The match that set this Newcastle United season on the road to disaster
When it comes to Newcastle United under Mike Ashley, that single fifth place finish of 2011/12 is the stick that is always used to beat Newcastle fans with, if they dare to say it has been a total disaster under the current owner.
Aside from that one-off freak season, in the other eight years United have had a season in the Championship, three mediocre mid-table finishes and four relegation battles.
One of those four relegation battles is of course this current season of chaos and stupidity with a well stocked cast of characters who should take responsibility, with Mike Ashley playing the lead role in that.
When looking back at this season so far, I think one match more than any other has helped take us right to the brink of disaster.
The identity/choice of that particular may be surprising to many but I honestly think it did untold damage.
We are talking about Newcastle 6 Norwich 2.
It was the first Premier League victory of the season and a match that gave everybody hope – far too much by my reckoning.
I think we are all agreed by now surely, that Newcastle United could only stand a chance of survival this season once Steve McClaren was out the door, and that win over Norwich ensured he was never going to be sacked any time soon.
If you look at what happened in the aftermath of that four goal winning margin over Norwich, it simply reaffirmed that the result/scoreline was a total fluke.
In the next seven weeks until the home win over Liverpool, Newcastle only won one other game and that was the total fluke of winning at Bournemouth – only one shot on target and the home side had battered us all game.
Those seven weeks also included the 3-0 derby defeat on Wearside, Leicester stuffing us 3-0 at St James Park and Pardew’s Palace humiliating his old club with a 5-1 hammering.
Without that 6-2 victory over Norwich, surely even Mike Ashely would have realised McClaren had to get the boot pronto?
Instead, everybody – particularly those inside the football club, turned to that Norwich result and ‘performance’ for comfort.
Wijnaldum scored four goals and Sissoko grabbed three assists, everybody wanting to believe…’if Newcastle can play like they did against Norwich then we’ll be ok, if Wijnaldum can get on the end of things like against Norwich, if Sissoko shows the creativity he did against Norwch…’ and so on.
The reality is of course that the Norwich 6-2 result was a massive distortion of what the story of that match actually was.
Newcastle scored six goals from six attempts on target, whilst Norwich scored two, hit the woodwork twice and had a host of other chances. It was a freakish basketball type match where fortunately (unfortunately in the longer term!) all the luck went United’s way. The big positives were Sissoko’s assisting and Gini’s finishing but in no other game were Newcastle ever going to get that type of freedom.
To put it into perspective, in the five months that have followed that game on 18 October 2015, Wijnaldum has scored just two more goals.
Moussa Sissoko has five assists for the season but only two of those came outside of that crazy 6-2 result.
A change in management was desperately needed as early as possible to save this season, a change in leadership, tactics and a new boss who would be allowed to choose which three or four much needed new signings would arrive in January.
That Norwich win put a massive nail in this season’s coffin and disastrously delayed change until far too late.
Rafa Benitez has been asked to do the near impossible – let’s have everything crossed that he is the magician we all hope he can be.
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