Hearts 1 Newcastle 2 – Friday 14 July 7.45pm

Football is back!

Thank God, no more politics, no more shopping with the girlfriend, and no more pretending to be interested in who is getting dumped from Love Island.

It has certainly felt like a longer summer than usual with the Championship season finishing earlier than others, and no major international tournaments to pass the time via SkyBet. The return of Newcastle United to my summer schedule couldn’t come soon enough.

Hearts away was an ideal announcement. The club have long picked some tedious pre-season friendlies in recent years so this was a welcome change. While it wasn’t a boring North East fixture, like the usual Carlisle (I know that’s not north east) and Hartlepool, it was still close enough to be able to leave the house at 3pm, be in the car by 4pm and be in the pub two minutes away from Tynecastle at 6.30. Perfect, well done Newcastle and thanks Ian Cathro.

While it has been a nervous summer so far, there was still a certain stench of optimism in the air. After all, we are a club on the up at the moment, having won the league only a few months previous. I can’t stress enough how great it was to be able stand in a pub, with your mates, and not have to talk about politics, football was back, and back for good.

My last trip to Scotland to watch Newcastle play was the 27 July 1999. It was my second ever football match and my first away game when I was a meagre three years old to see Newcastle play my dad’s team and my second team, Celtic. Things have changed a lot since then. In front of 60,000 at Celtic Park, the players on show that night included the likes of Speed, Shearer and Solano up against Larsson, Moravcik and Berkovic.

There has been enough talk at the moment about transfers and who is coming in, or what everything means, so I am not going to bore anyone with a load of nonsense opinion that they have probably heard from someone else.

On the pitch we brought a pretty big squad with us to Tynecastle on Friday night, which included the likes of de Jong, Hanley, Haidara and Saivet. On the other hand, there were notable absentees like Darlow, Murphy and Krul, with Hayden and Ritchie still recovering from injury. It was also nice to see the team playing a pre-season friendly in Black and White for once, with those red numbers on the back, which if I can say, look bloody brilliant.

In truth, I should have left the game after five minutes because it was all a bit downhill from there, but hey, it was a great opening five minutes with a goal and two other great chances.

Newcastle started off on the front foot and looked lively with two out and out wingers. Rolando Aarons would hit the bar twice in the first half (although his second attempt was a terrible cross rather than a shot). Lots of people were praising him for his performance…but I’m yet to be impressed by him. He had a lively opening 10 minutes but after that he didn’t do much and was all over the place defensively. I’m yet to see substance for the hype surrounding him.

On the other hand, Siem De Jong had a good game. Another one who did quieten down after 15 minutes but he always looked calm and assured in possession. His assist for the first goal was sublime, although I do think he will have to continue to replicate those performances over the next few games if Rafa is to give him a chance in the PL. Even if de Jong does play well, I feel that if Rafa gets the players in that he wants then he will be off anyway.

At the other end, Newcastle looked shaky defensively with Haidara at left-back and a makeshift Mbemba at right-back. Defensively, we all know that Mbemba is solid, but I don’t think RB will be his position this coming year – he looked awkward going forward. Where to fit in Mbemba could be a big problem for Rafa because he has made Lascelles captain, therefore, presumably he is the first CB on the team sheet. However, in my opinion, Clark and Mbemba are our two best centre halves and only one of them can play beside Lascelles (granted I haven’t seen Lejeune play so far).

I just can’t see Mbemba wanting to stay if for whatever reason he finds himself as fourth choice centre back. So while we are all expecting Hanley to drop down to the Championship, I would watch this space regarding Mbemba.

Hearts should have equalised when Haidara gave away a stupid penalty for a stupid foul. Luckily the Hearts player blazed the ball over the bar. It was such a bad penalty that it almost looked like he did it on purpose. I don’t know how he could have got it so wrong, perhaps he had money on an NUFC clean sheet.

If he did then he would have been a loser as Hearts equalised almost straight away with the defence split open again. In between that was two good saves from Elliott and a header from Gayle to put us 2-1 up at the break.

As you would expect in our first game of pre-season there was widespread changes at half-time, which included the likes of Gamez, Perez, Mitrovic, Lejeune and Saivet.

The second-half was what can only be described as a classic pre-season kickabout, the game never got going as the heavens started to open and more fans filtered out the ground for an early pint.

Further subs were made with Woodman and Armstrong returning from their victorious U20 World Cup campaign, as well as Hanley, Lazaar and Colback.

We know players are going to leave over the next few weeks, it already looks like Darlow and Riviere are certainties to go, but who else will be intriguing to see how the rest of July is going to play out. We all know reinforcements are needed, and I am sure, that one way or another they will come.

I have missed it…and I have missed the criticism in the comments section of all those that think I talk rubbish, so fire away!

A great day out, a great win (although meaningless), so let’s start as we mean to go on.

In a summer in which we tragically lost Cheick Tiote, and in the past week young Bradley Lowery, who both received heart-warming melodies from the away end, it was a poignant reminder that while there are a lot of things to be sceptical and cautious about with Newcastle United this summer, at the end of the day, it is only a game.

So maybe it is time to be a little bit more positive about things and get behind the team, ahead of what should be an exciting season back in the Premier League.

Hearts 1 Newcastle 2

Friday 14 July 7.45pm


Newcastle: Gayle 4, 26

Hearts: Walker 24

Newcastle United:

Elliot (Woodman 63), Aarons(Gamez 46), Clark (Dummett 46), Mbemba (Hanley 62), Lascelles (Lejeune 46), Haidara (Colback 62), Shelvey (Saivet 46), Diame (Armstrong 62), De Jong (Lazaar 75), Atsu (Perez 46), Gayle (Mitrovic 46)

Crowd: 10,001 (1,468 Newcastle)

Referee: Willie Collum

(Watch the goals from Hearts 1 Newcastle HERE)

(To read what Rafa Benitez had to say after the match go HERE)

(To read the match ratings for all Newcastle players v Hearts go HERE)

(To read what Ian Cathro had to say about the game go HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Mal

    Yes it’s great that footballs back and well done for making the trip. Didn’t you notice that Lejeune came on in the second half?

  • Leazes Ender

    Well to me it looks to be the same squad currently standing at fifteenth in the ‘squad valuation table’ which essentially means a season of struggle….

    …..forgive me if I turn out to be wrong …. I’m not usually wrong as I use an objective approach to assessment, and not drunkenly ride on the back of a dolphin named ‘Positivity’ screaming ‘hi ho silver’

    The club haven’t been able to ship out what some would disparagingly call ‘dross’., or acquire any key objectives, and even the most conservative pundits like Shearer and Lee were calling for a massive overhaul of the squad….. it hasn’t happened, they’ve patched up the jalopy and waved it back onto the racetrack.

    Viva la Rafalution.

    • Wor Monga

      I see you’re still rabbiting on about that ‘Squad Valuation Table’ of yours…so can you just tell us where Leicester City were placed… at the end of the 2014/15 season when they finished in 14th position and just 2 points above us in 15th…

      …did they suddenly jump to the top of it seeing as almost all their squad then went on to win the title the next season!!!

      • Leazes Ender

        Ehm…… nearly relegated and sacked their manager to save themselves last season…. predictions based upon squad valuation are not far from the outcome…..it largely follows the valuation,but of course there are exceptions teams in transition etc,…. we might not end up fifteenth it could be anywhere between tenth and relegated…. not that you care.

        I predicted the three to go down last season and two of the three to come up but not in the right order.

        We sit at present with a valuation which puts us fifteenth, there will be signings which will take us to tenth but with nothing to aim for we will sink lower.

        Is that a Rafalution?

    • Geordie-7676

      I would like to know what contributing factors go in to your assessments.

      As a learned man, i am sure you understand that an assessment is based upon contributing factors, valued against the point to arrive at a determined score. So, what are your ‘objective’ criteria may i ask?

      • Leazes Ender

        I understand where you are coming from and want to pick a fight based upon exactitudes of supposed criteria, but I called it objective perhaps that is a bit misleading perhaps independent would have been better, that which is not surrounded by the hype of Ryders overactive saliva glands.

        • Geordie-7676

          Perfectly fair answer!

  • Wor Lass

    Jonathan, you must have a hell of a long driveway if it takes you an hour to get from your house to your car – or had you just forgotten where you parked it?.

    • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

      Had to get picked up in Lemmington which was a trek!

      • Wor Monga

        Where did you start off from…Berwick!!!

        • Jonathan Drape-Comyn


          • Wor Monga

            You should have used your bike instead of your skateboard, and went via Stanley!!!

          • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

            too many hills for my little thighs.

          • Wor Monga

            I don’t like the way this is going…too much information!!!

          • Leazes Ender

            You don’t like information it upsets your little world….. and spills out of your ears as overflow.

          • Wor Monga

            Oh!…you’re so poetical…the Mag’s very own Edward Lear of nonsense !!!

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    4 weeks & Spurs arrive in Toon, i shudder to think what will happen. there is always shocks on the 1st day of the season, i don`t think we`ll be one of them.
    if this squad isn`t bolstered by another 4 to 5 players we`ll be adrift by the turn of the year

    • Wor Monga

      If I remember correctly you were shuddering with negativity the last time that Spurs came up here to ‘whop’ us…so nothings changed there,then!!!

    • Jezza

      Yes the thought of what the likes of Alli and Kane are going to do to us is not a pleasant one.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    I`m nipping over to the chron to stir the schitt, ha ha
    1 minute later, that was quick, as usual no news from Ryder & his team

    Viva La Rafalution

  • Wor Monga

    Eh, what’s that!…you’re not impressed by Aarons…every time he’s been on the pitch I’ve been impressed by the lad, and i’m not the only one…until his lengthy injury spell just about everybody up here got really worried that he wouldn’t renew his contract especially with several of the really big clubs hovering around him like proverbial bad smells…

    when fit he’s devastating out wide, and give him an inch or three and he’ll hit the target from any distance…if he stays fit he could go on to be one of the best wingers we’ve ever had, and i’ve been watching them since Bobby Mitchell!!!

    • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

      How can you say that has the potential to go and be one of the best wingers we have ever had? You must be joking surely.

      Name me one game in which Aarons has been ‘devastating’ outside. He scored a great goal against City in the cup, and a good 15 mins against Palace at home a few seasons ago. Oh and a fluke against Schalke in pre-season.

      • Wor Monga

        He’s never had a run in the side due to his youth, and injuries but when he’s been on he’s shown more than enough pace, and control to go past defenders, and do something with it either by cutting into the area , crossing or having a shot…what more can you ask from any young, inexperienced, wide midfielder… starting off in the PL!!!

        • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

          well for starters he is 21 (22 in october/november) so in terms of PL thats not exactly young. i don’t think showing pace is something to praise him for… lets be honest he has done nothing and only gets his praise because has a few tricks in his bag (IMO)

          • Wor Monga

            If stats are all you’re prepared to go on, then…Aarons (20yr old) 14 PL appearances (most from the bench)… 2 PL goals, and compared by many in football as similar to Sterling…

            …Andros Townsend (20yr old) 50 PL appearances for Spurs (most from the bench)…3 PL goals!!!

          • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

            he is 21 though 18 PL games, 2 goals. Lets remember that one of those was a terrible cross against Palace.

            also, from my own experiences of him, and those from others, aswell as his social media… he seems to talk an awful lot about himself. i will start believing in him when he starts playing well.

          • Wor Monga

            ‘A terrible cross’ is never ever that…if it ends up being a goal for your team…because it counts exactly the same…

            …that’s football fact not fiction

          • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

            We will agree to disagree. I think you are living in walter-mitty land regarding Aarons.

          • Damon Horner

            you’re both not wrong really, he has shown glimpses of ability and potential but is he doing enough to warrant a start? how does he fare to Sammy?

            Think it’s a bit harsh suggesting his age is a key factor relative to his experience, no wonder young players struggle with pressure when they have to be highly productive as bairns!

          • Wor Monga

            Always living in hope regarding our young players who’ve shown promise in first team games…and I’ve never judged one, on what he puts out on his twitter account either!!!

    • Steve Smith

      Aarons and De Jong could be “like new signings” if they kick on this season.

      • Wor Monga

        I’m hoping they do…because they will both be quality competition for places!!!

        • Leazes Ender


  • Si

    If we’ve bought Lejeune as a starting CB then he would be paired with Clark not Lascelles. Team still lacks pace, creativity and a defence that will struggle out wide against pace and creativity. Depth in centre midfield needs to be addressed and competition / back-up for Gayle (not a proven Prem goal scorer) is key as it is goals that keep you up.

    • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

      but you can see Rafa not playing his captain? I can’t. I also can’t see us strengthening all those areas that you’ve named, even though we need to.

      • Wor Monga

        Rafa has dropped Lascelles in the past…because he goes on current form, performance on the training ground and what’s needed to get a result on the day…not because of the armband…

        …there are several players capable of being captain now so those days are long gone!!!

        • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

          I think there is a big difference between dropping Lascelles for the odd game, and giving him a sustained period out of the team… which Rafa is yet to do.

          • Wor Monga

            Where does any idea of sustained periods out, come into the equation…it’s dependent solely on competition, and rotation…throughout the season on a daily basis and giving the opportunity for every fit and ready player to get the nod…

            …that way Rafa can maintain continuous levels of improvement!!!

          • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

            so much competition that Rafa preferred to have an apparently injured Lascelles for half the season rather than Mbemba or Hanley? If he isn’t going to drop him when he is injured and playing poorly… then when would he drop him?

          • Wor Monga

            You better ask him that…but maybe he thought a wounded trouper was better than 2 fit ones he couldn’t fully rely on, but whatever the reasons it achieved his primary aim of promotion!!!

      • Si

        Has he named next season’s captain yet? Doesn’t have to be Lascelles.

  • Shipcote Willy

    A Championship team with a new defender. We will end up back down there without the addition of some quality Premier players.

    • Wor Monga

      Just what we need on here yet another ‘full on’ harbinger of doom and gloom…comes out of the woodwork,to darken our day…

      … better join the queue Willy…as us Geordies are far too happy this summer!!!

      • Leazes Ender

        Why? are you allowed out to Cullercoats fro an ice cream and a bag of chips?

        • Wor Monga

          Nowt wrong with Cullercoats…on a decent day you can almost see the Spanish City from there, and the fish and chips are definitely worth getting out of the car, in the pouring rain for!!!