Every now and again, just for a moment, I tend to get a little carried away.
It doesn’t happen very often. Heck, I’m quite the cynical sort for the most part, not willing to get lost in the moment and over-egg the pudding when a little bit of joy creeps into the monotony of what goes on in everyday life. Human beings are simple creatures and one of the things we crave is genuine excitement and enjoyment.
Well I have to say at 9:30pm last night, I was still in my cynical mode, thinking to myself what a hard slog this Championship season is going to be for Newcastle United.
Jump forward to 9:36 and that genuine excitement and enjoyment we all crave was there. We can be playing poorly (or wretchedly) in the Premier League or toiling in the Championship, those feelings still resonate every time a goal goes in to secure an unexpected draw or a battling win. Those feelings were present on Wednesday night against Norwich City at St James Park.
When Yoan Gouffran scored to make it 3-3 in the 95th minute, a comment was uttered in the Milburn Stand: ‘Is this what it’s come to, celebrating an equaliser against Norwich at home?’
I’d sort of welcomed it with the attitude of accepting the draw and moving on to the following week, safe in the knowledge that we hadn’t been beaten by a title rival. Thankfully the team had other ideas.
Fast forward 45 seconds and the whole picture completely changed.
Delirium! Euphoria! Random people not knowing what the hell to do with themselves. Less than two minutes earlier, the same individuals were perplexed, dumbstruck specimens, contemplating the next bus home and slaughtering the culpable that had caused the mood to be plunged into such a state.
But like I’ve said, things change. The scenes that erupted after Gayle scored in the 96th minute were worthy of much celebration, and comment.
The wave of optimism with Rafa Benitez continues and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean he should be immune from criticism, far from it. Amid the delight and celebration comes concern, quite justified. A few things need to happen and the first one should be taken on board by the manager as soon as possible.
This division isn’t a good one, quite the opposite. In fact, if you look at the ‘Premier League’ sides that have dropped down in recent years, Aston Villa and QPR are no great shakes, as we found out ourselves at Loftus Road the other week and we should have been out of sight at Villa Park long before the last minute equaliser.
Take Norwich City, a decent side, workmanlike and tidy, but we smashed them 6-2 last season and did a smash and grab on them last night. The key is, Aston Villa and QPR have dropped like stones and won’t get promoted this season, they are much of a muchness in this league and what does that say? The so called ‘big boys’ of the league can’t handle it. Only Norwich, Brighton and Huddersfield should be taken seriously, and we’ve beaten two of them.
This side needs to take this division by the scruff of the neck and in contrast to my criticism of Mick Quinn’s arrogant comments last week, which I regarded as ignorant and complacent when discussing our chances of promotion, I do feel a middle ground is required.
A bit more of a positive approach to games is required as this 4-4-1-1, or whatever it may be, isn’t working, or at least isn’t working well enough from the start of the game.
Down at Loftus Road, we went with a rare 4-4-2 and the result was we blasted QPR out of the water with Ritchie and Gouffran on the flanks and Mitrovic and Perez up front. That’s a heck of a forward line with Shelvey behind pulling the strings.
If we compare two games, QPR 0 Newcastle 6 and last night’s Newcastle 4 Norwich 3, two things were evident in both games. At Loftus Road, Mohamed Diame and Jack Colback remained on the bench for the whole game, last night the second Colback and Diame were hooked on 71 minutes, the game changed. Mitrovic went up top with Gayle and the side looked dangerous.
Cut a long story short, Mohamed Diame can’t start a game, I fail to see what he does and when you have both he and Colback in the midfield, we look very pedestrian to say the least. I think the fans are in unison that Matt Ritchie is a genuine quality player and is a shoe-in on the right wing with the revelation of the season, Yoan Gouffran, on the left flank.
I’ve been critical of Aleksandar Mitrovic in the past, especially after his back heel ended up costing us at Villa Park, but certainly at home he should start with either Gayle or Perez.
Rafa Benitez needs to stop chopping and changing the side and get a settled team week in week out. How many changes do you reckon will be made for Rotherham at the weekend?
Games come thick and fast in this division and a certain amount of rotation is needed but when you hit on a winning formula it should be retained. That’s twice now Mitrovic has replaced the awful Diame, either in the starting line up or coming on during the game and it’s provided dividends.
Our best back four will gradually be realised as Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark and Lazaar, the two full-backs providing both defensive capabilities and support going forward, and the Jamaal/Ciaran combo easily our best centre-half pairing.
Just a casual look at the personnel available to Benitez should make picking the side straightforward, but the biggest thing that needs to be realised is the attitude the side adopts at kick-off.
I’m certainly not scared of what I’ve seen us come up against so far this season, and whilst we aren’t going to steamroller everyone is this league, having the right people on the field from the start would certainly help us go in the right direction.