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No takeover, no signings, no new contract for Rafa – Just a massive football match on Saturday for Newcastle United

8 months ago
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I don’t know about others my age, but when I was little, winning the FA Cup for Newcastle United was my dream. More so than the Premier League, or European Cup. There is just something about Wembley and the FA Cup.

I was born in ’95 and grew up with the romance of the cup, plus a few decent Newcastle United sides. My earliest memory of any sort of football goes back to the 1998 Semi Final against Sheffield United on the tele. My first ever football game came the following year against Crystal Palace in the third round. By the time the semi-final against Spurs came along, I was at that age where I really knew I liked football.

I will always maintain that if you gave me the chance to score any goal from the past, and experience it myself, it would be Shearer’s second goal against Spurs. The goal itself was pitch perfect, with it connecting with his foot sweeping across the ball, as it laced into the top corner via the underside of the cross bar, and then the inside of the post.

Even then, it was the pandemonium in the standards that made it special, with the pile on in the corner of the Stretford End that was mobbed with Newcastle fans. Those moments are what football is all about, and if there is one thing that keeps me going back to Newcastle United, it is that desire, or desperation as some may call it, to be able to one day experience those same emotions that I watched on the tele as a three-year-old.

To this day, I can still recite the commentary to the goal off by heart “Shearer has Maric free, its Silvio Maric, its Alan Shearer, that’s the way to finish… ooh that’s how he dreamt it last night. Alan Shearer sends Newcastle United back to Wembley.”

Even as you grow up, the bad memories still add to the hope, such as Alan Shearer hitting the post in the ’98 final, or Steve Harper spreading his legs wide as Teddy Sheringham slid the ball under him one year later.

The following year, my mum wouldn’t let me go to the Chelsea semi-final as she thought it was too dangerous. I was made to go to a schoolmate’s birthday party. We may have lost that day, but my obsession with the Old Wembley has not let me forgive her, as I can never say I saw us play there.

In 2004 I finally made it the semi-final in Cardiff and was lucky enough to take the match ball away with me. It still sits proudly next to my bed. My abiding memory from that game, although we all want to forget the result, was leaving Newcastle on the coach at 2am in the morning, and the city was mobbed with thousands and thousands of people and hundreds of buses.

That may seem like an irrelevant story but on a night, or a week, or a season, or 11 years in which the magic of the FA Cup has been sucked out of Newcastle United, it’s a story that reminds me there is still hope.

The Game

It was as good a start to the game as you could have hoped for with us going in the lead after about a minute. Sean Longstaff scored with a deflected strike.

Two things about that. If it wasn’t for his good performance on Saturday, I don’t think he would have had the confidence to take on the shot in the first place. Secondly, I couldn’t be more pleased for him (and Cal Roberts to come).

At the age of 21, Longstaff isn’t exactly what I would call young in football terms. There is no doubt that if everyone stayed fit then he wouldn’t get a look in and would inevitably be shipped out of the club. However, now he has a chance it is up to him to take it. If he does continue to perform over the next few days, then I would hope Rafa trusts him to stay in the side even when the likes of Shelvey, Ki, Diame and Hayden are all fit.

From that point I expected us to drop even deeper with a Blackburn onslaught. However, the home side seemed to be more intent on what I would call ‘fannying on’ with it, rather than testing an inexperienced Newcastle side.

We deservedly went 2-0 up after 20 minutes, with Cal Roberts producing a great finish after some equally great work from Jacob Murphy down the right hand side.

For both of those players though, I don’t think they did anything else in the game. I don’t actually remember Cal Roberts touching the ball apart from his goal, and as for Jacob Murphy, he got some praise in the Chronicle and by a few toon fans on twitter but I am not sure why. He gave the ball away pretty much every time he had it and his final ball was terrible.

There were fans on twitter saying he got into good spaces, as if that is something to justify as a good performance. I understand people being desperate for positives in times like this but I don’t think Jacob Murphy’s performance against Blackburn is going to be one of them.

I hope he does turn a corner and start chipping in some proper performances but I don’t pick the team. Rafa does, and most of the time he doesn’t deem him good enough for the 18, never mind the 11, so don’t say I am being unrealistic or negative.

Despite being 2-0 up, I still thought it was inevitable that Blackburn would get back into the game. Once Adam Armstrong scored, with what I thought was a weak attempt at a save from Freddie Woodman (although I am not goalkeeper so what do I know), it was just a matter of time and they were level by the break.

The second half started with Lascelles coming on for Clark, which turned into somewhat of a debacle as soon as he felt his hamstring in the second half. The thing I don’t understand is that even people who have never played football will know that once your hamstring has gone, it’s gone. There is no running off the pain etc. That’s it. So why Lascelles carried on, ultimately doing more damage to the muscle, is beyond me. Even more so, it was disappointing that the debacle seemed to last 10 minutes. Rafa should have been all over that, Lascelles should have hit the deck and the sub should have been made.

The game went into extra time when it really shouldn’t have, after Bradley Dack missed an absolute sitter in front of the away end. That should have been curtains.

Perez came on for Newcastle and ultimately changed the game with his fresh legs and a brilliant run for through the backline for the 4th goal (more about in a minute). In the meantime, it was Joselu who put us in the lead with an offside effort. That may be the refereeing decision we have been missing as of late, just a shame it came in this game and not Saturday!

Yes, Perez scored the 4th with a great goal, but as I have said before, I have no time for him if he continues this ridiculous and disrespectful celebration. I wrote in my match ratings that I couldn’t care less if we sold him for free tomorrow and I really mean that.

When you take the day off work, pay good money, travel for hours, sing your heart out, get home in the early hours of the following day after standing in the freezing cold on a Tuesday night in a FA Cup third round replay away at Blackburn, only for Ayoze Perez to stand in front of the away end and stick his fingers in his ears, essentially saying “I couldn’t give a s… what you all think”… it really grinds on me and I’ve got no time for him.

People will slag me off for that rant but I really mean it.

While I am on a rant as well… rumours that Cabaye could be available on a free? I’d rather eat my feet than have a guy who refused to play for the club come back here and pick up a salary.

Rafa Benitez

His team selection said it all about the situation he is in. I was half expecting him to set us up to defend for 90 minutes, and we didn’t, so fair play to him for that.

Let’s go and have a go at Cardiff on Saturday please Rafa!

The Fans

My last trip to Ewood was a League Cup game on a Wednesday night that finished 4-3. I think we had the whole end that night. The fact that around 2,000 made the trip tonight from all corners of the country goes to show what a credit they are to the club.

It is a sick irony but we remain Mike Ashley’s greatest asset.

Last bit

No takeover, no signings, no new contract for Rafa.

Just a massive football match on Saturday.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Blackburn 2 Newcastle 4

Goals…

Newcastle – Longstaff 1, Roberts 22, Joselu 105+3, Perez 106

Blackburn – Armstrong 33, Lenihan 45+1

Possession was Blackburn 55% Newcastle 45%

Total shots were  Blackburn 13 Newcastle 22

Shots on target were Blackburn 4 Newcastle 10

Corners were  Blackburn 8 Newcastle 6

Referee: Lee Probert

Newcastle United:

Woodman, Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark (Lascelles 46 (Hayden 57)), Sterry, Ritchie (Atsu 109), Schar, Longstaff, Murphy, Roberts (Perez 94), Joselu

Unused Subs:

Harker, Yedlin, Rondon

Crowd: 14,228

(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the match go HERE)

(Read match ratings and comments on all NUFC players after beating Blackburn HERE)

(Tony Mowbray blames match officials for defeat to Newcastle – Read HERE)

(Rafa Benitez discusses luck, confidence, injuries and scoring goals after beating Blackburn – Read HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc
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