So I settled down as usual on a (hungover) Sunday morning, with minimal expectations despite recent good results at White Hart Lane. I finished the game with a worse hangover due to the screaming and jumping up & down and with the rare opportunity to be able to extract the urine from a Spurs supporting mate of mine at work.
This is what supporting Newcastle, or any club for that matter, should be like. The opportunity to revel in your team’s victory, coupled with some hard work from the players and a little sprinkling of luck from the footballing gods. The moments of ecstasy like this are what make supporting NUFC worthwhile.
I will admit that after the first half that result looked unlikely. We couldn’t hang on to the ball in an attacking area and constantly lost possession in places which could undo us. I felt Sissoko and De Jong were very guilty of this, although they weren’t aided too much by some poor passing to them or options around them.
Coloccini was miles away from his man for the goal and if it wasn’t for Rob Elliot, we’d have been out of the game by half time. As a side note, he’s taken a lot of stick over the last few years but I’ve never understood it. He’s always done well when he’s come in for us and has been great in the last few weeks.
I admire his desire to play through pain too. His thigh which has been a problem for him recently, has resulted in him having to throw the ball rather than kick it towards the end of games and you can visibly seem him wince when he takes goal kicks too. I admire that determination and it seems the determination to play, fight and win is spreading through the team.
Apparently, the half time break changed the game for the players with them being vocal in the changing room for a change. This for me is a sign that the corner is beginning to be turned. A sign that the players actually care and have a will to win which was missing earlier in the season, and certainly last season too.
Perhaps McClaren has finally instilled some sort of will to win. A desire to better themselves and perform for the club. Perhaps the players have realized the situation they have put themselves in and they don’t want to go down.
They have realized after the Liverpool game what they are actually capable of and have decided to make an effort for a change. Either way, the end result both in terms of performance and result, was brilliant.
We applied ourselves wonderfully in the second half with the players covering a lot of ground and when De Jong was brought off, we looked to be a threat going forward through Perez, who is our best player in my opinion.
Mitrovic came on for the ailing Cisse and instantly provided a threat by keeping the ball and putting himself about it a bit. The lad is clearly bonkers and would fight in a room on his own, but I like him. He needs to calm down and retain some self control once in a while, but his ability and desire is great to see. His goal was scrappy but vital and it turned the game.
We gained some momentum and I felt we looked very threatening on the break. Wijnaldum in particular looked menacing and had a great game overall, keeping the ball excellently in many tight spots. The lad is class. We just need to get him in the game more.
A draw would have been an acceptable result before the kick off but with Mitro missing a sitter late on and Spurs offering no threat, I was slightly disappointed as we ticked into added on time with the prospect of leaving London with “just” a point. I was delighted to be proved wrong by Perez for the second year running, rifling home his goal with some help from Loris who really should have done better. Ah well.
As I calmed down and reflected on what was a superb result, I wondered what has changed in our mentality and our ability over the last two weeks to grind out a result.
A combination of things struck me. We’re playing as a team again, extracting the best from our better players in areas where they can damage the opposition.
We seem to have gained some fight and positive attitude from somewhere. Some of the players we have bought over the summer seem to have worked out a little bit what this league is all about and how to succeed in it.
Our experienced Premier League players are stepping up to the plate a little better and leading by example to the other newcomers in our team.
McClaren has gained some confidence and luck from somewhere and we’ve exploited it very well in the last two weeks, which is very unlike us. He made the right changes at the right time and it paid off.
In short, everything we should have been doing through the season so far, we are now finally doing. We were 8th in the Premier League form table before Sunday and with the win on Sunday, we will be even higher. This progress is real.
We are by no means the finished article and I still feel an experienced Premier League winger, central defender and left back are essential in the January transfer window, if we are to maintain the progress we have started to see.
McClaren needs to be backed by the board and we MUST hang on to our best players such as Perez. Only time will tell on that one……
The game against the odious Aston Villa is a must win now to get us out of trouble. It is time for the players to prove we have properly turned a corner, rather than just another false start.
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