It has been two years since I last saw Newcastle win away in the Premier League. An amazing stat when you think about it… was it worth the wait? I’m not sure…but that was a massive win either way!
Having studied in London the past 4 years, I have had the joys of discovering some great places to drink. Our day started off at Liverpool Street Station in a German dungeon hall which serves the best beer in London bar none. We then moved over to the Mabel’s outside Kings Cross, as the NUFC usual, The Dolphin, was jam packed.
Onto Stratford we went… but more on West Ham later.
It was so important that we didn’t lose this one. If we were to go 11 games without a win, in the relegation zone at Christmas, with Manchester City up next, all would have looked very grim indeed. Instead, a massive win (I can’t say that enough) has lifted us a few places forward and given us some hope going into January at least.
It was a massive surprise to hear that both Hayden and Merino were injured. With Jonjo Shelvey suspended too, who were we going to play? There were no options.
Could Mbemba play in there like he does for DR Congo? Could Dan Barlaser get a call up? Ant and Dec live in London right? Step forward Henri Saivet and Mo Diame.
I will be the first to admit that when I saw the team I thought ‘there is absolutely no way we will win this today – not with those two in the middle of the park’, but hey, they did alright didn’t they?
Despite the fact that Saivet would go on to have one of his best days in a Newcastle shirt, it didn’t get off to the best of starts for him, as he gifted Arnautovic a goal after only five minutes. It was a truly terrible mistake and he looked distraught when the ball hit the back of the net.
Unlike NUFC teams of recent years, their heads didn’t drop and they got on with it, looking bright early on, much like they have done in most games recently.
After only 10 minutes, Saivet more than redeemed himself with a brilliant free-kick to make it 1-1. Fair play to the guy for his performance. He would be well aware of the pressure on him, and the fans opinion of him as a bit of a useless outcast at the club, so for him to come back from that early mistake shows a lot of nerve, a lot of grit and great character. I would like to think that performances like his today will always be appreciated by Newcastle fans.
Even then, in contrast to games against Man United and Chelsea, we didn’t sit back straight away after scoring. Newcastle went for the second goal and we had loads of chances to get it before half-time. Dwight Gayle first hit the bar. There were a few murmurs around us that he was unlucky, but for me, it was an absolute sitter that he should be scoring. Matt Ritchie then hit the post, and Deandre Yedlin skied a great opportunity over the bar, we should have been 4-1 up at the break!
United started the second half in the same way they ended the first, on top. Deservedly, we went 2-1 up through Mo Diame! I was there when Saivet AND Diame scored. Incredible.
Diame is another one who deserves a special mention today. He wasn’t out of this world, but considering his confidence must be rock bottom, coming off the back of those sarcastic jeers against Everton, he didn’t shy away from anything today. Technically, he is obviously lacking when in possession, but he was everywhere across the pitch, and defensively put in a fantastic shift. Once we went 2-1 up, both Diame and Saivet were absolute rocks in front of the back four, so well done to them. I know most will disagree with me but they have certainly warranted a shout to start the next game against City based on their performance.
West Ham should have pulled level straight away with a dodgy penalty but Rob Elliott made a brilliant save! I think Elliott has been really poor this year, and aside from the penalty save, I thought he was poor again today. However, and that’s a big, HOWEVER, that save today could be crucial. When we get to the end of the season, I have a sneaky feeling that we may look back to that penalty save and see it as the biggest moment in our season. A massive save, well done Robbie Elliott.
We then went up the other end and scored a great goal from Atsu, who I think was our best player. That is along with Lascelles who has looked a rock at the back since coming back into the team. I haven’t been overly positive about Lascelles’ footballing ability in his time at NUFC, but I would have to admit, I was wrong about him. He is very much a key player in this side that we cannot do without.
West Ham got one back but we held out in what was a very nervous away end in the last five minutes. Jubilation at the final whistle. We all knew how important that result is.
Much credit to the gaffer for his team selection today. I don’t think there is a Newcastle fan in the land who would have picked that team today but it worked, we got the three points and they actually played really well.
If there is one thing I always give him criticism for, it’s his use of substitutions, but I think he got them spot on today too. The right players were brought on at the right time. It was a nice feeling watching our players being the ones wasting time by strolling off the pitch to be subbed for a change.
There was a lot of talk this week that Kenedy is on his way into the club at the start of the window… I hope that is just the beginning. Rafa is going to have to make the most out of the loan market over the next month to provide some extra depth in the squad for sure.
Give this guy some decent money to spend and I have every faith that he will keep us up and turn us into a half decent side again.
The 3,000 of us in the away end had the rare pleasure of going into delirium three times and we absolutely loved it.
After a quiet first half, the whole end got behind the lads in the second half and really pushed the team towards the final whistle. Our travelling Toon Army don’t get enough credit.
It is full of mad heads, and drunken idiots, but they are absolutely fantastic and I wouldn’t change them for any other fans in the world. As far as the Premier League goes… the best.
A little word on West Ham
I don’t really care much about other teams but as someone who went to 14 West Ham games at the Olympic Stadium last year, and knows the inside of the club very well, I feel compelled to say my bit (as many other Toon fans have on the stadium).
What is happening at the club at the moment is a great shame. I have always envied them, having two owners who love the club. Especially David Gold, this is a guy who grew up only a stone’s throw away from Upton Park. I have spoken to David Gold about this and the passion he has for the club, so it’s a shame to see them the way they are at the moment.
To say the stadium sucks would be a great understatement. The whole thing has been totally mismanaged from top to bottom.
However, 56,000? Yeah right. The biggest myth in the Premier League. The Olympic Stadium is never full, or sold out at West Ham. Perhaps the biggest problem of all for them at the moment is that their ground (and their pitch) really is too big for them…
Whether this team is good enough or has enough quality for the Premier League I don’t think so, but after looking at the table and the results over the past few weeks, it actually doesn’t matter. What we have to ask ourselves is can we be better than what is around us? Palace, Swansea, WBA, Stoke, West Ham, Southampton, Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Brighton. I think the resounding answer to that question is yes. That gives me hope.
You can’t doubt that 99% of the guys in this team aren’t giving their all for the shirt, irrespective of their individual quality. As rubbish as they have been and as poor as they are, I wouldn’t swap this lot, and this manager, for any of the sides in the recent past whose loyalty was certain questionable. Days like today are a poignant reminder as to why we travel all of the country (and sometimes Europe) following this brilliant club.
Keep the Faith.
Howay the Lads.
Stats from BBC Sport:
West Ham 2 Newcastle 3
Newcastle: Saivet 10, Diame 53, Atsu 61
West Ham: Arnautovic 6, Ayew 69 (Saved penalty by Rob Elliot from Ayew as well! 56 minutes)
Possession was West Ham 63% Newcastle 37%
Total shots were West Ham 19 Newcastle 11
Shots on target were West Ham 6 Newcastle 4
Corners were West Ham 6 Newcastle 3
Referee: Lee Mason
Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo, Ritchie, Diame, Saivet (Mbemba 84), Atsu (Murphy 90+1), Gayle (Perez 76), Joselu
Darlow, Haidara, Dummett, Aarons
Crowd: 56,955 (Newcastle 3,000)
(See Alan Shearer’s reaction to the win HERE)
(Read the instant Newcastle fan/writer reaction to beating West Ham HERE)
(National journalist launches astonishing attack on Newcastle fans and Rafa Benitez after win over West Ham – read it HERE)
(Read the match ratings of all Newcastle players HERE)
(David Moyes reluctant to credit Newcastle with the win – read HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn