Newcastle United have had a very sobering start to life back in the Championship. I can’t imagine getting beat by Fulham and Huddersfield in first two games was in Rafa’s plan for the season ahead.
Although not perfect, I think we saw some green shoots of recovery in the Reading game. The feeling of that game was summed up by my nephew’s comment straight after we went 3-1 up: ‘We’ll definitely win now, probably, well we should…’, not totally convincing but an improvement nonetheless.
Despite all the media hype I didn’t think for a second that we’d go the season unbeaten, you could drop some of the best teams in Europe into the Championship and I’d bet that they’d come unstuck somewhere along the line.
I accept that losing the first two does put a bit of pressure on the remaining fixtures but I don’t think it’s something to get too concerned about just yet. Looking at last year’s table, Burnley lost 5 drawing 15, Middlesbrough lost 9 drew 15, Brighton lost 5 drew 11 and Hull lost 11 drew 11.
Winning 26 games got the top two promoted last year and I’d like to see us focus on getting to that figure as soon as possible.
The trouble is our team, certainly in the first two games, seem to lack the confidence to take games to the opposition. A large majority of the team seem happy to make the safe pass backwards or square and never into space for someone to run on to. We continue to cross the ball into the box with no one in there likely to meet it – maybe that will change when Mitrovic returns.
The movement up front and midfield needs to improve so our play can develop momentum. You can’t have too many individuals playing it safe and expect the team to win.
My brother-in-law said to me after the Huddersfield game that there are two types of bravery in football.
One is the guy who is willing to go into 50/50 tackles, get in early, win every ball, hard as nails.
The other is the guy willing to take a chance with the ball, who always wants the ball no matter how many players are around him, who is no respecter of reputations, who can shrug off criticism from a baying crowd.
I think you need a bit of both in a team, as entertaining a team full Gazzas would be I’m not sure we’d win every week, same goes if you had a team full of Stuart Pearces.
Some players are able to take the same ‘jumpers for goal posts’ attitude to playing football to the professional level. From a spectator’s point of view, the ability to play without fear of consequence is one of the greatest things a footballer can possess. You could have all the technical ability in the world but without the means to use it, it is like an unspent fortune.
How many times have you heard of players being great on the training pitch but rarely perform when in the starting eleven? Shola Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan spring to mind but there have been plenty down the years.
I can’t help but think we are still yet to address the lack of leadership in our squad. Yes Lascelles has been given the captaincy on the field but who are our leaders off it?
In the past the likes of Roy Aitken and Brian Kilcline (pictured below) were brought in, their wealth of experience invaluable to the younger lads in and around the squad. Lascelles, since he has the armband, has sometimes shown a tendency to try and cover up others’ mistakes which can make him look like he’s struggling.
Robson’s team was built around his ‘blue-chip’ players like Gary Speed, Rob Lee, Alan Shearer; this spine allowed the younger members of the team to express themselves and develop. I just wonder who our current crop of players are looking to at the moment.
In the past we had Joe Harvey walking the corridors of St. James Park. He was a link to our glorious past, as that link has stretched over time, the chasm that Joe Harvey left has widened.
I had posters of Joe Harvey and the teams of the 50s from the Pink on my wall as a kid (the photos are smaller and in frames these days). I was only six years old when he died but I grew up knowing who he was and what he was about, through people speaking so highly of the man. Those conversations have carried on through to this day and I’m sure will continue to.
I don’t think Bob Moncur quite has the same integral involvement at the Club as someone like Joe Harvey had. Through Joe’s character and what he achieved in the game, more importantly whilst either captaining and/or managing NUFC, he commanded respect and had an aura about him, what Joe said, went. No disrespect intended but, Bob comes across as more of a tour guide in comparison, but I suppose people of Joe Harvey’s ilk don’t come along that often.
In my opinion, NUFC is a Premier League Club in the Championship. We’ve brought in a lot of players that will not only need time to gel as a team but will also need time to adjust to playing in front of 50,000 at home, and often sold out away ends, where the expectation is to win.
Matz Sels, Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, Jesus Gamez, Isaac Hayden, Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark and Mohamed Diamé have been brought in. Collectively, the majority of their experience has been in the Championship, or lower in some cases; Sels the Belgian league, Gamez being the exception having spent most of his career in La Liga.
Both Clark and Diamé have each clocked upover 100 Premier League appearances which should stand them in good stead – but their experience has been at clubs where visits to grounds like St. James Park was to get in there, shut up shop and take what you can, which is different to having to try and take the game to the opposition.
They need to embrace the expectation that comes with playing for NUFC and if they do they will become better players for it. I’m confident under Rafa’s guidance in time these lads will get it right.
Rafa is the man we wanted, he by some miracle decided to stay, so we need to remain fully supportive of him, his ideas and the players he trusts to get the job done.
Howay me bonny lads!!!
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