For one match a season we can all forget who owns Newcastle United
Newcastle v Sunderland
Newcastle 0 Sunderland 1 Sunday 21 December 1.30pm
For one match a season, even the most hardcore boycotters of Ashley’s Newcastle United can forget who owns the club. The Mackems were coming to town and this was a game we had to win.
Credit to the Sunderland supporters for joining in the 17th minute tribute, they deserved the polite 33rd minute applause. Some would argue that they didn’t deserve the early Christmas present that they left with.
The manager was always going to be the focal point. Never before has a Newcastle team lost 4 in a row against the local rivals. Those who doubt Pardew’s ability to manage this great club have been pilloried by his advocates who pointed to a 6 game winning run and a 5th place which is now a distant memory.
A derby win would give his supporters a boast of 7 league wins in 10. A defeat would leave him in a sandwich of 5 wins in 25 and 1 win in 6, to go with a run of none in 7 at the start of the season.
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The omens would be hotly debated, particularly after team selection became known. The Mags are higher in the table after a decent run. Surely we could not lose again, particularly being at home which would make 3 defeats in a row at St.James’ Park.
Sunderland came without a win in 7 games having only scored 3 in that period. Surely everything was on our side? Having said that, Pardew’s 6 games as manager against Poyet, here and at Southampton, had yielded 1 draw and 5 defeats.
As soon as team sheets came out, selection might have been questioned. It appeared that a slight compromise might have been made to the armchair critics. Steve Taylor came in for Williamson. Gouffran, whose contribution has been widely questioned of late, was selected.
The one thing that can be certain is that injuries would not be an excuse. Pardew told us at the start of the season that “We have a strong squad, perhaps the biggest and best I’ve ever had in terms of options so we’re in a great position.”
Compared with the team that started the season, perhaps his first choice, Krul was absent. Williamson was replaced by Saylor but was available on the bench. Cabella was replaced by Ameobi but was available on the bench. Riviere was replaced by Ayoze but was available on the bench. Anita was replaced by Tiote who had been unavailable.
So what of the game? The selection of Gouffran meant that our early attacks were channelled down the left. Just over a quarter of the game later, the ‘wide’ players switched sides, returning to the sort of ‘funnel’ formation that some of us dread. Newcastle had the early pressure but things became more evenly balanced.
Much was made of young keeper, Jak Alnwick. He shouldn’t be in this position with no experience above non-league level until recently. Having said that, he did his job competently, even if not totally confidently. He cannot be blamed and pulled off some admirable saves. Tiote started aggressively but could be seen to wilt after his yellow card. Sammy, when allowed to play on the left, was a thorn in the side and played in two crosses of particular note that were not quite met by Sissoko and Ayoze.
The young Spanish striker put in a phenomenal effort, creating chances out of nothing but just lacking the support that might have given him more space. Colback balanced aggression and composure admirably.
Perhaps the biggest contrast came in managerial style, most telling at the end. Although Pardew’s substitutions could be argued to be attacking in intent, set-piece aside, rarely, if ever, were 4 men ahead of the ball in the opposition half. Poyet was prepared to throw men forward, the goal coming with 5 against 5.
Pardew is a manager of clichés. If he thought he had all his ducks in a row, this is the 4th time in a row that he managed to score a duck against Sunderland. He has talked about football being a game of margins. Having described the League Cup tie against Spurs as a battle of wits, one presumes that Poyet scores at least 51%.
So what of Pardew’s record? Those who support him will point to the 6 in a row.
The fact remains that he has won less than half of his home league games, 36 against 40. Overall, he has won 57 and lost 62 in the league. He is, at best, below average. Even this season, he has failed to win more than half his home games. Although he has won 3 games against current top half clubs out of 8, he has won only 3 out of 9 against the bottom half.
This is the season of goodwill. On the plus side, he has left not 1, but 4,000 fat seasonal visitors dressed in red and white chanting “ho ho ho” on the short journey back to Wearside.
To be magnanimous, we should use the season to wish everybody the best. Christmas is not a focal point for those who do not have a religion, or indeed those of some religions, but a prosperous 2015 is a wish that can apply to anyone. In Pardew’s case, termination of contract with a resultant payout from Mike Ashley would make 2015 prosperous.
Alan Pardew, have a prosperous 2015.
Ashley can afford to pay you off, and will do if he rates more than 50% on the wit scale, after all, he has got rid of Allardyce, Jimenez, Wise and others.
Rex also runs his own website (toontoon.co.uk) which you can visit HERE
Team: Alnwick, Janmaat, Coloccini, S Taylor, Dummett, Tiote (Cisse 75), Colback, Gouffran (Armstrong 59), Sissoko, Ameobi (Cabella 89), Perez,
Unused Subs: Woodman, Riviere, Williamson, Haidara
Ref: Anthony Taylor
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