When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Isn’t that what they say? Or is it just Billy Ocean? It’s something I had to keep reminding myself of on Saturday as the goals flew into the Newcastle United goal.
Rafa Benitez is a tough, experienced and tactically sound manager. Currently he is working with limited resources and now is time to keep faith and I believe the fans will.
Yes, the 4-4-2 doesn’t seem to be working right now.
Yes, Joselu currently looks more likely to hit a cheap sports direct advertising board than the net.
But these things can change quickly in football. The upcoming games are not to be feared, particularly if certain players come back from injury to give the team a boost. Mikel Merino anyone? The going has got tough, and as we face up to a long cold month of fixtures, the pressure is firmly on everyone at the club.
It’s times like this when the real benefits come from having a manager as popular and as competent as Rafael Benitez. He will get the time to turn things around, and not be pushed into panic decisions, as some other Premier League managers often are. This can cripple clubs.
Look at what has happened in the past week with West Brom. Tony Pulis is probably never going to get that squad relegated. They were going through a tough patch but if you don’t think that combination would have got to at least 38/39 points, you really don’t know the league. The fans though, were never truly on his side even when he was only in the job a few months a couple of years ago. He made them tough to beat, but the fans didn’t like the dross style, so he never achieved real popularity even when results were ok. Results take a minor nosedive and that’s it he’s gone.
Pardew was never popular with Newcastle fans, obviously, and it often ate away at the vibe around the club and the stadium. Perhaps the only positive from last Saturday was that some fans stuck behind the team at 2-0 down.
I don’t think there is any danger of kneejerk reactions with Rafa around and he seems to have avoided the obvious links with West Ham and Everton. Having a stable manager (and touch wood it stays this way) could be one of our biggest strengths this season.
Clubs waste time, energy and effort on the possibility of changing managers when in this situation. Everton are a complete basket case at the moment and will be until they get the manager situation sorted. They are losing both time and points.
I must credit the next line to someone I speak about Newcastle United with more than anyone else but feel it is appropriate here:
“The easiest way to get relegated is to not know you are in a dogfight until it’s too late.”
It’s a complete truth of football that often goes unnoticed and we have fallen victim to it twice in recent years. Thankfully our manager knows we are in a dogfight – that much is obvious. You don’t take zero points from Bournemouth and Watford at home, unless you are in for struggle of a season. They are the two worst performances of the season so far, and yet we still could have taken a win from the Bournemouth game had the linesman done his job properly.
Point is, the margins are very fine. I think Rafa saw those fixtures as two games to properly attack and although that left us too open and we were duly punished, there is no need to suddenly feel in freefall.
They were bitterly disappointing results, but I think the trust to the manager, and by nature the players as well, means we are less likely to get sucked into the yo-yo form which was often a staple of Alan Pardew’s reign.
Rafa will quickly learn (and probably already has learnt) what this team can and can’t do off the back of the last few games. The last two home games have produced horrendous results, but bizarrely this is often when you really find out about the players you are dealing with.
I already think Yedlin may have been identified as not defensively strong enough for the type of unit he wants to build and I would be surprised to see him start the next few games. Let’s also not forget three other games we have lost this season (Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley) have been very tight games and we were unlucky to varying degrees in each game.
Let’s not forget we have pulled through the tough times under Rafa before. Last season’s defeat to Ipswich towards the end of the season, which turned out to be the last major bump in the road en route to promotion, would have triggered a classic Newcastle breakdown with a different manager at the helm. Benitez’s popularity though kept fans onside and his coolness under pressure meant the squad never wavered. I expect that to come into play over the next few weeks.
At lot of nonsense is written about Newcastle in the national press but we do know that when results dip, the SJP atmosphere can become toxic. Thankfully this time, thanks in part to the superb work of fan groups like Wor Hyem and Leazes flags, and because we have one of the most popular managers in recent club history, this deflation can and should be avoided.
Whilst other clubs are toiling with the prospect of a relegation battle. We are facing up to it.
Everyone knew this season was not going to be easy at all, but I genuinely believe life will be much easier for the players on the pitch, if the togetherness of the club is maintained through the inevitable sticky patches.
Like I said, when the going gets tough…
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