howe on the touch-line and who has been rightly banned from attending Leeds games for life. In response to the incident, Howe in his usual measured way, suggested security arrangements be reviewed and expressed the entirely reasonable view that such behaviour is unacceptable.
In response to that via social media, Max Rushden of The Guardian framed Howe’s words as “moralising” and given Newcastle United’s Saudi ownership suggested it was not his place to do so. Where do you even start with this crass nonsense?
Not that this surprises me in the slightest. There is a caucus of football journalists whose distaste for Newcastle United’s ownership (a legitimate opinion to hold) has obscured their view of football (as an actual game) when it comes to our club.
I’ll not quickly forget Delaney, Panja et al going after Howe at a post-match press conference after the Chelsea game last season and turning on those football writers who cover United for not joining the attack. I raise that to pin-point the irrational, personalised nature of their reporting when it comes to Newcastle United.
The opinion some of those who cover the game have of themselves and their own moral standing has been a subject this fanzine has returned to on several occasions but it really is something else when Rushden takes the position that a man concerned for his own safety and that of his colleagues is falsely characterised as “moralising”.
I mean, howay, how separated from decency have you become to think in that way shortly after a loony has just pushed himself in front of a football coach doing his job?
Thankfully, the incident wasn’t as serious as it might have been but it did draw the curtain back on a certain mind-set within the football media.
Not that the idiot at Elland Road represents football or Leeds fans. What was life-affirming was the joint tribute in song to the late, great, much loved and respected Gary Speed who served Leeds United and Newcastle United with distinction.
That says everything about the supporters of two great clubs who clearly understand what really matters in life and makes me proud to be amongst their number. If it provides a scintilla of comfort to Gary Speed’s family and friends then it is worth repeating.
But Thursday night at SJP is all that matters now. We can do it. We believe.
Brighton is an excellent side and indeed a club who are often exemplary in multiple ways. We have seen from their win at Arsenal we will have our work cut out to beat them but defeat them we must.
Eddie and the lads will need every one of us who clicks through the turnstiles to turn our ancestral home into a bear-pit. We have been told numerous times by directors, officials, the manager, players and whoever else how much our support counts and can lift the team.
We understand what’s required of us this Thursday evening. I’ve little doubt Wor Flags will create their customary spectacular display as the teams take to the pitch. But that’s just setting the scene and after that the Gallowgate air must be filled with our support.
Thursday and every game we play now in these last three matches is absolutely huge.
Unity Is Strength – let’s do it together – in the stands, in the dugout and out on the pitch.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892