‘Boring’ is not a word often used to describe Newcastle United…and yet the start of this season has been exactly that.
I can’t remember a more subdued start by either team or fans.
Before I get accused of demanding ‘entertaining’ football like the self-entitled droves at Old Trafford, I’m not referring to the team’s actual style of play. Rafa’s approach to the games against the ‘big 6’ was understandable and the resulting goal difference advantage may yet prove useful.
Instead, I am talking about everything surrounding NUFC: the lack of progressive signings, Ashley’s continued unwelcome presence and the overall sense of going through the motions.
The team’s finish to last season gave us every chance of pushing for the Europa League places this year, provided the right reinforcements were signed. But, alas, sporting achievement is not the agenda of those in the club’s offices.
Now, like so many other occasions over the past decade, a chance at a cup has been immediately surrendered and we are scrapping for away draws in the bottom half of the table.
The team has only scored five times in seven matches (all competitions) and has not notched more than a single goal in any 90-minute spell. It is all too predictable.
Admittedly, four of those opponents were significantly better squads and Newcastle were not expected to get anything out of those games.
But the excitement of beating Arsenal last April, or Chelsea in May, is not there this time. The form book has gone exactly as expected.
Sure, red cards and missed penalties have come and gone along the way. Those moments hardly stand out as high points though.
Rafa’s side gave the TV companies exactly what they wanted and predicted. Decent games where the underdogs give the big boys a bit of a scare until the more star-studded team takes the spoils (a happy ending in SkySportsland).
I remember reading an interview of a manager from an Israeli team NUFC had demolished in a UEFA Cup tie some years ago. He said that after his team conceded a few goals, effectively sealing certain victory for Newcastle, the Israelis’ were ‘only playing for protocol’. It struck me as an odd phrase but it springs to mind when I think of the mood over this past two months.
Nevertheless, football never stands still.
Maybe a good performance against Leicester will bring some much-needed excitement and talking-points.