Let’s face it – Sunday was a typical day in the life of a Toon fan!

One thing’s absolutely for certain, we are never far away from controversy with our beloved club and Sunday summed it up to a tee.

I’m going to resist any natural urges to be negative during this article and focus on a fabulous opening weekend of Premier league football.

An exhilarating opening game saw Arsenal and Leicester show the world, once again, why the Premier League is such a global addiction. Chelsea got spanked 3-0 in the first-half (final score 3-2 to Burnley) and my ‘genius’ FPL captain selection of Wilfred Zaha bit me firmly on my black and white butt. How I’ve missed my football and this season, more than others, seemed a torturous wait before that first hallowed whistle blew.

At St James Park on Sunday, Rafa Benitez lined up the team impeccably. That first-half filled me with real optimism for the forthcoming season. He was never going to let us off the leash in this tough opening fixture.

The unfortunate first half substitutions through injury highlighted Rafa’s tactical nous, as the replacements seamlessly fitted into the holes created by the Toon curse.

Spurs looked ordinary…and they are most definitely not. They didn’t have an off day, they weren’t jetlagged, or discombobulated by the off-field transfer negativity. They were up for the challenge and we negated them expertly, hunting down their potent playmakers at every opportunity and making them look decidedly ordinary.

This was not an accident – this was the Rafa effect, and a well drilled team carrying out instructions to a tee. So what if we didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half! It was always going to be a containment job and then build from that as the game went on.

If the game had finished at that first-half whistle with a 0-0 draw we, and the majority of pundits, would be lauding our team as the battlers we’ve been crying out for. We were compact, allowed them to play in areas that didn’t hurt us and when dangerous situations occurred we were quick to deal with them. This is a team in Rafa’s making and it fills me with confidence.

And then the second-half went awry. Shelvey IS NOT the messiah, he’s a very very naughty boy. This was petulant payback for Harry Kane taking out Florian Lejeune and it backfired big time. Hopefully it won’t do too much damage in the long run and Jonjo will return, hopefully stronger for the experience, and we will get to see what Merino has in his locker in the meantime.

The game ends 0-2 with the crowd still behind the team. No ‘Ashley out’ choruses – a united front solidified by the Rafa effect.  We live to fight another day with a set of ‘winnable’ fixtures on the horizon to fill us with confidence.

And then the clock struck 7! I tune into Sky Sports and marvel at the ‘heartfelt’ interview with big Mike Ashley. It was so odd. He clearly offered this interview to counterbalance Rafa’s veiled threats and it was difficult not to read between the lines.

He said so much…but in reality he didn’t really say a lot. It smacked of a little boy scorned who’s desperate for his due adulation. I saw flashes of genuine honesty, anger, apathy and the occasional flashes of arrogance. The flex in his jaw said so much more than his words in places and I came away from this interview quite perplexed. Worryingly, I think this a bit of one-upmanship with Rafa Benitez – an extremely dangerous game to play with such a highly decorated manager who feels that his position is creeping towards the untenable.

To read further between the lines, it could be construed that Mr Ashley is reminding Rafa that he can be destructively whimsical at times and actually enjoys these high stakes cat and mouse gambles. After all, there’s probably only one man that us fans would accept stepping into Rafa’s shoes should he walk away or get sacked (after the wake of the implosion that would follow) and he invited him – Alan Shearer – in on Sky Sports yesterday evening. “Never say never Alan!

So really, you could possibly boil Mike Ashley’s interview down as this: We are who, and where, we are Rafa. You knew we weren’t Manchester City and didn’t have pots of cash available. Do the job at hand, work with what you have… for now and don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Because you are not indispensable! And if I decide it’s time for you to go, or you walk, Alan Shearer will be proud to step into your shoes!

Harsh, wrong, disrespectful, shameful even. But this is Mike Ashley and history is there for all to see.

But football is back and I shan’t allow the looming cataclysmic explosion within the club to dampen my mood – for now. We’re playing appropriate football for where we are right now. We certainly weren’t made to look like mugs like Chelsea, Palace (and Liverpool to some extent) were.

We may or may not have a signing or two coming through the door over the next week or so and Rafa is a man who thrives on a siege mentality- so he’s in the right place. Sunday will have reinforced our resolve. We also have defensive and midfield cover to step in and do the job – as was so ably proved against Spurs.

Football is back and I’d love it… you hear me…. I’d love it if we finished mid-table, so Big Mike can rest easy for the season and Rafa can get on with his job of rebuilding this great club from the ground up.

Viva la Rafalution. Viva la unnecessary drama.

Viva Football.

Dom also has his own website which you can visit here – www.natureslarder.tv

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

  • TheNutJob

    Big Al`s not that daft

    • Jezza

      True. Unfortunately I fear that there is another Alan ready and waiting to take over from Rafa.

      • Leazes Ender

        Did you know 13 Alan’s have played for United?

        • Jimblag23

          What about Alain’s?

          • Jezza

            I can think of two, Alain Goma and Jean Alain Boumsong.

          • Leazes Ender

            They don’t count

          • Mal

            Come on put us out of our misery. Who are we missing?

        • Jezza

          I can remember eight:
          Davies RIP

          • Geordiegiants

            Clarko would have you in second with his google thumb. I bet he can find 14 ;-)

          • 1957

            Kennedy, Neilson and possibly someone I knew as a kid Alan Guy

          • Jezza

            Can’t believe I forgot Alan Kennedy, then again you always miss an obvious one. The name Alan Guy sounds vaguely familiar but I don’t remember an Alan Neilson, must have been from before my time.

          • Geordiegiants

            Alan Neilson was from Jim Smith days I believe, he was from around our time Jezza.

          • Jezza

            I must have just missed him. I stopped going religiously home and away in 1991 so I presume he came along just after that.

          • Jezza

            I’ve remembered him! It just came to me when I was watching telly half an hour ago. It was the spelling that threw me. It was Neilsen not Neilson. It’s all coming back now, he was one of the youngsters who came through with Lee Clark and Steve Watson. Come to think of it there was also another Alan in that batch of youngsters, Alan Thompson who went on to play for Bolton I seem to recall.

          • 1957

            Neilson left for Sothampton in 94 or 95

      • TheFatController

        Not the summer blockbuster ‘JFK 3 – The Thrid Coming’?

        He’s still got Wenger’s number in his Filofax.

  • TheFatController

    I think even Ashley knows Shearer ain’t up for any more nonsense with Ashley and will be only doing our tactics on MOTD and not on the training field for a long time yet.

    However, I think you are spot on that it was wholly to give Rafa some ‘return volleys’ on dealings and promises made/expectations

    The apologies to Hughton Keegan Shearer was his crass and crack-handed attempt to clear the air so that any Rafa replacements watching would think ‘ah, He’s made his peace with those managers he saw off that the fans liked…top bloke’

    Reality of course is any manager watching was no doubt thinking ‘disingenuous idiot using Shearer & Keegan cheaply as pawns in his battle with the much respected Rafa..’

    • Jimblag23

      I don’t think or want Shearer to ever manage us again.
      Unless you course he is successful somewhere and proves he’s a good manager.

    • X,WHY,Y MAN.

      It’s basically Keith Bishop advising him to do the interview but thankfully the 21st century is a one of enlightenment where this sort of manipulative rubbish is seen straight through by people now !

  • Paul Patterson

    Let’s clear one thing up, Alan won’t go a country mile near that job while Ashley is the owner, if at all.
    The positivity is much welcome and I can see us having a decent season once we find our feet. I DO think another two players will come in before the transfer window shuts and one WILL be a striker (Joselu more than likely).
    The references to Keegan, Shearer and Hughton were feeble and nobody will believe that he means it, if he even does himself.
    Playing games with Rafa is dangerous as he won’t flounce off, but I’m sure he would replicate Keegan in one way and go down the ‘constructive dismissal’ route.

    • Leazes Ender

      What positivity?

      • Paul Patterson

        The tone of the article . .

      • Geordiegiants

        Ashley saying he is willing to sell.

        • X,WHY,Y MAN.

          Then in the next sentence says we will be stuck together for the foreseeable future which is what Ashley does.
          There are always bits of patronization mixed a dash of threats and elements of truth in there.
          You have to read between the lines with Ashley though and it’s in the second sentence I mentioned above what the real truth is.

          • Geordiegiants

            He is a pure slink, but he would definetly sell if a buyer came in for the club at the right money. F’ck knows what the right money would be though.

    • X,WHY,Y MAN.

      I think we can forget about Shearer in the Newcastle

  • magpiefifer

    Many seem to have been taken in with Ashley’s ‘performance’ last night – but then so many of them are Southern-based and,let’s say, ignorant of some of the facts!
    Ashley’s ego had to come out on top in this battle of wills with Rafa,and given his sway with Sky Sports (and the sycophantic Craig!), he chose his moment with impeccable timing!
    I can’t see any other outcome than a parting of the ways,and if that happens we face another chasm of despair.
    The next 2 weeks – both in terms of the transfer window,our results on the pitch, and relations off it – could well be season defining.

    • Leazes Ender

      David Craig is a mate of Keith Bishop who is Ashley’s PR adviser.

      • magpiefifer

        Yes,and a creep at that!!!!

        • Geordiegiants

          The lots of them all pee in the same pit. David Craig should be ashamed of the way he is licking the hoop of Jabba. I hope when Jabba goes, SKY finishes him for his blatant propaganda shoot with the vile parasite.

          • X,WHY,Y MAN.

            David Craig is a buck toothed little snake who looks like Derrick Bird and has been crawling jacksy for a long while where Ashley is concerned.

    • X,WHY,Y MAN.

      Anyone who believes Mike Ashley based on the strength of that interview is off their nut !

  • Biggs Darklighter

    Rafa is a man. Ashley is a tyrant.

  • glassjawsh-got-banned

    It’s going to be pretty rough once Neil Warnock is appointed in January

    • Martin

      Did a good job at Rotherham.

      • Jimblag23

        He’s top of the championship at the moment. He’d probably reject us 😂

    • X,WHY,Y MAN.

      Good shout mate because that is the calibre of operator Ashley wants although Neil is his own man and would tell Ashley where to stick his job after the inevitable interference.

  • Toonrobbybobson

    All the indications currently are Ashley wants to sell but he cant make it look desperate.

    If Rafa is patient he will see off Ashley as I think its coming over the next 12 months. He doesnt want the Toon burden anymore. He would be better with a championship club pushing them for promotion but Newcastle has probably and maybe football has served its purpose for Ashley as its too costly for him and a big risk to his wealth now the sums are so big. Its an ongoing concern.

    The restrained transfer budget is because he doesnt want to finance the deals himself when he wants a sale as it will be hard to build those fees into the club resale value as its already not cheap. Him spending £50m on signings doesnt mean it comes back in kind to him so hes bottling it now.

    Cant wait to see the back of him!

  • Geordiegiants

    Doesn’t look like Rafa is going anywhere at the minute, the Joselu signing is showing he is trying to crack on.

  • Kneebotherm8

    Ashley is the classic bogeyman.

  • Fleckman hoop licker

    I prefer to judge him on his actions during the decade he’s owned the club rather than some preprepared horse plop for the gullible.

  • anyobrien

    “The well drill team”…. Is a very import statement and is exactly the reason why he does not play mitro and will always play Dummet.. He (mitro) a loose cannon who will not follow instructions to a tee.Dummet on the other hand does exactly as he’s told and the gafa loves that.

  • Andy Mac

    Sorry but I wouldn’t want Shearer back as manager. Let him stay where he is picking up his £2m on MOTD

  • Tom Robson

    Best article I’ve read all summer

  • Peter Stabler

    It is this simple – believe nowt fatty says judge him by his actions – he has been proved a liar in court in the past.