Hearts 1 Newcastle 2 – Friday 14 July 7.45pm
Football is back!
Thank God, no more politics, no more shopping with the girlfriend, and no more pretending to be interested in who is getting dumped from Love Island.
It has certainly felt like a longer summer than usual with the Championship season finishing earlier than others, and no major international tournaments to pass the time via SkyBet. The return of Newcastle United to my summer schedule couldn’t come soon enough.
Hearts away was an ideal announcement. The club have long picked some tedious pre-season friendlies in recent years so this was a welcome change. While it wasn’t a boring North East fixture, like the usual Carlisle (I know that’s not north east) and Hartlepool, it was still close enough to be able to leave the house at 3pm, be in the car by 4pm and be in the pub two minutes away from Tynecastle at 6.30. Perfect, well done Newcastle and thanks Ian Cathro.
While it has been a nervous summer so far, there was still a certain stench of optimism in the air. After all, we are a club on the up at the moment, having won the league only a few months previous. I can’t stress enough how great it was to be able stand in a pub, with your mates, and not have to talk about politics, football was back, and back for good.
My last trip to Scotland to watch Newcastle play was the 27 July 1999. It was my second ever football match and my first away game when I was a meagre three years old to see Newcastle play my dad’s team and my second team, Celtic. Things have changed a lot since then. In front of 60,000 at Celtic Park, the players on show that night included the likes of Speed, Shearer and Solano up against Larsson, Moravcik and Berkovic.
There has been enough talk at the moment about transfers and who is coming in, or what everything means, so I am not going to bore anyone with a load of nonsense opinion that they have probably heard from someone else.
On the pitch we brought a pretty big squad with us to Tynecastle on Friday night, which included the likes of de Jong, Hanley, Haidara and Saivet. On the other hand, there were notable absentees like Darlow, Murphy and Krul, with Hayden and Ritchie still recovering from injury. It was also nice to see the team playing a pre-season friendly in Black and White for once, with those red numbers on the back, which if I can say, look bloody brilliant.
In truth, I should have left the game after five minutes because it was all a bit downhill from there, but hey, it was a great opening five minutes with a goal and two other great chances.
Newcastle started off on the front foot and looked lively with two out and out wingers. Rolando Aarons would hit the bar twice in the first half (although his second attempt was a terrible cross rather than a shot). Lots of people were praising him for his performance…but I’m yet to be impressed by him. He had a lively opening 10 minutes but after that he didn’t do much and was all over the place defensively. I’m yet to see substance for the hype surrounding him.
On the other hand, Siem De Jong had a good game. Another one who did quieten down after 15 minutes but he always looked calm and assured in possession. His assist for the first goal was sublime, although I do think he will have to continue to replicate those performances over the next few games if Rafa is to give him a chance in the PL. Even if de Jong does play well, I feel that if Rafa gets the players in that he wants then he will be off anyway.
At the other end, Newcastle looked shaky defensively with Haidara at left-back and a makeshift Mbemba at right-back. Defensively, we all know that Mbemba is solid, but I don’t think RB will be his position this coming year – he looked awkward going forward. Where to fit in Mbemba could be a big problem for Rafa because he has made Lascelles captain, therefore, presumably he is the first CB on the team sheet. However, in my opinion, Clark and Mbemba are our two best centre halves and only one of them can play beside Lascelles (granted I haven’t seen Lejeune play so far).
I just can’t see Mbemba wanting to stay if for whatever reason he finds himself as fourth choice centre back. So while we are all expecting Hanley to drop down to the Championship, I would watch this space regarding Mbemba.
Hearts should have equalised when Haidara gave away a stupid penalty for a stupid foul. Luckily the Hearts player blazed the ball over the bar. It was such a bad penalty that it almost looked like he did it on purpose. I don’t know how he could have got it so wrong, perhaps he had money on an NUFC clean sheet.
If he did then he would have been a loser as Hearts equalised almost straight away with the defence split open again. In between that was two good saves from Elliott and a header from Gayle to put us 2-1 up at the break.
As you would expect in our first game of pre-season there was widespread changes at half-time, which included the likes of Gamez, Perez, Mitrovic, Lejeune and Saivet.
The second-half was what can only be described as a classic pre-season kickabout, the game never got going as the heavens started to open and more fans filtered out the ground for an early pint.
Further subs were made with Woodman and Armstrong returning from their victorious U20 World Cup campaign, as well as Hanley, Lazaar and Colback.
We know players are going to leave over the next few weeks, it already looks like Darlow and Riviere are certainties to go, but who else will be intriguing to see how the rest of July is going to play out. We all know reinforcements are needed, and I am sure, that one way or another they will come.
I have missed it…and I have missed the criticism in the comments section of all those that think I talk rubbish, so fire away!
A great day out, a great win (although meaningless), so let’s start as we mean to go on.
In a summer in which we tragically lost Cheick Tiote, and in the past week young Bradley Lowery, who both received heart-warming melodies from the away end, it was a poignant reminder that while there are a lot of things to be sceptical and cautious about with Newcastle United this summer, at the end of the day, it is only a game.
So maybe it is time to be a little bit more positive about things and get behind the team, ahead of what should be an exciting season back in the Premier League.
Hearts 1 Newcastle 2
Friday 14 July 7.45pm
Newcastle: Gayle 4, 26
Hearts: Walker 24
Elliot (Woodman 63), Aarons(Gamez 46), Clark (Dummett 46), Mbemba (Hanley 62), Lascelles (Lejeune 46), Haidara (Colback 62), Shelvey (Saivet 46), Diame (Armstrong 62), De Jong (Lazaar 75), Atsu (Perez 46), Gayle (Mitrovic 46)
Crowd: 10,001 (1,468 Newcastle)
Referee: Willie Collum
(Watch the goals from Hearts 1 Newcastle HERE)
(To read what Rafa Benitez had to say after the match go HERE)
(To read the match ratings for all Newcastle players v Hearts go HERE)
(To read what Ian Cathro had to say about the game go HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])