Gary Rowett nailed it back in December.
Newcastle United had just give arguably their best performance of the season, certainly at home.
From the first second of the game Newcastle were in their faces, chasing the Birmingham players down, not giving them any kind of chance to settle into the game.
Two goals up after 24 minutes and the match was in the bag, Birmingham blown away and Newcastle eventually easing to a four goal victory against demoralised opposition.
In other home matches Newcastle have also gone at the visitors from kick-off, scoring early against the likes of Forest (fourth minute) and QPR (first minute) – but then instead of the opening goal lighting up the game still further and inspiring the Newcastle team to take apart the opposition, we have seen them sitting back and allowing the other teams to regroup and get back into the match.
Maybe it is no coincidence that Mohamed Diame had by far his best game for Newcastle in that Birmingham match, he looked a totally different player compared to the non-event he has been for the other 95% of the time.
With Newcastle closing down Birmingham further up the pitch, it allowed Diame to get the ball in more dangerous positions and to run with it, as the opponents were pressurised with Rafa committing numbers forward.
If you remember, at the time Birmingham were sixth and arrived with only one defeat in their previous five games, with everybody expecting a tricky game.
After the game, Gary Rowett (it proved to be his final away game for Birmingham) couldn’t hide his admiration.
The Birmingham boss saying that Newcastle’s movement and running in the first half had blown them away.
With Hayden and Gayle ready to start today against Wigan, Rafa needs to release the hounds, don’t let this second bottom of the table team get any kind of a hold on the game.
Get at them from the first minute, don’t let them settle on the ball, and win possession in threatening positions.
In Gayle, Ritchie, Gouffran, Atsu and Hayden we have plenty of legs to pressure high, so let’s get the job done early and put another notch on the promotion ladder.
Gary Rowett 10 December 2016:
“Not only was it a bit of a football lesson, it was also an athletic lesson as well. The top players run, sprint…they have got a little bit of everything more.
“Make no bones about it, this is a Premier League team we were playing against.
“In a stadium like this, if you don’t start well and hang on a little bit longer, you are going to find it’s a very, very tough afternoon.
“Newcastle coming off a few defeats, you knew they were going to be particularly motivated and put an incredibly strong team out.
“I would say they are probably the best team I have seen in the Championship in terms of how they can hurt you.
“My concern over the last few weeks has been that people have wanted more technical players in the team – but sometimes unless you do the other side of the game you don’t get the ball enough to hurt the opposition.
“Their movement and their running in the first half – at times was too much for us, we didn’t get close enough and we weren’t destructive enough to get opportunities to counter attack.
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