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.

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  • pedrodelgardo

    It’s almost as if Rafa knows what he is doing.

    • ghostrider

      Yeah, like he’s done all season, eh?

      The truth seems to be….it’s almost as if Rafa has realised he has more than a championship team and can actually set them out to have a go for 90 minutes instead of sitting back like sitting ducks for over half of the matches we’ve played this season.
      Some of them at home against lower in the league opposition.

      • Waxi

        Spot on Ghostrider. The game against man city was an embarrassment and we should be beating the teams like Burnley 0-1 Swansea 1-1 etc at home. We beat Palace 0-1 with a bit of luck got beat off Bournemouth 0-1 and stuffed off watford 0-3 so lets hope we have changed and will have a go at teams at SJP. If we are going to stay up we need to give the manure performance every week.

        • ghostrider

          Absolutely right.

          • mentalman

            i’ve said it over and over again i think the biggest change is he isn’t chopping and changing the midfield like he has in the past, players need consistency and the chance to go on a run of form unlike earlier in the season when they would have a good game and sit out the next one, i think that is quite possibly one of the first teams i’ve seen in a while and thought it’s pretty much the strongest he could have put out

            Add to that i think rafa has been trying to prove a point to Ashley and now the window is shut there’s no longer any point until the summer so he’s working with what he’s got

          • ghostrider

            Possible that.
            If it’s true it doesn’t make what he done, right.

          • Mitros gotta start

            Putting his ego ahead of our survival is criminal

          • KRS1

            Letting you out on day release was criminal.

          • East Durham Mag

            Theres half a dozen of them on day release mate.

          • Geordiegiants

            Putting his professional integrity a head of fans opinion is what you mean.

          • thewildchimp

            I have this weird idea that he knew Mitro was our best forward option all this time (I mean – we all see it, personal preferences aside), but opted not to play him because:
            a) he doesn’t score enough (can’t argue with that),

            b) Shelvey and the rest of them would resort to pinging him the balls all the time and most of the Spaniards hate long-balls for some reason (Guardiola, del Bosque),

            c) he links up too much to Rafa’s liking and

            d) he doesn’t rate any of them and wants them all replaced but with Mitro we’d perform well enough for Ashley to say, well: “You are performing well enough, no new signings.”

            D is far-fetched and me being an ashole, but B and C is Rafa being one. I’m not a Mitro fanboy, despite probably looking like one, but I’m not gonna lick Rafa’s hoop, pretending all he does is sunshine and rainbows and rock-solid. 1 point in 9 games at one point says that something was rotten in there and those weren’t Penfold’s smelly socks…

      • Mitros gotta start

        What a shame its 6 months too late

    • Mitros gotta start

      Wow…people have short memories around here…..1 win and everything is ok again….i still havent forgotten the 3 points from 24 record we had at home on saturday that would have got any other manager in the league the sack

  • glassjawsh-got-banned

    Meanwhile, to the surprise of literally no one (except maybe Alan Pardew), Daniel Sturridge went off injured yesterday v Chelsea. Who could have possibly seen that coming?

  • Soldier

    Rafa looks as though he`s in the same position as two years ago, but we may well survive this time

    • Geordiegiants

      We have a weaker team in terms of quality, but we have a better team in terms of commitment.

      • Kneebotherm8

        Nail on the head…..

  • KRS1

    Looks like some of the anti Rafa brigade have crawled out from under their rocks today. You can almost taste the putrid bitterness.

    • Mike

      Too right!!!

  • toonterrier

    A top class team performance and a brilliant result but reading todays Morning Evening Comical Lascelles says the team played to the game plan which makes you wonder what was the game plan in the last twenty six games as we have been poor for most of the season. Only hope the lads stay focused and don’t return to the lets try for the first half an hour then sit back and try to get a point. Come on lads you can do it.

  • Peaky Magpie

    Good article Paul.

  • Andy Mac

    Here’s an interesting topic question. Was this squad good enough before Kenedy, Dubravka and Slimani arrived but was held back by Rafa’s safety first strategy ?

    Or did we need the injection of some quality because the squad improved in terms of confidence ?

    • thewildchimp

      I’d say yes on both. We needed someone to play the forwards and someone to score goals. Kenedy is good, but a single guy is not enough, we need a proper number 10 more than anything, and Slimani should turn alright in a #9 role if he regains fitness in time. Other than that – we have a mid-table team.

      Rafa nailed some of the games, but botched many as well. Especially with his “we scored a goal, now we need to defend and rarely cross the halfway line for the remainder of the match”. He didn’t have the confidence in the lads and that has cost us. Klopp is the exact opposite of him, a guy who pays very little mind to defending the lead.

      • TheFatController

        I thought Klopp played to the strengths of his team, wisely, and Rafa to the strengths of his, again wisely…?

        • thewildchimp

          In ManU game – definitely. Rafa knows Mourinho very well, he probably tailored the tactics specifically against him. Across the season: on and off.

          Klopp is a really odd fella. I honestly don’t understand how he thinks that attacking only is sufficient to win him titles.

    • Damon Horner

      do you think a safety first approach not only protected GD but also aided our injury list, fitness, form and confidence?

  • thewildchimp

    £4m?! Somebody has a pen to lend it to Charnley? Just in case they aren’t predicted in our budget.

    That’s a steal for a keeper this good. Granted, he played only a single game for us so far, and, granted, the defenders saved his as s a couple of times, but the quality is right there to be seen. Besides, Slovaks have good keepers and him being in the national team speaks for itself.


    There really is some sad bar stewards on this site. Probably the same bar stewards who called for Mr Robson head.
    Why does Rafa not play his 2 world class wingers every game so they can get it in the box for his world class Centre forward, hello, he has not got world class players so he plays to his teams strenghts. It may be better next season when Rafa walks, if the Fatman does not sell up.
    I think Chris Coleman might be available then.

  • Desree

    What about this theory. The club goes up for sale and all of a sudden we get 1 point in 9 games.
    Then the deal is off and Rafa is told and we start a decent run again.
    Footballers are not immune to being unsettled. Nor are managers.
    These lads really need support. And Ritchie, Gayle and Shelvey who basically scored most our goals have not produced the goods.
    Rafas tactics have not changed much. Just the quality of opposition and the mentality/confidence of our star players. We could blame Rafa, but not one of our star players has ever proven themselves as a consistent PL performer.
    You can’t polish a tird but Rafa appears to have rolled one in glitter for the man utd result