Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? Speaking to a Gateshead fan recently, yes – yes it is.
We have loved David Ginola, we have loved Laurent Robert – if we try to only remember the good stuff, some of us even remember a faint tingle of affection for Charles N’Zogbia. But today, all of that is lost – and what do we have now in its place? When Kevin Keegan described Jonas Gutierrez as a ‘defensive’ winger, he wasn’t joking.
There was a study done by American scientists in which they installed various items of playground equipment on a patch of waste ground and then sat back to watch what happened. They fitted all the usual stuff; swings, a slide, one of those ‘horses on a spring’ thingies; but right in the centre they placed a kind of 2001 : a space odyssey obelisk; an eight foot high wooden obelisk with no redeeming features.
Soon the kids began to arrive, swinging, sliding and climbing until they noticed the unspectacular lump of wood jutting from the centre of the playground. They were fascinated. ‘How do we play with this?’, you could see them thinking. They leaned on it, tried in vain to climb it, threw tennis balls off it and even did hand-stands against it despite the fact there was a brick wall not five metres away which was far better suited for the purpose. At the end of the day, the study showed that the kids spent 64% of their entire time in the playground playing with the pointless obelisk. Without meaning to sound personal, Jonas Gutierrez is Newcastle United’s obelisk.
A succession of managers have placed him on the left wing and stared at him, wondering what he’s there for, as if he might do something interesting if they stare long enough. Manager after manager has fallen into the same mesmerised, almost catatonic fascination with the battling and highly passionate workhorse who seems unable to strike a ball cleanly, let alone send it in a coherent direction. These are not great qualities for a winger; someone you hope will beat a man and then belt a cross into the box that is so supreme, all the centre forward need do is get a head on it and it’s in.
What manager after manager has done however is to essentially start every game with two left backs. Games in which the actual left back (Enrique, Santon et al.) has provided more forward impetus and creativity than the one in front of him.
Jonas has his qualities; let’s face it, he’s not Billy Askew – but if Newcastle really are to take a step forward next season, we really must only play Jonas against teams we’ve no hope of outplaying and sign someone with trickery and a sweet left foot for those we should be getting three points against at home.
Please Mr. Ashley, Mr. Pardew or whoever is making the decisions these days, sign us someone who can cross a ball and make us all love again.
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