When you live away from the UK, everything that reminds you of home means a lot more to you.
Be it a message on a Monday afternoon from your 5 a side pals saying they’ve won, a skype call off your mam, or catching a glimpse of the flickering lights draping themselves over the emerald green grass of St. James Park.
Sometimes you don’t miss all those things, but they can still mean just as much to you. In the recent months I’ve had my patience tested, as we all have, by events at St. James Park, but on nights like Tuesday night it all seems worth it.
Sir Bobby always said that football was about seeing that stretch of grass, falling in love with it and not being able to do a thing about it. The truth of the matter is that whatever your connection to NUFC, and however it stretches your patience, the heart strings which made you fall in love with it in the first place, always get tugged and you get sucked straight back in. And that’s why we love it so much.
A night like Tuesday reminds me of why I love Newcastle United. We finally did everything I expect and want from my football club. We were battlers, we were committed, we never gave up and we looked like we gave a shi*e. People talk about our “expectations” but in truth we just want to see a team try. We drew and everyone is declaring themselves happy. Imagine if we ever won.
Gini looked fantastic and had his best game in a black and white shirt. Mitrovic got more of the service it looks like he wants and he looked like the handful I want him to be. Sissoko didn’t stop running and I thought Coloccini was superb.
Tiote was a liability at times, as he always is, but he was a warrior. He was everywhere. If he is leaving us this month, I think that was his time in toon, summed up in the 80 or so minutes he managed. Mental, committed, daft booking, gave the ball away one minute then kept the ball and passed it well the next. I’ve not liked his performances at times, but his attitude recently when called upon has been first class.
Personally I think a midfield of Tiote, Shelvey and Gini would scare people with Sissoko running off them on one side and Aarons or Townsend (if we get him/bid for him) on the other would be a great engine room. Anyway, I digress. Back to Tuesday night……
They were and are a shower. Fellaini is a disgrace to a football club like Manchester United. He should have been booked (and subsequently sent off) at least three times. Chris Smalling should have walked too for breaking up our attack in the final minutes.
It was the Mike Dean show though I suppose, so these things being ignored are to be expected. I hope he got the cheer his performance deserved when he got on the Red Devils bus to travel home with the rest of his team-mates.
Their manager, Van Gaal, has broken up the fluency of what could easily be an attacking team (despite spending 250 million) and when Depay came on, his speed and movement showed what they are truly capable of. It was his rebounded strike which led to Wayne Rooney’s superb second goal to put them 3-2 up.
It was at that point our brave comeback seemed to be over. They had a chance through the odious Fellaini to go 4-2 up and wasted it, so I thought it was only a matter of time before the wheels came clattering off the black and white bus and we succumbed.
Thankfully I was proved wrong by one of the great sights. One of our worst players on the night, rescuing a point. With a rocket. I remember David Edgar doing a similar thing a few years ago against Man United. Playing left back, out of position, with a late equaliser via a vital deflection from Paul Scholes if my memory serves. Sound familiar?
To get straight to Dummett’s goal however, ignores something I haven’t witnessed from a Newcastle side in ages. A comeback. We were great to watch. Swarming forward, taking players on, feeding Mitrovic well and putting crosses into the box. Putting pressure on the opposition. Gini was superb I felt and was the leader on the pitch. Everyone put a shift in and how grateful we were for that. Seeing effort and commitment from our side. Remarkable.
The players cared too. You could see it when Mitro scored. He has a Ketsbaia moment and went bonkers, kicking the advertising hoardings and almost ripping his own shirt off. Gini went mental and was jumping around in front of the Gallowgate like he was being electrocuted. It was class. And that’s what we want to see from our players.
On a side note, I love Mitro. He’s not great yet and he’s mental, but he could grow to become great for us. He took responsibility, riled their defenders without getting himself in trouble, worked hard pressing the ball at times and won a lot in the air as well as holding the ball up well.
I also can’t speak highly enough of Gini. I think I have a man crush on him. He was superb, tricky, fast, hard working, solid. Everything we wanted from him when he joined. Who knew playing him in the right place on the pitch would make a difference!
Once more back to the match, and it is that fight and effort I mentioned above which will get us out of the huge hole we’re in this season, and that alone. We have the ability in our team to be a match for most if everyone plays well and we need to show that more when it matters. The momentum gained from this comeback is huge. This needs to be the motor that drives us to the end of the season.
I still maintain that McClaren isn’t the answer (some of his changes were baffling on Tuesday) and I’m not naïve enough to think that one result sweeps all our other non-performances under the carpet.
Having said that, I also think that in this performance we got our football club back for 90 precious minutes. The excitement, the drama, the passion, the noise, the effort and the sheer exhilarating pleasure that a ball of air hitting a net can generate.
To go back to Sir Bobby’s words, I had that feeling of falling in love with Newcastle United all over again. I was hoarse and slightly hungover yesterday morning (the best part of living in the states for evening game is you can start drinking and celebrating earlier!) and I’m delighted about it.
With new signings and fresh impetus, we can get ourselves out of this mess. Let’s stick together, forget the entire off field shi*e for now, and be Newcastle United. United.
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