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Opinion

Is it wrong for Newcastle United fans to cheer on other clubs having a go?

3 months ago
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As well as the ‘pleasure’ of watching their own side this season, Newcastle United fans have also had the option of watching every other Premier League match.

Every PL game shown live and since the end of the nonsense £14.95 per match Pay Per View initiative, everybody able to see every match if having the usual TV packages.

I know they say you can have too much of a good thing but to be honest, having the time (I’m on furlough) and opportunity to watch a lot of other matches has been really refreshing.

Indeed, I have to say that I think for many Newcastle United fans, including myself, watching other teams played has restored my faith in why exactly I first got into football as a kid back in the day. In the 1970s the likes of Supermac and his supporting cast constantly pushing forward trying to create chances and score goals, plus you know, entertain fans.

Like I say, with time on my hands, I went through the BBC Sport stats for Newcastle United this season and as well as Steve Bruce and his team not having 50% or more possession in any of the 16 Premier League matches so far, the stats on kicking the ball towards that thing with a net hanging off it, are arguably even more bleak.

These are the number of shots Newcastle United fans have seen their team have on target in each of the 16 PL games in 2020/21 so far, plus how many points picked up:

7 – Twice against West Brom and Crystal Palace (6 points)

5 – Twice against Burnley and Fulham (4 points)

4 – Three times against Everton, Man Utd and Leeds (3 points)

2 – Six times against West Ham, Wolves, Southampton, Leicester, Liverpool and Man City (5 points)

1 – Twice against Tottenham and Chelsea (1 point)

0 – Once against Brighton (0 points)

Whist Steve Bruce wants to dismiss all mention of underlying statistics and their relationship with how likely you are to pick up points, as though it is some kind of witchcraft to try and suggest so, these stats above are pretty on the money.

In the four matches where Newcastle managed five or more shots on target, they picked up 10 points from three wins and a draw.

In the other twelve matches with less than five efforts on target, only nine points, with two wins, three draws and seven defeats.

The reality as well is that when you look at the games where Newcastle had very few shots, they actually had a fair bit of luck picking up points. A point at Tottenham from the only shot on target with a ridiculous penalty decision in the final seconds, scoring with the only two efforts on target at West Ham, draws against Wolves and Liverpool when having all but zero attacking threat.

When you create two or less chances in most of your matches, it doesn’t take a genius, or Steve Bruce, to work out that you are going to be very lucky to pick up many / any points.

After the dross Newcastle United fans have been forced to endure, what a joy it has been to watch Leeds under Bielsa. When they get beat by the likes of Tottenham and Man Utd the media embarrassingly pile on them, yet when they win they (the journalists) still snipe. In this crazy modern world of football media, I find this maybe the most embarrassing thing, a team trying to play football all around the pitch (like maybe say Ajax or one of any number of progressive teams you often see on the continent), creating chances and scoring goals and yes conceding as well because at times the quality of player might not always be there, yet the media trying to belittle and patronise them. A promoted team with 23 points from 17 games so far, imagine if Bielsa stays and they build with a few better players each season, they could be some force. A real project in place.

As opposed to project misery at St James Park, under the command of Captain Chaos / Clueless, Steve Bruce. A team with absolutely no identity, having inherited a very good base from Rafa Benitez and then allowed a £100m+ net spend BUT refuses to allow any kind of noticeable attacking plan / threat, it is truly desperate. Bruce keeps says things don’t change ‘overnight’, this team is incapable of attacking football supposedly, he needs a lot more time etc etc.

Funnily enough, despite starved of backing by Mike Ashley, in his final 16 Premier League games, Rafa and his NUFC team scored the fifth highest number of goals and picked up the fifth highest number of points. In his final 28 games, Rafa’s team picked up the eighth highest number of points…whilst in his entire managerial career, Steve Bruce has NEVER finishing in the top eight of the Premier League.

Anyway, back to watching football this season and teams having a go.

Apart from Fat Sam’s West Brom and Sheffield United who have fallen apart, I don’t think there are any other clubs that come close to the miserable tactics and football Steve Bruce has subjected Newcastle United fans to. Burnley aren’t always easy on the eye but at least they have a plan, plus at times when they do click, they aren’t always terrible to watch despite the long ball style, scoring a fair few decently worked goals.

With Newcastle United, I literally have zero idea still on what Bruce’s plan is to try and score goals, which is obviously because he hasn’t got one.

Last night I watched Southampton deservedly beat Liverpool, the scousers might have had more possession but the Saints were better at both ends of the pitch, restricting Liverpool to just one effort on target whilst they had three and could and should have probably won by 2-0.

One of a number of talented young, mainly foreign, managers, it was class to see the emotion from Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl as he fell to his knees with tears in his eyes on the final whistle, then speaking to BBC Sport:

“There were tears in my eyes – because of the wind!

“When you see our guys fighting with everything they have it makes me really proud.

“You need to have the perfect game against Liverpool and I think we did have that.

“It felt like we were under massive pressure and the defending around the box was the key today – and then we still tried to play football. We did it in a good way.

“It was an intense game; my voice is nearly gone. The guys are tired, you have to be to win against such a team. The guys believed in what they were doing.

“It’s a perfect evening.

Good luck to them, Southampton have been transformed under Hasenhuttl, if only Newcastle had somebody like him. Great football, tries to attack and create chances, fifth in the league now and only four points off the top, entertaining their fans massively as well.

Many people would argue that Newcastle have a better squad than Southampton, in the time the two managers / head coaches have been at their respective clubs, Steve Bruce has had a far higher net spend allowed on players. Yes Mike Ashley is a shameless example of a football club owner BUT it is still though as if, having a good manager who knows what he is doing and has a plan, can still bring about relative success. Who would have thought it…

There are of course many other clubs having a go, the likes of Leicester, Aston Villa, Everton and others, even West Ham and Fulham now, trying to get on the front foot at least to an extent, Brighton as well, though they just time after time seem to be missing quality in certain positions.

It isn’t even confined to the Premier League, tonight we can ‘enjoy’ the sight of Brentford having a real go at Tottenham to try and reach Wembley. In the quarter-final, Steve Bruce’s team didn’t even have a single effort on target in the second-half. Ironically, Brentford have won four games (out of four) against Premier League opposition this season, whilst Newcastle have managed only one more in 16 matches against top tier opposition.

Here’s hoping Brentford go level with Newcastle tonight and make it five wins over PL opposition. A progressive club trying to be the best they can be under a talented young foreign manager, whilst we are somehow stuck with Brucey.

You couldn’t make it up.

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