So after a minor blip normal service has been resumed with three very different Newcastle United performances resulting in three fairly similar results.
Our home game against Birmingham was a stroll by a team who got their performance and tactics right against a team who got their performance and tactics all wrong.
It was followed by two away wins: one comfortable against a hard-working but limited Wigan side, one not so comfortable against a hard-working but limited Burton side.
It was nice to get back to winning ways after three disappointments in the previous week, although less of a disappointment in that Jonjo Shelvey had his Nottingham Forest three match ban for violent conduct reduced to losing his pocket money for a week. After the overturning of the red card the focus more fell on an inexperienced referee making mistakes and a player happy to bend the rules to his own advantage than any petulance or indiscipline on our players part.
It’s a subject which has been highlighted many times this month after Robert Snodgrass admitted he sort of dived to win a penalty against Palace, not that Alan Pardew mentioned post-match I’m sure and also when Chelsea were fined £100k for their part in the bust up at Manchester City.
Agreed, Shelvey (Tuesday lunchtime – announced Shelvey found guilty of misconduct and five match ban – possible appeal) can be a bit of a knacker at times but I don’t agree with the current pundit blether that any sort of retaliation is a sending off, that might be the rules but in the sort of football I play, the whole incident between Shelvey and Lansbury was a free kick to us and a ‘stop mucking about or the cards come out’ lecture to Lansbury and Shelvey. It was the sort of spat which wouldn’t have got http://www.themag.co.uk/2016/12/not-just-henri-lansbury-doesnt-fancy-returned-forest-tickets-sale-newcastle-fans-newcastle-v-nottingham-forest-newcastle-united/more than an eye-brow raise at Adventure Land at a three year old birthday party, though Lansbury’s weave is the sort of haircut rarely seen outside of the Cambridge University Reggae Society.
Had Shelvey stayed on we probably would have beaten Forest even after Dummett got sent off, the way Dummett was defending – sending him off put him out of his misery. Not that Dummett should have been sent off, the fella was already on the way down long before Dummett had plodded into him. There’s no way that was a goal-scoring opportunity, Lansbury had no intention of trying to score, the only net he can find is the one he puts on his hair.
Never mind Shelvey, Dummett or the Hull fella who was unlucky to go against us for nowt more than a closer inspection of Lascelles chin, if you wanted to see a proper sending off you didn’t have to look any further than Sergio Aguero clattering David Luiz in the previously mentioned PL game. Again, Luiz obviously deserves a kicking in any game but the disappointing thing was Pep Guardiola’s reaction afterwards, again highlighting that this is no longer a physical game:
“Both players were strong. Both players. He [David Luiz] went down and he (Agero) touched him. It wasn’t intentional.”
‘Sergio Aguero: The look on his face tells you it wasn’t intentional’
Which of course is complete cojones. What he should have said was:
“That David Luiz is a spanner at the best of times. Sergio was obviously angry at being denied a free kick earlier in the game and getting beat at the end of it. He is a player who gives a sh*t about losing, which is refreshing in this day and age when they get paid £80million a day. Myself, I wouldn’t have tried to take his head and his knee off at the same time with two different feet, but I can understand why Aguero wanted to. He’s got 4 games off now to cool down, Merry Christmas.”
I don’t think that there is anything wrong with admitting that he lost his temper and cattled someone, it’s a high adrenaline sport after all, or it should be if you are playing it right.
Speaking of high adrenaline and cattling people, the papers were this week speculating that Swansea, West Ham and Crystal Palace will attempt to sign 22-year-old Newcastle and Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in January. Though Mitro is a bit of a cult hero and remains on fire in his own special way, it remains to be seen whether a bid of more than £12million from clubs as desperate as those three would be seen as good business by NUFC.
Certainly, we wouldn’t miss his 9 minute shifts at the end of every game, it is like watching a bear chasing some early season salmon in a Canadian wildlife documentary. The key would be replacing him. If he does go, it would be interesting seeing him team up with Andy Carroll at West Ham. It would take the UN peacekeeping force longer to mobilise than those two.
‘Mitro and Carroll: The Ammers Family’
Anyway, this week Rafa said:
“I don’t see any big change now at the club as a whole. I am giving you my answer – I don’t see any big changes at the club in January.”
That rules out Mitro leaving, unless he was talking about the size of the change rather than the size of the player, they don’t come much bigger than Mitro.
This month we also said goodbye to Ian Cathro, who left his coaching role at NUFC to join The Proclaimers and the Championship said goodbye to Gary Rowett at Birmingham City, replaced by Gianfranco Zola. While no one would blame Cathro for his career progression, much has been printed about the sacking of Rowett and his replacement by Zola, who was a great player but seems to be a pretty awful manager.
One thing I would say is that after a few months in the Championship, I have noticed that very few clubs get decent crowds, it is only us, Villa or perhaps a local derby which gets anyone into our opponents stadiums. The new Birmingham City owners suggested that they wanted “an exciting future ahead” and they might have taken the risk hoping that more people will watch a Zola team than would watch a largely defensive and attritional Rowett team.
‘Gianfranco Zola: Odds on to get the sack’
Huddersfield, going for promotion to the top division for the first time since in over 40 years had 18,333 for the game against Bristol City, which is a ground three quarters full. What more do they want?
Likewise in the Benfica v Napoli game, a game Benfica had to win to qualify for the CL group stages, the ground wasn’t full.
Nearer to home, Burton struggled to sell out a sub-7,000 stadium when we played them at the weekend. Just what more do people want?
Entertainment perhaps, hope possibly, which may be why Zola is now in charge of Birmingham. The Championship is a prison sentence for those used to better so it is no wonder teams would want to gamble to get out of it, rather than simply exist in half full stadia watching second rate football. Brighton’s accounts this week showed that they lost £25.9million last year as they tried to get PL football. It’s a lot of money but I’m not surprised they went for it.
Elsewhere, Nile Ranger got done for fraud, probably after doing an interview saying he was a footballer. The final word for our ex-players has to once again go to Moussa Sissoko, this week admitting that he is struggling at Spurs:
“I found the intensity of the training difficult. The style of how he wants us to play. A lot of things. What we do at the training. It was a lot of change. Every manager has his style of training so now I understand everything. He is a physically demanding manager. That was a big change for me, because in my old team it was totally different.”
No it wasn’t Moussa, you just played like it was.