Well we are now at the end game, as they say in the USA.
It’s the part that describes the final moments of a dramatic encounter, a fight, or series of events. The series of events we’re looking at so far has been one long round of misery punctuated by the odd blip of misguided belief.
Those blips are the six games Newcastle United have managed to win this season. Six from twenty seven Premier League games played. Let that sink in for a while…
There are those who believe (I’m not one of them) that Newcastle United have the ability to win a mere five games from the remaining 11 and somehow avoid relegation. However, the sad fact is that of those six games won during this calamitous season, only one out of the six could possibly be determined by a combination of tactical changes, player attitudes and, above all, the will to win.
I refer to the game at White Hart Lane in December, when Aleksandar Mitrovic had been on for less than 90 seconds as a substitute when he poached an equaliser against a Spurs side who appeared to be running out of ideas despite battering us for most of the first half. Then three minutes into injury time another super sub, Ayoze Perez, arrived in time to chest the ball and volley past Lloris, winning the match in the very final stages.
What made that result even more remarkable were the comments made by the manager after the game, when he appeared to speak of a frank “heart to heart” discussion held by the players in the half time dressing room.
“Half-time was a big test for this team. We’ve come in at half-time before and the dressing room has been quiet and disappointed, but it was so vocal here. There was such a determination among the players not to lead down the normal path of losing the game. The response in the second half was fantastic. There was so much going on in there – Robbie Elliot, Fabricio Coloccini, to be fair, all of them. We couldn’t shut them up, and they took it on board.”
I could be wrong but I believe that was the only time the players were vocal and determined enough at half time to put thing right on the pitch in the second half.
The other five victories however, all appear to come from a pattern of goalkeeping heroics and sub-standard displays from the opposition. Indeed it is arguable that the opposition made those games safe for us by putting in performances, which by their standards, were well below par.
Norwich – Alex Neil:
“It’s difficult after a game like that. It’s easy to say it shouldn’t be a 6-2 scoreline, but after you defend like that it’s always going to be tough.”
Bournemouth – Eddie Howe:
“When it wasn’t going for us we panicked and made some bad decisions on the ball instead of playing our normal game.”
Liverpool – Asked what had gone wrong, Jurgen Klopp said:
“Nearly everything, I would say. The start, the middle and the end. I don’t know. This was obviously not a really good football game, and that was 50 per cent because of Newcastle and 50 per cent because of Liverpool FC. We made our goal, but because we weren’t good enough today, the linesman thought, ‘Don’t make world-class goals if you play this s***.”
West Ham – Slaven Bilic:
“We prepared for the game all week and had a good warm-up and everything, so I thought we were going to start better because we were the team that should have started with more confidence than them because we were up in the table, we were unbeaten for a number of games. Newcastle, started bright and good and everything, but definitely we helped them in that as we were very poor in the first half. We have to admit that unfortunately.”
West Brom – Tony Pulis:
“I’ve been at the club for just over a year now and that’s most probably the most disappointing away performance we’ve had. The best way of describing it, is that we were in a boxing match and we shadow-boxed for 90-odd minutes.”
So six wins in the league yet five coming from games where, if the other team had turned up, or our keeper hadn’t played out of his skin, the result might have been a whole lot different?
I asked the question earlier ‘Is this a team of Dead Men walking?’
Are these players now hoping that opposing teams won’t turn up for our remaining homes games so we can sneak those wins to save our sorry season, or do the players have it within themselves, possibly despite the Manager, to get vocal in the dressing room and not shut up for the rest of the campaign?
It is for them to decide!
(To feature like Andy, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])