Ok, so in the overall scheme of things, a draw or a defeat on Saturday, doesn’t really make much difference at the moment. However, what effect will defeats against teams the likes of Bournemouth have come May 2018?

A home loss against a poor side is no big deal, it’s happened before and it will happen again. Every manager we’ve had (including Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby) have managed a Newcastle side that couldn’t break down a rank bad side and inevitably ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat, that’s football I’m afraid.

However, the bit that sticks in my throat, the part that I will never see the good side of, or agree with, is not taking the game to the opposition and trying to win the game outright.

Setting yourselves up to be hard to beat against Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal is one thing, at very best you might keep the score down, if lady luck smiles on you, you may even nick a point, but against the likes of Huddersfield, Burnley, Brighton and Bournemouth it is an entirely different story and somewhat foolhardy, especially considering we’ve taken nothing from those fixtures, NOTHING.

We could have really had a go at those teams and lost two and drew the others, still a poor return but more profitable than what we have managed in reality.

The match against Bournemouth was just a re-run of the Crystal Palace match but with the opposite end result. Let’s not dress it up to be what it wasn’t, both games were dire and an insult to the term ‘football match’, as for a whole 180 odd minutes the entertainment on offer was minimal at best.

Now I’ve heard managers in the past bleat on about not being in the business to entertain, simply getting results is the aim of the game. But hold on, if the results don’t come and the margins are so fine that 0-0 draws are hung on to for dear life, then that’ll get the game done away with.

The feeling from me coming away from the ground after the Palace result was one of delight, that we’d beaten a side that will be playing in the Championship in ten months time, we had avoided one of those banana skins that this club seems to slip on all too often.

The feeling after the Bournemouth match was one of total disappointment. I said after the Burnley defeat that everything can be put right if we beat Bournemouth at home, three points every two games will be more than enough to keep us in this league –  to take none is shameful.

And lets not start having a go at fans for booing at the end of the game. If you sit through a 90 minute snooze fest AND don’t get a result to show for it, people are entitled to voice their opinions on what was witnessed. Results can mask a multitude of sins, but when the game is there to be won against poor opposition, then not taking the initiative and going for it is negligent.

This brings me on to the curious case of Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Yes, he’s a hot-head.

Yes, he could be classed as a liability.

However, persisting with Joselu is just as much a liability in terms of the result, as having a player on the field that may (or may not) get a red card.

And this victimisation of the Serbian is quite frankly now ridiculous on the manager’s behalf. I get that Rafa doesn’t trust him but after eleven games the evidence for playing Joselu is simply not there.

To a lesser extent Perez has been largely poor, a couple of goals has aided his cause to start games and certainly he’ll do ok as a no10, but he needs a good centre-forward to play behind and Joselu isn’t that centre-forward.

Also, Dwight Gayle needs to be either started  and given a few games to regain his mental strength, or he needs to be told that he’s going in the reserves for a month.

Back to the victimisation of Mitrovic – it needs to be highlighted that no manager should be immune to criticism. Rafa leaving him out of the squad and/or keeping him on the bench just to prove a point, is quite frankly, childish and preposterous.

You can point to the fact that we switched off at the end on Saturday and threw away a point, but we really weren’t going to win with the side that started, or finished, the game.

Mitrovic could have provided the spark to push us on to the win, Perez and Joselu simply won’t, and the last eleven games should have shown the manager that.  It’s funny, the poor discipline from Mitrovic seems to have cost him in the eyes of Rafa and I understand it could be somewhat of a risk bringing him on – but the word I’m using in ‘victimisation’, doesn’t seem to stretch to Jonjo Shelvey who has a similar temperament, yet he starts. What gives?

I don’t care if he’s a world-class manager, and I don’t care if he doesn’t trust the player himself, eleven games is enough to spot a duck egg and in continuing to play the duck egg isn’t going to change things.

This is now costing us results and points and the second Perez came on yesterday, that was the end of the notion that three points were coming our way. It’s the manager’s job to spot what isn’t working and then change things accordingly. When Rafa repeats the same mistakes and fails to see what’s in front of him, it smacks of needless stubbornness.

Having said al that, we now go into an international break in a decent position and one that most would have snapped hands off for at the start of the season. After which we play Manchester United away, not an easy task, but made even more difficult when we don’t score goals.

Sitting back and absorbing pressure away at Old Trafford isn’t a prospect that warms the hearts mid-November, quite the opposite. Despite what I’ve said, I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see Mitrovic start against Manchester United, simply as an exercise in the manager proving a point, for a failure from the Serb against Man Utd would be Rafa proving himself right…and if that happens I’ll be furious.

I stated elsewhere this week that six more wins will be enough to see us safe for next season and I still stand by that, they will most likely come at home.

Sadly, winnable home games are starting to run down in numbers and sitting back against teams like Bournemouth, Palace, Burnley, Huddersfield and Brighton with a harvest of 3 points out of a possible 15 will see us in trouble come May.

The shackles need to come off and we need to have a go at teams, especially at St James Park. That’s the only way we will stay up this season, not sitting back and being ‘hard to beat’.

Scoring goals makes us even HARDER to beat.

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  • Geordiegiants

    It makes no difference what we think of Rafas style, tactics or whatever. Mitro is not the answer and is not good enough. There is underlying factors with his attitude that the fans don’t see.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      He`s better than Hoss & we haven`t got anyone else, playing Hoss is certain relegation

      • Geordiegiants

        Yes but he wouldn’t last, he would be suspended sooner rather than later, Rafa likes to know he is in control with his players, he likes to practice and practice, he likes to know he can rely on his players, he cannot with Mitro.

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          like i said if he keeps playing Joselu we`ll go down

          • Geordiegiants

            I agree Joselu is poor, but Mitro is pure shyte as well. Just because he bangs his chest and screams and shouts at the fans it doesn’t make him a good player. He is a pure liability, and he has missed some of the most blatant chances I have seen a striker miss in recent history.

          • Damon Horner

            What’s the answer in your view?

            You’re right in the sense that Mitro does not become a better player because of how we rate Joselu but MMM is right in the sense we’ll probably struggle badly if we persevere with Joselu.

          • Geordiegiants

            I would probably go with Gayle for a while, or Atsu could be worth a try if all else fails. As I’ve said on a different post Mitro has been up for sale for 2 seasons now and nobody wants him. If he was any good someone would of been in for him. He is a decent late sub when we have nothing to lose, but that’s it.

      • Rich Lawson

        Exactly how could he be worse than what we’re playing now ? Ok, he could get sent off again,but so what,that’s just another reason he can’t come off the bench,as now ?

  • Leicester Mag

    It’s not as if we have an extravagance of riches. It simply makes no sense not to play him in some capacity. As a former centre half I know who I’d hate to play against and it’s not Hos and Perez.

  • Damon Horner

    Victimisation? Could understand that term if said about Mbemba but Mitrovic has had fitness and attitude problems in the past for us so far from clear that it’s victimisation.

    Right now I’d play him instead of Joselu but I’d be working on seeing about getting Gayle on the pitch also.

    • Cuh

      You say fitness problems… Then suggest Gayle. Come on now

      • Damon Horner

        Which is why I didn’t say “I’d let Gayle start all the games from now on.” .

        • Cuh


  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    you can add Chancel to Rafa`s schitt list, the guy was growing into playing at left back only to be replaced by another sub standard Spaniard

  • Big Al 1967

    Excellent article. I love Rafa however there is a fear amongst many fans that criticism of him may well lead to him jumping ship. No manager should be above criticism. Put another way if McClaren, Carver or Pardew had made THAT substitution yesterday the ground and this website would have been in uprorar

    • Damon Horner

      Why does the ground have to be in uproar? That’s what I don’t get.

      • Rich Lawson

        They would have to be making some noise in the 1st place !

  • Steve Pearce

    Well said – Rafa should read these comments and replace The Clod with Mitro as we’re sick of seeing possibly the very worst “striker” ever to wear a black and white shirt!

    • anyobrien

      Bobby shinton

      • Big Al 1967

        Bobby Shinton scored 7 goals in that season when we only scored 29. Joselu will not get close to that figure

        • Jimmy_toons

          And if Mirtrovic was to play neither would he.

      • Geordiegiants

        Andreas Anderson.

        • GToon

          Rob Macdonald.

          • Mag_Ladd


          • Geordiegiants

            Excellent, how did you come up with that, I think that’s a really good one 👍

        • anyobrien

          Stephane Guivanc’h

  • hetonmag

    What a shocking and disgraceful post using words like victimisation and stubbornness, childish, all aimed at our manager who has done more for this club in the short time he’s been here than anyone else since SBR.

    • Kneebotherm8

      Rafa will be remembered long after Mitrovic at this football club,lets not forget that. He’s one of our best ever managers bringing back some respectability,to a laughing stock of a club,in spite of our owner.

    • Cuh

      And that makes him faultless?

      • hetonmag

        Nobody is faultless but he doesn’t deserve that sort of abuse and the author doesn’t personally know him.

      • Geordiegiants

        No it doesn’t but he makes less mistakes than any manager we have had in recent history. So I will go with his opinion.

  • molend

    Watch Mitro playing for Serbia. No aggro. All smiles .Shakes hands with opposition and officials. Got off to a bad start and is now a marked man. Retrospective red against West Ham. Fellaini smacked Morata today good and proper with his elbow and the commentators said he was ‘protecting his space’. Rafa’s brilliant. Mitro’s not the next Shearer, but he’s got to be better than who we’re playing at the moment. Hell, even wor Aud would be.

    • Geordiegiants

      So if he is that good why has nobody came in for him? He has been for sale for 2 seasons now.

      • molend

        I don’t think I said, or implied, that he’s that good. Only that, in my view, he’s better than those who’ve been playing so far.

        • Geordiegiants

          Sorry my mistake, I just think people are looking through rose tinted spectacles at him.

          • molend

            No, fair enough. The whole point of these discussions should be to exchange opinions.

  • Jimmy_toons

    I get you have your opinion but what don’t get is one the one hand you say we go into the international break in a decent position, yet you also say the evidence for playing Joselu is simply not there. The evidence is there in black and white, take a look at the table.
    As for Mitrovic being victimised, what a load of carp. He’s very handsomely paid, has had numerous chances and failed to take them, and regularly let down the team, the town and the manager. It’s clear he’s a sandwich short of a picnic and Benitez isn’t prepared to take a risk with him, and it’s plainly clear to see why.
    I’ve witnessed much better at St James’, and much worse – Rafferty, Ray Clarke, Pingel to name but a few – and sure Joselu and Perez aren’t anywhere near the best, and frustrate the hell out of me. But I don’t blame them for their shortcomings, they are what they are. The blame lies squarely at the door of the club’s owner, who’ll probably be frustrating me and many others for some time to come.

    • Geordiegiants

      You are 100% correct on all of your points above. Well said, I wish some others could see it. 👍

  • Marco

    Have you ever considered that he may not be working hard enough in training to merit a starting place?
    Rafa has already stated that players need to earn a place and work hard.
    People seem to assume he’s spat the dummy out with him, maybe he doesn’t work hard enough

  • Cuh

    I completely agree with the author.

    Hayden + Merino was working perfectly. I couldn’t see why Shelvey had an automatic pass back into the team.

    Aarons and Murphy, I thought were trying to develop. Atsu gets games regardless of how he performs.

    Elliot is now faultless. Despite his inability to hold a single ball. I had forgotten about dale and woodman completely.

    And mitrovic may just as well have slept with the manager’s wife! I think he’s left on the bench even during training sessions. The poster boy Gayle has been a flop but the manager refuses to acknowledge the fact.

    It’s starting to feel like Pardew’s Newcastle. No competition for places, no changes based on performance. Wonder if Clark would have ever got another game, had Lascelles not got injured.

    Rafa can moan all he wants about January and Ashley, but if he can’t make the best of this squad, we won’t even be well placed by January to convince anyone to join. Same problem we had January

  • Mxpx

    I’m 100% on the same page as the author lejune has seen red more than mitrovic too !

  • Philippines

    I cannot imagine that playing Mitro for the next two games would lead to a worse result than the last two games.

  • Martin

    Why do you think think that you know more than Rafa who sees Mitro every day in training and has won so much as a manager? If Rafa thought Mitro would improve the team, I trust him to play him. From what I have seen of him, he simply does not work hard enough which Rafa will never accept.