125 years, wow. That’s a long time for an institution to be around to be fair, and there was a bit of pomp around in celebration. Probably just the right amount, as 125 years is a bit of a funny number, not one to be sniffed at by any means, but not really a proper anniversary either.

Whatever, today was United’s birthday and they chose to celebrate it by looking promising, letting themselves down, initiating a false dawn and ultimately disappointing. If that’s not a brutal synopsis for the previous century and a quarter I don’t know what is.

It all started well of course. The increasingly bright looking Murphy made an incisive run at the Leicester defence before playing in Gayle, who sped to the byline and cut the ball across for an easy finish for Joselu. Couldn’t fault his cool despatch but to be honest he promptly went back to being anonymous for the rest of the match.

He wasn’t the only one in black and white to drop a gear to be fair, as Leicester proceeded to completely own the rest of the first half. Long periods of patient possession brought constant pressure and on the rare occasions United did break, the visitors inevitably launched a terrifying counter attack. Moments after the Joselu goal Gayle had found space to fire narrowly wide, but from there it was a bit déjà vu, as the early goal served only to rile the opponent as it had at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.

For all their recent title winning credentials though, home to Leicester should be a different proposition. However, the gulf in class was dishearteningly apparent and personified by Riyad Mahrez, who was given time and space to smash in Leicester’s equaliser.

There followed a series of dangerous attacks where Vardy, Simpson and Albrighton were all denied by last ditch defending. At the other end Newcastle finally ventured into the final third as Murphy pounced on a defensive mistake to force Schmeichel into a full length diving save.

When United managed to get through the minute of first half injury time without conceding you did wonder if we may get a let-off. This was sharp scuppered as the constantly threatening Demari Gray took all of 15 minutes to hammer the visitors ahead via a massive deflection off Lejeune. Stupid football spoiling my Saturday on the drink again.

I think everyone was resigned to defeat but NUFC still had that 125-year vintage of false hope to offer. Merino headed the ball into the path of Gayle, and he just lashed it in with the predatory instinct we got so used to last season. Today proved that Dwight is perfectly capable (when injury free!) of cutting it in the Premier League. A goal, an assist and a near miss, is not a bad return for a striker and one might expect to be picking up a win bonus after all that.

Gayle was by far our best player, but with Ritchie misfiring horribly, Shelvey confined to the bench and a complete lack of capable strike partners, there’s a danger he’ll look like another Championship player who can’t cut it in the top flight, which is desperately unfair. Here’s hoping something happens that gets the problems up front addressed pronto.

It was problems at the other end that undid us though. The average of three shipped per game in Lascelles’ absence was kept up, as abject, riotous panic set in during a Leicester counter attack. Vardy crossed through the hysterical chaos to present Okazaki with a tap-in. Perez had to dive in to have any chance of a heroic save, but he could only beat his man to diverting the ball into the net.

At this point I could waste a paragraph on how takeover or spending is a must, as we have taken one point from a possible 21, horrible relegation form that puts us two points and two places above that very zone.

Having lied about never coming back to management, Sam Allardyce will be licking his considerable chops at the thought of bringing his Everton side to heap further misery on Rafa and his former club. With Arsenal and Man City waiting afterwards, the Toffees visit is already a must win as we look to arrest a hideous, horrible slide.

Many have pointed to Rafa’s less than inspiring tactical stoicism as a factor in this recent depression, going as far as to question the manager’s standing.

All I’ll say is, if you think there’s any lingering hope of things improving should Rafa Benitez go, you’ve had a lot more to drink than me, and trust me I’ve had plenty lately.

Happy bloody birthday everyone.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 2 Leicester 3

Goals:

Newcastle: Joselu 4, Gayle 73

Leicester: Mahrez 20, Gray 60, Perez OG 86

Possession was Leicester 62% Newcastle 38%

Total shots were  Leicester 13 Newcastle 10

Shots on target were Leicester 5 Newcastle 4

Corners were  Leicester 5 Newcastle 6

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lejeune, Manquillo, Ritchie (Atsu 64), Hayden, Merino, Murphy (Perez 71), Joselu (Mitrovic 88)  Gayle

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Lascelles, Shelvey, Diame

Crowd: 52,117 (Leicester 3,000)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction after the defeat HERE)

(Phil Neville gives brutal overview of Newcastle team, read HERE)

(Alan Shearer explains to outsiders how Mike Ashley has respect for no one – read HERE)

(Very interesting comments from Leicester fans about Newcastle United, read HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here


  • Arty Hume

    We have to face it our squad has been sadly depleted from what it was a few years ago, the product of Ashley’s sell while they have a value tactics, however it has reached the point where very few of the players have a decent resale value and are not premiership quality, that is apart from the odd one or two. Thing is in the past when we have gone down there was always someone to sell, now there is not so the prospect of buying out of the championship next time is minimal, look at the others who have gone down in the last 10 years. We were very lucky there were some sell-able players like Sissoko lol’s and one or two others, wont happen this time, so Ashley;s only option is to sell if he wants anything like the value of a premieship club, in a few months it will be a third of the value and there will be no prospective buyers as it will be too late, the damage will be irretrievable.

    • Leazes Ender

      In Benitez’s time in charge, Newcastle incredibly have a net spend of minus £12.8 million (according to Transfermarkt),

      • Toonrobbybobson

        So so sad to have an owner with no love of football and no foresight of how one is ran.

        • Paul Patterson

          It’s sad that he could have profits (and free advertising) on a greater level IF he knew how to run a football club. Instead he wants to have his cake and eat it. You can’t run a Premier League club on a shoestring for very long . .

          • Damon Horner

            He could have invested a lot more and still not seen a return in investment, I think he surrounds himself with “subject matter experts” and he had been advised of the “near impossibility” of CL qualification. Just a theory. A man who thinks like him I can see easily why he didn’t fancy it. Shame for those affiliated with the club who have ambition…

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        Will Clarko confirm that

      • Kneebotherm8

        That’s about right he’s cost Ashley sweet FA in his relatively short time here.
        His (lack of)backing in the transfer market has been nothing short of scandalous from Ashley.

    • Kneebotherm8

      He’s bled this club dry for his own ends over the years,no doubt about that.

      • ghostrider

        We wouldn’t have a club in the premier league if it wasn’t for Ashley making his biggest ever mistake in taking the club over, without realising what he was up against but stuck at it, amid arguably the worst hatred ever known to an owner…ever.

        A couple of relegations, yeah. Turmoil, yeah.
        The issue is, we came back up twice and twice as champions.
        Guess what?
        I’d have taken that all day long because it gave us something to shout about amid the hatred.
        It actually pacified the fans and gave them some excitement in a league where we were looked upon as top dogs. The big club. Newcastle MIGHTY United.

        Now we are the second class north east minnows because our spending power cannot match the top end clubs.
        Ashley the only owner ever to tell lies and fool people into a false sense….right?

        All other owners are so clean and above board.
        The reality for us is that we probably would be doing a Sunderland way before Ellis Short’s attempted niceties turned into nasties.

        Nothing Ashley could ever do at this club would satisfy the die hard haters of him. The Keegan debacle saw to that….but before that and during that, the sun shone brightly from Ashley’s aris.
        One of the lads.
        An owner who gets it and blah blah blah….now an owner who is clueless after 10 years, apparently whilst all other owners from every walk of life…some of who have probably never kicked a football prior to taking over a club, but rely on the gophers of knowledge to oversee their spends.

        There’s a lot of stuff Ashley deserves a slap for.
        Stubbornness, naivety and telling porky pies are a few.
        He also deserves a lot of credit for this club actually being back in the premier league.
        But guess what?
        His massive credit would have been allowing Benitez into the club on a mammoth contract that was/is tailor made to Rafa’s needs and in house abilities….but guess what?

        Rafa’s buys of 2 seasons, of 125 million spends are the reason we’re doing garbage, because apparently Ashley should be handing out what the club doesn’t quite have in terms of big transfer fees and wages to match…..yet, until the payments start to come to the fore.

        Nobody can tell me that Rafa didn’t know what was on offer and nobody can tell me that Rafa would soldier on with so called dribbles, regardless of the so called loyalty to the club and fans and what not.

        The man spent badly and it’s Ashley’s fault.
        The net spend apparently is the only thing that counts when it’s an argument against Ashley and previous big outlays that are recouped, apparently do not count.

        The issue is, they do, because every club does it.
        Everton spent 40 million.
        They really spent 150 million but were lucky enough to rake in obscene amounts for outgoing players.

        We mostly raked back what we paid in most cases with Thauvin and co, with a lucky sting of 30 million for Sissoko, plus a decent profit on Wijnaldum.

        We spent money and I’m 100% certain that, if Rafa could have got other players over the line by shipping out a few more surplus, then he would have had the green light.

        Rafa wanted full control and maybe….just maybe his full control wasn’t good enough to snare his targets.
        Ashley’s fault again?

        Ashley is easy to blame because he’s simply hated.
        People really need to see exactly where that hatred stems from, if they’re being honest.
        People also need to understand what went on before he took over this club.

        The thing is, I want thim out.
        I want him out because the poison that runs around this club, there is no antibiotic for and only an operation can solve it.

        BUT….

        No matter what happens from this point on, if Ashley does go and IF….(I hope it’s a massive massive massive IF) we get taken over by a bunch of chancers that leaves the club in a state worse than a sinking ship full of gold bars to the unattainable depths of the deepest ocean…I could almost picture some fans shouting ” SO WHAT, I’D RATHER THIS THAN HAVE TO SUFFER THAT LYING POISONOUS aSHLEY.”

        I kid you not.

        Hopefully we get top owners and we have the potential to go from strength to strength. If that’s the case then I hope that Benitez isn’t steering their money.

        You see, the only issue we have in the world of football as it stands right now is, it’s sold to the highest bidder and the bidder is the devil (not literally) because the game is based on elites and the feeders or worker bees, like life itself.

        We either become part of that and have some excitement before we crumble into oblivion, or we stick with Ashley and be also ran competitors struggling to stay in a league of dining with elites or dancing up and down like puppets on elastic.

        • Kneebotherm8

          Stick or twist??????………………nothing’s guaranteed in life but sticking with this individual would be torture as it has been for most of the last 10 years.

          • ghostrider

            Twist. Like I said I want a fresh start. We can only do that if someone comes in with massive investment or basically someone willing to sugar daddy us.
            Ashley won’t do it out of his own pocket and as a north east club we will go nowhere trying to run from within against the big hitters.

            The grass is never always greener but hopefully we get someone who is willing to bankroll us with us all knowing that genuine football was sold to the devil long ago, so now we demand….no…I demand entertaining football in whatever form it comes….but I want it.

            I almost wish we were just a grass roots club where the players actually show real passion for a decent living wage.

          • Kneebotherm8

            We just want someone to come in and do a Chelsea or a Man City,who for me,were two clubs in no better positions than us prior to their takeovers.
            They’d won,basically,not a lot more than us in the preceding years of their acquisition.
            Money,generally,does buy success in this game and we,as a club and long suffering fans, are long,long overdue a sniff of some silverware.
            Let’s be fair,when Ashley took over,as an individual worth around 4 billion quid,I thought this is it,success guaranteed, we’re on the way.
            How wrong I ,and probably thousands of other toon fans,were.

          • ghostrider

            We weren’t all wrong, to be fair.
            I believe Ashley was ready to sort of bankroll us in a fashion but the whole carry on totally backfired on him for a few reasons.

            1: He didn’t foresee the influx of the mass money machines taking over football clubs willy nilly.

            2: He came in and sacked big Sam and brought in who he thought was the messiah the fans wanted and in his naivety believed Keegan would shoot us into his perceived utopia .

            3: He probably believed he would have a massive world wide brand of his business on the back of Newcastle United European exploits.

            The rest is obviously well known as to what happened but I genuinely think he had the intentions of a fast track to success and blew it big style.

  • mentalman

    if you think rafa is above blame then you’ve had too much to drink

    • Damon Horner

      There lies the problem. For whatever reason there needs to be blame and accountability, Rafa has done things differently to some fans and has made his own mistakes but what we need to do is what’s best for Newcastle United, not Rafa, Mitrovic, Shelvey or Mike Ashley and like the writer, I’m firmly believing that has to be in the hope of having a transfer budget which is fair and letting Rafa deal.

      • TheFatController

        Ashley is a genius at the blame game.

        Last season he let it out that he was unhappy with squad performance every time we weren’t winning 5 on the trot. Not good enough eh Mike? You’ve done your bit, so come on everyone else.

        He even tries it on with Staveley, letting it be known the bid was a joke. So she’s to blame for no deal, eh Mike? Staveley has offered £250m because she wants to spend to save us. So the blame for low bids is Ashley’s because potential buyers see it as needing huge investment just to be safe in the PL.

        He’s like Teflon. Nothing sticks for long. You can’t even sing against him without the songs being blamed for team poor performance.

        He hasn’t got where he’s got by taking blame due to him. A master deflector at work…

        • TheFatController

          And the worst one of all was when he conjured up that story about the police telling him he and his daughter were not safe going to the game.

          Always the victim, ‘it’s not me, guv, it’s them!’ mentality.

          • Damon Horner

            Absolutely. That’s his mentality and he is universally hated almost. We shouldn’t be thinking the same with the manager and players at this stage.

  • S.G.M.

    Pulis is looking evermore inviting.

    • hetonmag

      He’s just the type of manager the fat lad would love someone that keeps you hovering above a relegation place, WBA fans couldn’t stand his brand of football.

      • Jezza

        He’s currently out of a job so he certainly meets Fatso’s first and foremost requirement of any managerial candidate.

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          Mid table on the lowest possible expenditure, that`s Fatso`s perfect manager

    • Paul Patterson

      If you think the football is poor now . .

    • Jezza

      Just look at things from the outside and forget NUFC’s current plight for the moment. If you were to take a poll of other clubs’ fans and ask who would they would rather have as their manager, Tony Pulis or Rafa Benitez, what do you realistically think the outcome would be?

      • Peaky Magpie

        Pep Guardiola 😂

  • Toonrobbybobson

    Our squad is below quality. Rafa is simply trying to change things up find new systems to come out with something more the sum of its parts. Him being a big name helps take away more pressure on his players – hes big enough to carry it.

    He must be so frustrated to quite frankly be wasted talents wise as he could easily be at a better ran club with an appreciative owner. Instead he has a liar and greedy money hungry so and so.

    God help us if Rafa went… GAME OVER

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Ritchie`s missing Jonjo

  • Jezza

    The proof of the pudding will come when Rafa goes into his next Premiership job with proper financial backing and succeeds.

  • Sadman

    Anybody who thinks we can do better than Rafa needs their head examined.

  • Alreet

    Couldnt agree more with this. Yes we want certain players and can see ways of playing that need to be used but if just if we had played what we consider out best team and the team still got beat what then.

    In my opinion rafa is doing all he can with a championship squad and a few basic additions.

    Yea i wanted atsu, lascelles, shelvey and mitro all to start but that didnt pan out. But i still fully trust rafa. All them 4 players are players from last season who could make the step up but most others are way behind.

    Rafa will get things right. We are scoring and creating now we just have to get the right balance with the defence when we dont have our cappy.

    Not many teams work well without their captain anyway

    • Mike Adam

      If he tried everything and played every player and it didn’t work then, OK Rafa has tried everything. But, until then he has not and nobody knows if it would work or improve the team.

  • Tomb

    Rafa hasn’t had the backing he should have had however sick of people saying we have had the lowest net spend in the league we are around midtable for net spend. Burnley for example had a minus 15 mill net spend but spent well. Yes more should have been spent on a championship squad but it was a very strong championship squad with a wage bill at least 4 times that of Huddersfield

  • Down Under Mag

    The time and space for the first goal was shocking but what was alarming was that is exactly what the side were pressing hard to stop early on in the season. We seem to have stopped doing the things that kept us in games and gave a good account of themselves in the early weeks of the season and it can’t all be down to Lascelles not being available.

    My feeling is that this is all happening because of the takeover talk. There’s been a drop off in pressure off the ball ever since the takeover was in the news and I suspect certain players are not applying themselves as hard as they were because they know if the club gets serious investment in new players they are likely to be gone very soon after. The sooner it gets sorted the better it will be, it ant be a coincidence!