New Beginnings??

Say it quietly, whisper it even, but Newcastle United just won a game of football. And they deserved it.

Against an Everton team hoping to challenge for a top four finish, Newcastle harried, they pressed, they worked, they created. It was like watching a different team. Every single player raised his game today. And in doing so, set a new benchmark for the rest of the season. *This* is what this team is capable of. It doesn’t have to be perfect but playing that way will yield more success than failure.

It’s impossible not to draw a line between this performance, this setup, and Graeme Jones’ arrival given what we’ve seen over the past 18 months; and, if this is what we can now expect from Newcastle United as a result of that appointment, then he might be the most important signing made this January at any Premier League club.

Rob McGregor

Well, that was unexpected!!!

Where did that come from??? A game that myself and many other like-minded Mags went into expecting the worst turned out to be our best performance of the season. Having seen the line-up there was a lot of head scratching – Shelvey and Hendrick starting again? Was it a 5 at the back? Was it a 4? No start for ASM?

Within the first 5 minutes we had our answer as Hayden slipped back into his favoured position protecting the back four – and we looked all the better for it.

I’ve moaned about the team’s body language for the past few games…not today. To a man we looked up for it from minute one, and the press that has so often been left to Callum Wilson became a team effort as we continually pressed Everton as they tried to play out from the back – this was brilliantly exemplified when Hayden (our defensive midfielder) won the ball on the edge of the Everton area before being crowded out as he tried to pull the trigger. Much, much better.

Bruce and his media pals try to tell us that we expect too much? Bollocks man!

THIS, today, is what we expect.

A group of players that look like they have a cohesive plan that has been pulled together on the training pitch. A group of players that then go and put said plan into practice on a Saturday afternoon (or whenever Sky / BT tell us to play)

Wilson will take most of the plaudits – and deservedly so, he was immense – but the greatest pleasure I took from today was seeing the recently much maligned Jamal Lewis showing everyone that there is a player in there after all. The lad has had his confidence destroyed in recent weeks, but he and Manquillo were both outstanding today.

So back to my original question: Where did that come from???

A team that looked shorn of confidence, unable to string 5 passes together and devoid of any sort of plan suddenly changed into a team that looked hungry, wanted the ball, were organised, and at times even comfortable – in the very same week that a new coach was brought into the club to help Steve “I’ve managed 450 games in the PL” Bruce?…

Coincidence?

I’ll let you decide, but I know what my money is on.

Lee Forster @LeeDForster

Keeping up with the Joneses 

Graeme Jones? Who the fuck is Graeme Jones, like? A question we all asked earlier in the week; it turns out he’s a pretty good coach! Watching us take on a very good Everton side today was like day & night, a complete contrast to the turgid performances we’ve become accustomed to.

The line-up was identical to Leeds with the exception of one change, as Manquillo came in for the injured Murphy, but that’s where the similarities ended. What we saw today was the opposite of what NUFC has become under Bruce.

We saw energy, determination, shape, discipline, and most importantly positive front foot football. So, what’s changed? Graeme fuckin Jones! That’s what!

It’s no coincidence to me that, since he’s come in, there’s been a noticeable change, change in the players and change in the team’s attitude, as well as clearly going back to basics. One noticeable moment was seeing Jones acting like a manager shouting out tactics on the touchline (he reminded me of a certain ex-manager who loved doing that) whilst Bruce just glared at him (his decision, my arse).

This change went hand in hand with Callum Wilson back to his brilliant best. A proper centre forward who’s hungry for goals. Disappointed he didn’t bag a hattrick which he probably should have.

Everton, with the exception of James, just didn’t look up for it and struggled to match Newcastle’s energy, typified by Almiron running about 11km all game.

If we can match that performance against Palace at home next week, we could be looking at another vital 3 points, giving us even more breathing space away from the trap door. Yes, we’re not out of it yet, but today has been a real shining light in an otherwise dark season. Let’s hope the players continue to keep us with the Joneses.

Chris Currie @wig82

Pride, restored?

I feel like I’ve gone through the looking glass. Not only have Newcastle comfortably beaten a top ten opponent, but they did so in an entertaining way.

I enjoyed today’s match and I very genuinely can’t remember when I last said that. What a strange thing it is to be so proud of your team.

About fifteen minutes had passed when my friends and I, texting each other cautiously, all agreed that this was actually okay, and, by half time, I was convinced we’d get a point. Whilst the impact of the new assistant head coach is really yet to be seen, I was impressed at him being on the sidelines very clearly trying to influence play and shuffle things around.

We also today saw players playing in their correct positions and credit must go to Jamal Lewis who had a great game. I personally had written him off a bit because I thought he would never develop under this regime with so many changes all the time, but he came good today and played an important part in our win.

Most of my praise has to go to Callum Wilson though, who once again showed us what an excellent signing he was. Clinical, focused, and hungry for more goals; this is everything a centre forward should be. His second goal was a masterclass in keeping your head – heaps of space, loads of time, no rushing and there it was. We’ve been so starved of moments like that – it felt like winning the League. ASM coming back has been positive too – though not ready for a full game I just love watching that man play. He dances with the ball!

Bruce himself seemed reasonably humble after the game admitting we’re not out of the woods yet and there’s still work to do. Absolutely right. Today’s performance is just what we want to see – a team that tries, and that works together. If we can build on this momentum for Palace on Tuesday, then we really will be pulling ourselves out of the Relegation Zone. What a relief that would be.

Charlotte Robson

Sub Plots?…

I tried to keep myself busy this morning, ensuring that I got the domestic chores done, walked the dog and set myself up for an early lunch.  Not sure why, as my expectations for the game could not have been lower, to be honest, and that nosedived when the team sheet hit the WhatsApp group – Shelvey and Hendrick again, fuck sake man.

What I was looking forward to was the sub plot of the new coach, Jones, and whether we would see any interaction with the players from the technical area or whether he would be playing second fiddle the abomination of Steves.

So, when the camera cut to Jones bellowing instructions out to players with two of the Steve’s skulking in the background, I was more than a little encouraged.

The first thing I tried to work out was the formation, and I think we ended up with a diamond – Hayden in front of the two CB’s and Almiron at the front of it.  Whatever it was, it worked.  In possession, we had options to pass, so we completed more passes; when out of possession we were able to pick up runners as were not so flat.  It also gave us a chance to pick up the odd interception.  This was quite a turnaround.

What has changed?  It’s not like Bruce has been working towards this plan for the past 19 months.  Covid has not played a part in the formation, or playing players in positions that they are comfortable in.

ASM came on for Fraser – so Bruce still hasn’t played them together.  So why the difference? Simple, a proper coach.

Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t just watched Newcastle United circa 1994, but this was as good of a performance than I can remember since Bruce joined the club.  We were fluid, we had cohesion and players actually looked like they knew what they were doing.  To a man, they grafted, tackled, harried, passed, moved – it was like watching a proper football team.  The kids even watched the second half.  Miggy, for the first time in months, was smiling again!

It certainly wasn’t faultless, we still conceded too many chances in the first half, but we nullified the threat in the second.

This looks like work in progress.

Tim Wood