It has been such a frenetic opening to the season for Newcastle United that it is sometimes difficult to sit back and take stock, especially with games every midweek at the moment.
Obviously we all recognise the basics – losing the first two matches and then winning the following six, culminating in the spectacular night at Loftus Road.
Amongst all of the positive changes Rafa Benitez has brought in, scoring from corners is just one.
However, it is amazing how quickly you start taking it for granted.
The past five or more years had seen the conversion rate drop to ridiculous proportions, particularly under Alan Pardew.
Just as we are now getting used to scoring from corners without a thought, back when Newcastle went over two years under Alan Pardew without scoring a Premier League goal from one – we also just eventually took that for granted.
Yes we would moan and take the mick about it – but it was never ever really put under the close scrutiny it should have been, especially by those running Newcastle United.
At every level of football, from Sunday League to Premier League, scoring from corners is one of the most obvious ways of scoring a goal.
It is something that you can drill into your players, practice relentlessly, the goal is always in the same place as is the corner flag – then it is up to you how you want your player to deliver the ball and his teammates to attack it.
Under Pardew, Newcastle went literally hundreds of corners without scoring, it is almost impossible, much the same if you put in hundreds of crosses in open play without scoring. It is though far far worse on corners, as the ball is stationary so no excuse not to put it in the right area, whilst you can have most of your outfield players in the box to try and get on the end of it.
The only conclusion you can draw when you go from a situation where the team was never scoring from corners, to one where you can’t move for these type of goals – is to accept that something was going seriously wrong with the coaching/management.
Under Pardew, the players never ever looked like they believed they were going to score from corners.
Do you in any way think that Rafa Benitez would find that acceptable? I didn’t think so.
We ended up as a club with no drive to succeed, an acceptance by Pardew/Carver/McClaren that they had no say on transfers, an acceptance goals wouldn’t come from set-pieces, and an acceptance amongst players that this club was going nowhere, sold at best as a stepping stone to an ambitious club if they did ok.
Rafa Benitez clearly isn’t here to accept anything of the sort, he is here to succeed and not to be made a fool of.
There is no longer any hiding place for players to coast along and play us for fools, nor is there any longer a manager/head coach prepared to stand up and cover for the ridiculous running of the club, whether it be with transfer policy or other issues.
Scoring from corners isn’t a cure all but maybe it is the most simple example we can all see, which tells us that professionalism has returned to Newcastle United.
Ciaran Clark scored Newcastle’s fourth goal (watch all six goals HERE) at QPR from a Matt Ritchie corner and he has been extolling the virtues of clean sheets and scoring from corners:
“I was buzzing to score – I wasn’t too worried about Mitro in front of me, I just tried to keep my eye on the ball and make sure I got a good connection, thankfully it went in
“With the quality of the set-pieces coming in, we have always got a chance of getting on the end of them.
“Jonjo and Matty are brilliant with corners and free-kicks, we are a real threat from them now – we practice it in training and thankfully it came off out there and I managed to get my head on one.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game but we managed to get off to a good start and it just went from there
“We looked dangerous, we created a lot of chances and we could have scored more, but more importantly, we managed to keep another clean sheet, which is something we really wanted to do.
“We knew that at 2-0, if QPR had got one back it would have been a totally different game.
“Thankfully we came out after half-time and got a couple more which did seal the game and then it was all about concentration and making the right decisions, which I felt we did.
“Keeping a clean sheet was massive. It’s something we have been working on and something we want to continue to do.
“That’s your foundations to build from, as if you can keep a clean sheet then you’ve got a chance in any game.
“We are just as happy with the clean sheet as we are with all the goals.”