Well, where did that come from? I have to say, it’s always extra satisfying when Newcastle United take points off the big four, not because we ‘gullible’ Geordies have delusions of grandeur and that we should be ‘up there’, but that because on our day we can match them…and against Manchester United we matched them and then some.
Over the course of a 38 game season we are bound to be struggling, we simply don’t have the mountains of money that unfortunately is required to compete with the current top six. However, what I find galling is not being able to spend what is needed to make us competitive.
Scraping around looking for a £5m striker last summer instead of going and getting a quality goalscorer has put us in the mess we are in. Who knows if Islam Slimani will turn out to be the one we’ve been missing, but he has to be a cut above what we currently have.
Put simply, imagine where we’d be with a cracking striker, a 25-30 goal a season man isn’t required (although it would be welcome), just one that can hit 15 goals would do.
And what about the new goalkeeper Martin Dubravka? A wonderful debut from the Slovak and if as reported he can be bought outright in the summer for as little as £4m then what a bargain we could have there. The similarities to the late Pavel Srnicek are obvious, a guy new to the Premier League, in a new country, initially coming in on loan and becoming a hit with the supporters. How long before we hear the chants of ‘Dubravka is a Geordie?’. A hero in the making and justification in the manager’s calls for a quality goal keeper last summer, which again went unheard by the club.
The scenes at the final whistle on Sunday were brilliant to watch and be part of, Rafa and players sharing the momentous win in a similar style to the fans, certainly a bit of payback for the lack of a home win since late October. Performances have been patchy over the last three months especially at home but against the red half of Manchester we saw the most complete 90 minutes of the season where not one player dropped their standards from goalkeeper through to centre forward.
On Sunday everybody did their jobs and the dirty work to go with it with special mentions for Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey in the middle hunting down the opposition every step of the way. I’ve been critical of both of them this season but Diame in particular has really upped his game since the arrival of Kenedy who seems to have freed the midfield up considerably.
The biggest plus points over the last two games is the resilience the team has shown, keeping it fairly tight at the back and nicking the odd goal when the chance arises, something I think Rafa Benitez has been striving for all season. If we can get Slimani in the side sooner rather than later (we have two weeks until we next play) then hopefully he can add that clinical edge that has been missing.
When Rafa came into St James Park in March 2016, he took over a club with the squad in a mess, in the relegation zone and playing catch up with 10 games to go. The biggest thing to come out of picking up three points last time out is going into the last eleven games, our fate is in our own hands. That’s got to be a better place to be.