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Why ‘Hard to Beat’ isn’t a credible plan

6 years ago

Well, it’s internationals time and a welcome break from the drudgery of Premier League football, especially if you’re a north-east football fan.

We all know we are in for a long hard winter at St James Park (over on the river wear, things look even bleaker) as there are few positives to look upon with regards to Premier League survival next May.

Years gone by, we would be sure of points in the bag from certain games. We couldn’t guarantee that we’d beat the teams we were ‘expected’ to, but we were safe in the knowledge that we would be able to do enough to ensure we weren’t in trouble at the wrong end of the table for too long.

Now? Not so much- quite the opposite in fact.

No team in the league is unbeatable (not even Arsenal or Man City) but the one thing that has put Newcastle United down in the doldrums, is the fact that even moderate teams have got their acts together and realise that games are there for winning.

Steve McClaren’s assistant Paul Simpson said in an interview this past week on local radio, that at Bournemouth, ‘we went out to win the game’.

Now, I’m not sure I’m prepared to believe that, or at least I don’t believe we went there to win by design, more by hanging on and hoping to nick it- the performance suggests that. The way I would’ve phrased the comment would be ‘We WANTED to win the game’, if we do or not is another matter and I think that’s a common trait in the Premier League, especially away from home.

Now away from home I can kind of accept it to a point, as the old motto of not knocking an away point still holds much water, but when you fail to win your home games week in week out, an away point doesn’t add up to climbing places in the league.

If a team down the bottom can win three games out of as much as half a dozen, you can shoot up the league and this is what made Alan Pardew look quite good three Christmas times in a row.

It’s a common attitude from managers these days and king of them all was a certain Sam Allardyce when he was in charge at Bolton.

When appointed at S********d, I had to chuckle when some red and white supporters remarked that he would make them ‘hard to beat’. I hate that term.

Surely it would be even harder to beat a side that wins game after game? Manchester City are ‘hard to beat’, Arsenal are ‘hard to beat’, Newcastle United under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson were ‘hard to beat’, primarily because it is/was in their make up to win games.

The only time being overly defensive has any merits, is if you are a goal up with a few minutes to go, ‘grinding the game out’ it’s called. The sides under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson wouldn’t have finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th if they had primarily adopted a ‘hard to beat’ attitude, simply a good centre-back would’ve done.

I fear that while Newcastle continue to adopt this approach of two defensive midfielders in the hope of not getting beat (which blatantly isn’t working by the way) we won’t pick up enough points.

The mackems are welcome to Big Sam, they certainly won’t be entertained (save for the derby) but nobody will get anywhere if they stick with the ‘hard to beat’ attitude.

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