The thing about the Newcastle United club shop in the Metrocentre is, it’s got a big telly in the front window showing one sanitised Newcastle United DVD after another of seasons past. The ones that gloss over a total collapse. This season’s should be interesting.
I was in the Metrocentre with the family, and as a trip round Accessorize with his sister and mam wasn’t appealing to my seven year old son, we went to the club shop.
The first rule of club shop is, no son, you’re not getting anything. Not today.
You’ve got loads of footballs. Santa might bring you the new home strip. And you have no need for a ‘Toon Totty’ outfit. This made the trip around the shop a little quicker than it apparently takes to look around Accessorize.
Hence the telly. They were showing Bobby Robson’s first home match. Sheffield Wednesday. Delirium.
Another lad, maybe in his twenties, commented on this as ‘the olden days.’ It was only fifteen years ago, but another way of looking at is, it was fifteen years ago!
The match seemed slightly slower, yet more skilful. The shirts were so baggy they made Alan Shearer look like there was no way he would ever grow into it. And everyone wore black boots, because that was the colour of football boots.
And we won 8-0.
We won 8-0 after an appalling start to the season. A start that had required a new manager, a new hope, and a sense of dignity missing for the previous couple of seasons.
As we left the screen to go and look at the new Star Wars stuff in the Disney Store, Tom asked if I thought we would win soon, and if he could have a cake. My son needed reassurance. He needs a reason to get excited about football. And he likes cake. He got, “I don’t know, and no, you’ve had one.”
Looking back, did anyone expect to win 8-0 that day? We must have fancied our chances, but as confidence was low and we were even lower in the league than that, 8-0 would have been a startling bet.
We had better players, on the whole. Some during that dawning resurrection, like Paul Robinson, would not have a huge future at the club. But we had the nucleus of a team who would, within seasons, see the Champions League as a realistic place to be.
We haven’t even got the nucleus of a team on the verge of the top half of the table at the minute, but with whatever belief they have in their ability, we could get out of it.
Robson worked on tightening up the defence. We can see that stopping crosses is a priority because we couldn’t win a header in our own box during the warm up, never mind the match. And we can surely play with more pace and urgency going forward. Footballers are nothing if not fitter these days.
But there was something else with Robson; something intangible, charismatic and magical. The quality that separates highly competent and genius.
Good footballers can become legends. Players with no confidence can go on a run and the belief floods back. And managers can find the formula that turns base players into footballing gold.
Do our problems boil down to our base players not being good enough?
It might well be, but they’re all we’ve got, so they must be moulded into a system that works for them. The glimpses against big teams need to be consistent against the teams around us.
Maybe I’m just being pragmatic: do this, and that will follow.
If McClaren identifies the deficiencies staring us in the face, and gives the players belief as well as a role, then the Newcastle United DVD of this season might not go in the horror section.
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