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Newcastle United: The World Cup Wilderness

3 years ago

Watching the 2018 World Cup as a Newcastle United fan, must be like Ant McPartlin watching Saturday night TV. I know it should be painless, it’s been very entertaining after all, but I just feel left out when I watch it.

It’s hard to try and like Dele Alli and Jordan Henderson when you spend all season calling them knackers, and when NUFC’s only participant is hanging onto Tyneside by the skin of his neck tattoos, it’s more of “let’s see what you could have won” than “tonight you are taking home.”

As NUFC’s sole representative, Mitrovic has done a decent job. He has played well in the two games so far, scoring once and being a physical handful throughout, or a physical two-arms-full for two Swiss defenders who WWE’d him to the ground in the clockmakers’ 2-1 win. An assault which should have led to a penalty, might lead to Serbia invading Switzerland and will probably lead to Serbia’s exit from the World Cup tomorrow. When it does, Mitro will leave Newcastle. During the World Cup it is hard to see why.

I am not Mitrovic’ biggest fan, his lack of mobility has always been an issue for me. He doesn’t chase defenders down like Joselu and Gayle do, something which Rafa’s tactics needs. When Mitro does chase, his lack of pace means he gets there just a little bit late which often leads to a foul and sometimes absolute carnage, defenders’ legs everywhere, Mitro skulking off down the tunnel to use up all of the hot water before everyone else gets back to the changers. He’s always got that in him, sometimes meant, sometimes not.

That may be part of the reason why he doesn’t fit into Benitez’s plans but on the other hand, what I don’t understand is why Mitrovic is so obviously out of favour when the players in favour are so obviously average. Gayle is more mobile and a decent finisher but lacks a bit of belief and any physical presence, sometimes he lacks the ability to stand up for more than 30 seconds at a time. Joselu has some presence and the mobility but not the ability, he tries hard but is nowhere near good enough for a top half PL finish.

Despite lacking confidence in Mitro, I hope his performances have persuaded Rafa that a player who wants to stay, is young enough to improve and potentially good enough to play at this level, is given a chance to show what he can do. The reality is that his performances will just increase his worth and NUFC will get more money for him when they sell him.

That is always the heart of the isssue with Newcastle United. How much will NUFC get and what will they spend the money on? Someone better hopefully, someone cheaper probably.

‘Where will we find another bargain like him?’

I used to look forward to the World Cup to see if there was any little known gem of a player we could sign, Philippe Albert was the classic example. Now of course there is no such thing as a little known player, everyone knows everything about everyone and every player’s price starts at £20million anyway.

Then there is the problem that anyone who is any good is already out of our league. That Ronaldo fella is pretty good and he’s available if we had the £100million to sign him, the £100million to pay him, and a bit of spare change for the extras. What extras? Well extras like mattresses for their beds which players seem to need to take with them now.

We all know that these molly-coddled planks can’t tie their own shoe-laces but the news that our fifth choice keeper Matt Sels wasn’t in Belgium’s World Cup squad, was leaked because Belgium weren’t taking his bed with them to Russia. Presumably a 9 foot bed, Matt Sels is a big lad, but it is more likely that his omission was more down to performance rather than delivery costs. You don’t get to be Belgium’s third choice keeper when you can’t get into Newcastle’s team.

Two players who aren’t at the World Cup for reasons not solely based on performance are Shelvey and Lascelles. England seem to be doing well without them.

While on the one hand it would have been good for those two players to be recognised as being in good form and for them to know that they don’t have to play for Manchester City to get into England’s team. On the other hand, I don’t want either of them to get injured at the World Cup and the reality is that you do have to play for Manchester City to get into the England squad, unless Fabian Delph was taken as a mascot.

Delph last week said that Pep Guardiola had “re-invented” him as a player, presumably re-invented as City’s second choice left back and that was one of the reasons why he made it into the England squad. You can’t have too much cover at left back after all. If only Shelvey and Lascelles could play left back, they might be in Russia now, but we will know more about whether Lascelles and Shelvey should have made the squad after England play Belgium on Thursday.

‘You don’t have to play for Manchester City to play for England, but it helps.’

Delph is a player that NUFC are constantly linked with and no more so than now during the transfer silly season.

It’s boring that most transfer gossip is one of three scenarios, agents feeding journalists to generate interest in a player, clubs feeding journalists to generate interest in a player, or the newspaper itself making rubbish up to sell papers.

It is all part of the sad business of football so I generally ignore it, but one headline did catch my attention. It seems that average Premier League trundler Joe Allen has been “offered to Newcastle United.” I’m sure he has, I’m sure his agent has contacted every Premier League club begging them to give his client a chance as the player himself has no wish to play Championship football for Stoke City, a club that paid his healthy wage packet every week and were rewarded by relegation performances week in week out. I don’t see why Allen himself would feel the need to move on, relegation won’t affect his international career or presumably his wage, it must just be vanity that although his performances weren’t good enough for the PL for the last 10 months, he believes they will be for the next 10 months.

Allen was presumably “offered to Newcastle United” in a similar way to Kerry Katona being “offered to Roman Abramovich” as a beard wife to enable the Russian/Israeli/Chelsea billionaire to get himself a UK Visa. I think both “offers” were met with a similar response, though to be fair to Kerry she would at least be able to fulfil about 70% of her duties as a beard and I will leave it up to your imagination as to which 70% that is. Either way, it is a lot higher percentage than Joe Allen would fulfil as a Premier League midfielder.

One piece of good news coming out of the World Cup is that Rafa Benitez will not be becoming Spain manager. Spain sacked their Real Madrid bound jefe just before the tournament for becoming Real Madrid jefe just before the tournament and Benitez was one of the favourites for the job after the WC ended. I can confirm that will definitely not be happening after the news was leaked that Real Madrid have no interest in Rafa becoming their manager in two years time.


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