When someone is said to have ‘backbone’, it means they are strong and will resist the forces that are building up against them.

It means that they have an iron will and a determination that they will not be broken.

The first half of the season for Newcastle United could be assessed by saying that the team had shown they had backbone:

–  responding to the adversity of the defeats in the opening games

–  battling hard for the first 20 minutes in each game to earn the right for our higher quality players to express themselves

–  defensively strong, convinced that nobody will score against us

And then suddenly, the backbone that kept clean sheets for fun, is seemingly broken – with several goals conceded and (even worse) giving away so many chances in every match.

The once impenetrable partnership of Lascelles and Clark looks more vulnerable with every game.  Lascelles looks more than ever in need of a bit of bench time, as his game seems to have fallen to bits over the last few weeks.

Communication – or lack of it due to shrinking confidence – has disappeared; which culminated in the last minute own goal against QPR.

This then spreads through the team, with midfield dropping deeper to support the defence, and a bigger gap appears to the forwards – so long ball becomes the only option to start attacks.  Forwards feed on scraps, and not the number of chances we created earlier in the season, so they snatch at them and miss.

So to me the effort is in sorting out the defence on the training ground, taking Lascelles out of the line of fire for a game or two (give Hanley some time), and getting back to basics by having a back four that get known for not conceding once again.  Back to basics.

(Optimistic by nature but having that tested by Newcastle United since the 1970s!!)