It’s a simple old game after all, isn’t it?
Since I’ve been writing regular articles for The Mag, on occasion my approach has been considered too positive, naive, or even “deluded” into the existence of an entirely different reality for Newcastle United.
These are not only comments that I understand, but can appreciate. The main thing to consider for myself is that, after all, I’m only young (turning 20 yesterday in fact), and have only been a truly passionate supporter of the club since the back end of 2008/09, after merely a passing interest in football in my earlier years.
The only Newcastle United I’ve ever known is the one that has existed under Mike Ashley, as much as this version will be an insult to the side that the majority of older fans fell in love with 20 years ago under Keegan or even just 10 years ago under Sir Bobby, this is what I’ve grown up supporting.
Yes, it may never happen under this regime, but it doesn’t mean I should stop loving my hometown club.
But, despite my naivety, over the last couple of weeks I have been just as disgruntled as the next fan, if not more so. The defeats to Leicester and Crystal Palace were two of the most sickening I’ve endured.
It was clear that a repeat of Pardew-esque scorelines were in order after the horrendous performance at Bournemouth in which we spawned an absolute fluke of a win (thanks to a combination of Rob Elliot and poor finishing from the Cherries’ forwards), yet we approached the next game in the same ethos.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a side with as little heart, energy, or even any sort of plan as to what they were supposed to be doing. We were out-thought, outclassed, and worst of all, monumentally outworked – albeit to a Leicester City side who do remain top of the league.
Fast forward a week, where Newcastle travel to face Crystal Palace:
See above, repeat.
A lack of quality can be frustrating, but understood. A lack of effort should never be tolerated. Newcastle offered neither as their defence literally collapsed around themselves as they slumped to a 5-1 defeat – a Premier League record for Crystal Palace.
That seemed to be the last straw for the majority of Newcastle fans as far as the future of not only Steve McClaren, but a large portion of the “not good enough” playing staff, even I had no choice but to agree with them. It was embarrassing.
Up next was the in-form Liverpool who’d resurrected under Jurgen Klopp. They’d won 3-1, 4-1 and 6-1 in their previous three away games at Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton respectively. What hope was there for this Newcastle side?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been as surprised to come away with a win since I started supporting this club.
The match only proved what the fans had been crying out for, a little bit of effort.
Were Newcastle great against Liverpool? Not really, no. There was still a mass of pointless long balls to no one, misplaced passes, heavy touches, poor decisions. But, they chased every ball down, and eventually won the game comfortably.
Yes, there was a lot of luck involved. Without Martin Skrtel’s knees and the linesman’s wrongly-raised flag it could have been another disappointing evening, but after the countless stonewall penalty shouts that haven’t been given and dubious red cards that have been, I’d say we have more than been overdue the luck. The players worked hard, and they were rewarded. It’s all we’ve ever really asked for.
In a way it’s frustrating that it’s taken this long for them to get their heads into shape. Maybe it was just because of the TV cameras, or the calibre of the opposition, which seems to always have an effect on our players.
It could all come undone again after we face Aston Villa at home in eight days time and complacency resurfaces. If so, it will no doubt confirm the players’ stepping-stone ambitions for their current side.
But, as foolish as I am, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that this won’t be the case. That this group of players will put the same work in each week, regardless of opposition, and we could just have some good feeling back again.
We aren’t going to soar up the table, we aren’t going to have nights like Sunday every week, but they could become more frequent than they have been of late.
We’ve all said “this could be a turning point” too many times just for it to come back and slap us in the face, but where’s the fun in being resigned to the fact that it’s all going to go wrong again, eh?
I guess that’s just Newcastle United.
Comments welcome below.
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