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Opinion

Wednesday night with Newcastle United took me back to the Rumble in the Jungle

1 year ago
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After time to deliberate, cogitate and digest last night’s match I thought I might as well hoy my two penneth in with everybody else’s for what it’s worth (nowt!).

Siege mentality is now required at Newcastle United, if it hasn’t been already for the last ten years.

As a spectacle, or at least in the first 30 minutes, it was pretty hard to watch. I’d probably get more of a buzz from licking a hornets nest with a mouth full of Cola cubes if I’m brutally honest.

However, if one game ever highlighted the rampant neglect of our owner and catastrophic running of our once glorious club, then this was it.

Circumstances dictate the tactic and this can only make you sad that this is where we are at. I get it, I understand it – but don’t necessarily like it. I hate the situation Mike Ashley has put us in. Rafa is playing Poker with a bogus hand against a Royal Flush.

Bags of heart and big cajones, but that will only take you so far; and over a long season not nearly enough. Got a lot of time for our current squad and players like big Lascelles are going to the top.

I don’t doubt for one second that this was the right thing to do, however unpalatable. We could have had a right go and got blootered, condemning us to an embarrassing and above all ‘demoralising’ defeat.

Or I suppose in some people’s imaginations, like in a Roy of the Rovers FA Cup style tale of old, we could have bloodied their noses and swiped a famous scalp. Hoorah!

No Fairytales of St. James Park this Christmas.

I know which odds were greater (13/1 to win at home for Christ’s sake) and in a league of such fine margins at the bottom, it’s a percentages game, and Rafa went with the odds and looked for a different way to survive.

Not like we haven’t seen it before this season is it? The second half against Liverpool was a carbon copy – yet because we grabbed the goal and a point it was a massive positive, aye?

Don’t lose sight of just where we would be without Rafa. Probably in the Championship slumming it with the Mackems with some other Ashley puppet at the helm and getting our own hooters burst every other week.

This same squad lost at least ten games in the Championship from memory, maybe more – so this season without proper investment pointed directly at the season we are having.

This tactic of self-preservation is used across all sports and nobody really bats an eyelid.

The great Mohammed Ali versus the monstrous and undefeated World Champion George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle is a case in point. Ali put his guard up on the ropes and for eight rounds, took a pounding to the body, barely returning a punch.

He had a plan to tire Foreman out and it worked when he sprung to life and knocked his knackered backside out. One of the greatest underdog achievemnets of all time.

Had he gone toe to toe, he’d have had seven shades of brown and sticky knocked out of him in no time and had an early kip on the canvas. Foreman had put Frazier down six times in their fight.

There was supposedly no way he could win that fight, a bit like the chance we were given against City last night.

Cricket does the same with night watchmen and playing yourself in, though not so much as it used to. There’s bound to be more but can’t think at this time in the morning.

That’s where the similarities end. No way am I saying that last night anyway resembled a great sporting achievement and defeat isn’t to be celebrated, but to put it into context, our contest was like the Corpse of Apollo Creed exhumed from the grave and put in against Anthony Joshua.

It certainly wasn’t the sporting version of the Omen and Rafa being pilloried as having the mark of the beast on his nappa for bringing down the Premier League.

Some of the comments and commentary from last night heard with a clear mind this morning, leave me absolutely convinced of a media narrative to perpetuate the negative and try to keep the so called basket case rocking.

I had a half time barney last night with someone. having not heard the comments in full. Some big nosed Man Utd ex-player having said that it was the most negative 30 mins he’d ever seen. I couldn’t disagree with that at the time but not complaining.

The start was like the QE2 dropping anchor, never mind a bus!

Some of the rest of the bile spouted by him and an ex-Rafa disciple is just bizarre.

Let’s get this right, had we when we got the ball in the first half not just punted it up field (Jonjo Shelvey in particular), we could have played it a little better.

In the end we gave them their one of their tightest games in their last twenty odd and a bit of a fright. This without injury, suspensions, batterings and the potential to save some legs for Brighton and beyond.

City are ridiculously good in every single position. They’ve bought the best and got in the best manager and they truly are on a different planet to most we’ve seen.

I still hark back to Keegan’s first stint as manager and think how lucky we were. But that’s a different era and more than a generation ago.

Mind you, if only Rafa had been number two instead of Terry Mac! With our attack and Rafa’s defensive nous we’d have won the lot, hey ho that’s fantasy land.

We were spoiled back then but the reality is now.

That reality is not great unless our owner helps our world class manager. He is to be celebrated.

Likelihood is the loan market and players from top six teams not getting game time, but there will be plenty of sharks sniffing that same whiff of cheap new blood, and with our owner’s wallet laser sensor protected in a concrete bunker, even getting those over this effing line might prove mission impossible.

I’m keeping fingers, toes, legs, eyes everything crossed that the takeover happens sooner rather than later and that it enables incomings and doesn’t hinder it.

Happy new (nearly) New Year. All the best to everyone.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JamieSwan1
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