Newcastle 0 Tottenham 2 – Sunday 13 August 1.30pm
I hadn’t been this excited for an opening game in a long time. Regardless of it being a lacklustre summer window, the negative stories coming out of the club in regard to Rafa – and his relationship with Mike Ashley, this was a time to celebrate being back in the Premier League.
I fancied us to get a result before the game – but a defeat wouldn’t have been a terrible result. For me, Sunday was all about giving a good performance, not looking out of depth and looking like a PL side. To an extent I think we did that, at least while we had eleven players on the pitch.
I have said all summer that I would be happy with us finishing 17th this season. If that was offered to me now, then I’d take your hands off.
In an ideal world, I would love to go into the last five or six games of the season in the safety of mid-table with nothing to play for. I think that, for one season, given the previous years in the PL where we have been fighting relegation most season, it would be good for the club to get that extra month of preparation for the following season.
Transfer-wise it has obviously been an underwhelming summer, that was highlighted by the starting line-up which featured only two new players, Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo.
I think many of us before the season had taken it as a given that the key players from last year, Clark, Ritchie, Shelvey, Gayle etc. would automatically be able to perform in the Premier League. Sunday showed that isn’t going to be the case, and those players, just as much as new signings or fringe players, need to prove themselves to be good enough to stay in the team.
As I made my way to my new seat in Gallowgate Block V, it was a great feeling seeing all of the flags on the show, a good atmosphere and all of those boring weekends over the summer without football were forgotten.
When I read the team, I thought he had picked the right side, but after five minutes, it was obvious that Gayle and Perez were going to struggle up top. I would have liked to see some physical presence up there. With two small players out wide too, we had no attacking outlet when we were on the ball.
Which meant it looked as though our only chance of breaking Spurs down would have to come from a set-piece, or a moment of magic.
We started off the game okay and although we didn’t create anything, Spurs didn’t look like they were going to cause us much trouble. Even when Dummett went off injured after 5 minutes, it was a case of Clark slotting in at left-back and normal service was resumed.
Sadly, 20 minutes later, it was Lejeune turn to go off after a bad tackle from Harry Kane. I am not one of those who thinks that Harry Kane should have had a red card. It was a bad tackle, but if that was a black and white player getting a red card for that then I would have gone berserk.
Lejeune had looked comfortable in the opening 30 minutes, much like he had done for all of pre-season, and it was a big loss for him to go off so soon. Defensive reinforcements, especially at left-back, are much needed in the next two weeks.
By half-time, 0-0 was probably a fair result and to be honest, neither side looked like they were going to score. If Shelvey had stayed on the pitch then I do think the game would have ran out boringly to a goalless draw.
As we all know, Shelvey didn’t stay on the pitch after he pathetically stamped on Deli Alli and earned himself a red card and a three-game ban. If it was up to me, he wouldn’t be paid for the time that he is out. He lost the game for his team mates and for the fans.
After saving up to buy a season ticket for £650, and then after 45 minutes seeing a player do what Shelvey did, it leaves a really sick taste in your mouth.
I don’t really have a bad word to say about Dele Alli, he is a great young English player with attitude and arrogance. I wish we had a few more like him. He would go on to make it 1-0 which was no surprise really, Newcastle were carved open and from there it was effectively game over.
Once Ben Davies made it 2-0 it became a real effort not to let the scoreline get embarrassing and we did a great job of doing so. Mikel Merino came on for his debut and that seemed to liven the team up a little. I think he made more passes and had more touches in the 10 minutes he was on that Shelvey did in his 50 minutes.
Christian Atsu always looked a threat with positive runs, but he inevitably ran into a dead-end more often than not with little support coming from his nine other teammates. Moussa Sissoko was substituted after doing absolutely nothing on the pitch, so no changes there then!
In the end, a 2-0 defeat doesn’t look that bad. This season isn’t going to be defined by our results against the big teams in the league. The most important thing was a positive performance and I honestly believe we got that. Points at Huddersfield next week are essential though to kick start our season.
Rather than invest whatever budget he has in a few players with some real quality, Rafa appears to have taken a similar stance to last summer, in making sure he has at least two players in every position. Although we lost, it was lucky that Rafa has used this policy, when else would Newcastle United have had two competent centre-backs sitting on the bench?
However, I do fear that given the signings brought in; Merino, Murphy, two young players… Lejeune a cheap signing from abroad (although he looks good so far), the club are yet to move on from the Pardew/Carr blueprint of signing young talent and hoping that they perform well above their potential straight away.
Rafa is a guy that needs the love, you only have to look at the success he has had in his career. Success at clubs where the fans are crazy, they love the team and the manager relentlessly – Valencia, Liverpool, Napoli… and he hasn’t had success at clubs where the fans haven’t been as immediately supportive, and with owners who are not trustworthy, Inter and Real Madrid.
At the moment, he certainly isn’t feeling the love from upstairs, which is why he needs twice the amount of support and love from the stands if we are going to have any chance of a successful season. And by that, I mean not getting relegated. We can all see that he isn’t happy but for the moment, it looks like he is up for the challenge.
With my season ticket in the singing section, I thought it made a good noise throughout the game, however, I was told by my friends in other areas of the stadium that they could barely hear it. Perhaps that has something to do with the Gallowgate roof and improvements will be made over time.
Although an awful lot of hard work has gone into the new singing section, I have no time for those fans who slag off other fans for not singing, or standing up, or leaving 5 minutes early. I fear that already, there is some sort of weird ‘fan hierarchy’ being introduced from those in the singing section which can only lead to hostility between fans. I would love to be able to stand up for 90 minutes, but being in row B, and having three little kids sitting directly behind me, there is no way I will be standing up unless they do. Calling fellow fans ‘b****s’ for doing so is inexcusable in my opinion.
At the end of the game it was great to hear no boos, only positive applause which recognised the effort that 99% of the players had put in.
If there is anyone at the top I hope wins the league this year it’s Spurs, and full credit to Pochettino for being bold, and playing the likes of Walker-Peters. If only more managers had that confidence in their young players.
From an NUFC perspective, we can only support the team and be the 12th man as much as possible because they are certainly going to need it this year. More investment is needed, and I fear that if it doesn’t come, and I’m talking £25/30 million over the next few weeks, then it could be very tough times ahead.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Tottenham 2
Tottenham: Alli 61 Davies 7o (Newcastle – Shelvey sent off 48)
Possession was Tottenham 73% Newcastle 27%
Total shots were Tottenham 18 Newcastle 6
Shots on target were Tottenham 6 Newcastle 3
Corners were Tottenham 7 Newcastle 5
Referee: Andre Marriner
Elliot, Manquillo, Lejeune (Mbemba 34), Clark, Dummett (Lascelles 7), Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu, Perez, Gayle (Merino 76)
Darlow, Aarons, Murphy, Mitrovic
(To read the match ratings go HERE)
(To read what Rafa Benitez said after the match go HERE)
(To read the instant Newcastle United fan/writer reaction to today’s match 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])