Garth Crooks has previously said he believes Newcastle United could challenge for the title if Rafa Benitez is/was given the right backing.

On Saturday he was impressed with the Newcastle players, in that they ‘fought bravely and – with better finishing – could have come away with a point’.

However, he says that despite that battling display, you have to face reality.

The reality being that this under-resourced Newcastle squad are ‘punching above their weight and are slowly running out of gas’.

Not great to hear that Newcastle are ‘punching above their weight’ when now they are in the relegation zone and the bookies make them one of their three favourites to go down.

Newcastle now face four crucial Premier League matches separated by only nine days, which crucially includes games against fellow strugglers Stoke, Brighton and West Ham.

With the lack of quality and numbers in Rafa’s squad, Garth Crooks says ‘I dread to think how this squad is going to cope over the Christmas period’.

The starting point surely has to be at least avoiding defeat at West Ham on Saturday.

Typical though that Newcastle now go there against a team on the up, the last three matches seeing the Hammers beating Chelsea, drawing with Arsenal and then hammering Stoke on Saturday.

Garth Crooks speaking to BBC Sport:

“Mesut Ozil’s goal against Newcastle was special – and produced by a special player. The mere fact the German was travelling backwards when he took the ball out of the sky and volleyed it into the roof of Newcastle’s net was quite amazing. It was the only thing that really separated both sides.

“For all of Arsenal’s possession and intricate play, Newcastle fought bravely and – with better finishing – could have come away with a point.

“But the reality is the Magpies are punching above their weight and are slowly running out of gas.

“I dread to think how this squad is going to cope over the Christmas period.

“The games are coming thick and fast now. Players are going to have to play with knocks and bruises and put their bodies on the line for their clubs and team-mates.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have a squad capable of finishing in the top four but the real issue is will Ozil stay at Arsenal? Arsene Wenger insists he will, but he would say that wouldn’t he? If Ozil goes then where does that leave Alexis Sanchez?

“There is no doubt in my mind that one player gets his inspiration from the other and should Ozil leave then it would almost signal the departure of Sanchez too. The question both players must be asking themselves is, ‘what is the point of staying at Arsenal?’”

  • LEE

    I’m sorry i don’t go along with the whole Ashley didn’t back Rafa in the summer narrative. Sure he would have liked more money to spend, there isn’t many managers in the prem or any other club who would not want that, but I think Rafa made some huge and crucial mistakes of his own during the window. mistake no 1. GK He waited because he thought Pepe was going to join, but pepe was waiting to hear from who ever at his club.
    no2 this is kind of the same as above, he was in for 3 players in loan from chelsea, all of them making him wait and all of them chose not to come, and in one report it was said that Tammy was told not to come because of the nightlife would be a distraction to his progress.
    in a short window lots of time wasted.
    it’s not the loss v Arsenal that bothers me, it’s the games at home like Watford Everton LC Bournemouth, these are not great teams.
    I worry that Rafa has many of his squad against him, players like Mitro Mbemba Saviet Colback Gamez, not even getting a look in, players like Clark player of the year dropped, Hayden rotated Shelvey rotated , Ritchie played in various positions.
    Rafa has a fantastic record, no one can dispute his pedigree, BUT in this same situation SBR would have used all of his players in the squad, putting his ego to one side for the good of the club

    • mentalman

      As you say a 1-0 loss to arsenal is actually not too bad a result but it is made a lot worse when your on such a long run of poor results. Watford were on a great run when we played them and LC were getting back to their best and everton had the new manager bounce so to lose to them isn’t the end of the world, its the manner in which we lost and the team selection which is annoying

      • LEE


        individually you can explain any loss, but its when you start to add these all up and look for common denominators, a different story is told. and while i personally think NUFC is the greatest club in the world, but i am realistic enough to think the teams we should measure ourselves with are the teams that came up and the teams that float around the bottom of the prem,
        Steven Gerrard said that to this day i dont think Rafa likes me, i can pick up the phone and speak with any other manager but not him,

        He also said i think he preferred Spanish speaking players in the team.
        another Stevie G quote
        Rafa made a lot of decisions with himself in mind. He wanted power and control. I didn’t like it. Fighting with the board, other managers and the press wasn’t the Liverpool way.


    • Leazes Ender

      ‘The Nightlife would be a distraction’….. from London…..


      • LEE


        i never said it, it was Lee ryder trying to explain why he didnt come.

        • Leazes Ender

          Sorry mate… I didn’t see the quotation marks… or the paragraphs come to that……he’s the idiot.

        • mentalman

          if you want a true explanation as to why he didn’t come watch his interview with sky sports from the start of the season

    • Damon Horner

      Do you know the list of targets was a small one? Chelsea loan players? Not secured. Reina? Not secured. Caballero? Not secured. Targett? Not secured, even Lejeune took weeks, those are the known ones. There is enough to suggest there may have been other targets which they couldn’t complete the signing of, just presumptuous to assume he only waited for Reina.

      Players let go in the summer, how do you know it wasn’t their decision?

      You have some good points as well but comparing dropping Shearer for Robinson and preferring Joselu over Mitro aren’t exactly the same level of oversight.

      • LEE

        No not at all, no one knows how long his list was, but hings i consider are, we are just back up, so who of the so called better players would want to risk a season on a team coming up when its a world cup year, better players would have put us way down on there list of clubs that they would join, the only plus point would have been Rafa as a manager because we dont pay silly money for wages,
        anyway, Rafa as a person has gone way down in from where i thought he was, i really thought he was in the mould of SBR, but his treatment of some sections of the squad is shocking, whether these are great players or not, these are players owned by NUFC and should be treated with respect, by placing these players on the bench shows lack of respect also to the fans as he has no intention in using them.
        He is going to be the master of his own downfall

    • Dillon Tovak

      Do you think Manquillo would be his choice with more money? Joselu? Atsu?
      Obviously not. He needed to sign some players though, otherwise we’d have no squad!

      • LEE

        Dilon, no i dont, but you mention Manquillio, is he better than Gamez not being used and already at the club? or mbemba? both played LB and did ok better than Manqillio, Joselu is not as good as Gayle at scoring goals Mitro at holding the ball up and bringing other into play, or perez at running around, yet frequently is picked above all 3 to do those types of jobs. so i seen no reason to go out and just waste money.
        that 10 million could have bought 1 much better player than 2 duds

  • TheNutJob

    Doomed unless Fatty funds a reconstruction.

  • Dillon Tovak

    SLOWLY running out of gas?

    • Rich Lawson

      Apparently Ashley has stopped paying the heating bills as well,leaving them for any new owner !

  • Peaky Magpie

    Someone needs to tell Hoss,Mannequin & Brylcreem Boy to pack their bags and get relocated to that big white dome building in Whitley Bay and then rename it Spanish Schitty.No good Gamez going as he seems to have disappeared without trace and Merino will be off as soon as Fatty gets a high enough price,probably to Spurs.

    • mentalman

      i read an interesting piece claiming Gamez is our third highest paid player