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It’ll do, won’t do, at Newcastle United

3 years ago

Every so often, compilations of Newcastle United clips appear on my social media feeds.

Shearer’s best goals; Peter Beardsley moments of magic; David Kelly looking particularly grinny after scoring.

Recently, the compilation was made up of Papiss Cisse’s first lot of goals for the club. Now, apart from some obvious things, like a turn of speed as though he was being chased by sharks with lasers shooting from their fins, there was something else I noticed. And if I noticed it, I’m pretty sure loads of other people did too.

He didn’t look up. He knew where he was, where the ball was going to be, how astonishingly quickly he was shifting over those few yards, and how to hold off the flailing defender beside him. He reminded me of Andy Cole. The different eras always create impossible but fascinating discussions over the merits of comparing their respective heroes.

But this set of clips was from only a few years ago. From a few managers ago. From a relegation and promotion ago.

The audacious smashing swerve against Chelsea sticks out as a stunner but Cisse’s timing was devastating. He had a blistering partnership with Demba Ba that probably kept Alan ‘Couldn’t quite get it over the line/we was missing that bit of quality’ Pardew in a job for a bit longer than at West Brom. Or Crystal Palace. A lot has happened in those few years.

Several of the players from that team went on to apparently bigger and better things that sort of didn’t work out…

Hatem Ben Arfa was a talent who couldn’t really learn how to get any better.

Yohan Cabaye was the midfield general who saw Pardew’s genius and followed it back to Crystal Palace, where he has gone on to win… nowt. Via PSG, of course. Would you rather be the Billy Big Boy Pants at a smaller club, (hate to say it, but that’s us) or a bit part player at Loadsamoney Rovers?

Demba Ba moved to Chelsea, but for tactical reasons as well as any others, was never as prolific as he was at St James Park. What’s that? The money?! The transfer fee?! Well, I never.

Were they better than what we have at the minute? In front of goal, yes. We have no one prolific, and reading between the lines of Lee Charnley’s comments, it doesn’t look like we’ll be spending all of our summer holiday money in the first shop we find selling shiny new footballers. Charnley’s comments on the spending to get back up, coupled with the ‘news’ of the staggered payments Spurs are making for Sissoko, does make me wonder why we aren’t paying staggered payments, too, but then getting anything for Sissoko was good business. Wasn’t it?

Newcastle United as a business making institution have a bit of history when it comes to selling players on who didn’t particularly hit the heights for us, perhaps because they were played out of position, or were filling in for the unfillinable –Jon Dahl Tomasson being a case in point- and then going on to greatness. Hell’s teeth man, he went on to win the Champions League with AC Milan, and they were, erm, quite good.

What did we do wrong? We have sold players deemed surplus to requirements who have gone on to win the league; Danny Simpson did it a couple of years ago.

And recently, we have a history of finding the weakest spots of managers and being tutted at by the media for doing so. Alan Pardew, Steve McClaren, Graeme Souness… they were found out either by us, or not long afterwards. But we’re delusional.

Is the ‘championship team’ tag a little old now?

We finished in tenth place, and while this was on goal difference, it was also because as a unit, we defended more effectively than the teams around us. Losing by not a lot to Manchester City might have been a significant factor in that top half, goal difference placing, utterly negative though it was.

Rafa Benitez was placed in fifth place of the Premier League managers in a recent article in the online sports pages. He gets the best out of players who play in his system, and if you won’t –or can’t- play within it, you don’t fit into his plans. He lives and falls by being the big cheese who makes those decisions, which takes guts. I’ll take that over the Pardew-Moyes-Allardyce-Pulis merry-go-round of inept chewing.

But statistics are only as useful as the conclusions drawn from them. The conclusion suggested by Charnley this past week is, yeah, that’ll do.

It’ll do…won’t do. It didn’t do in the past.

Watching highlights reels from ten years ago and feeling nostalgic is fine when you’re having a cuppa, but I would be much happier with the adrenaline fuelled extra of what could be. And this from someone with rose-tinted myopia.

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby


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