Brighton 3 Newcastle 0 – This was supposed to be a match report but in the circumstances…
I was asked to do a match report on the events of what turned out to be Brighton 3 Newcastle 0…but I feel I can confidently state that no one wants that.
Well, no one legit at least, barring the odd elated Brighton fan skimming the output of a vanquished foe, or mackems, giddy on the prospect of a derby next year sucking up every last juicy detail of an inevitable demise on Tyneside.
But the intended audience, the fans of Newcastle United, should not want to relive the 90 minutes at the AMEX outside of their nightmares, so what I will offer instead is a current status report.
To summarise the game is to summarise the problem.
United have injury concerns up front, this is indisputable, but they were slightly abated by the welcome return of Almiron. He could have added an extra dimension to an attack that should have been compelled to go for Brighton’s jugular, emboldened by Leeds’ encouraging win against Fulham that maintained our ill-deserved status of outside the relegation zone. Stick Miggy in the number ten role and put two wingers either side of an attacking midfield and we might just feel buoyed enough to have a go at the team directly above us, who had only ONE home win under their belt this Premier League season.
Instead we snivelled, we cowered and we surrendered before the game kicked off.
The impotent Joelinton once again thrown in to lead a non-attack that only adds fire to suggestions that the alleged Brazilian’s bizarre transfer is based on some kind of Nacho Gonzales style “favours to agents” deal, with the club’s hierarchy apparently valuing the return on his £40 million transfer higher than the £100 million you get for staying in the Premier League.
Once again, our cowardly wreck of a manager stuck the white elephant of a number nine on his own up front, with the usual static midfield and expectations that the creative efforts of Fraser and Almiron would cancel out tactics that seemingly involved letting the other lot have the ball.
We have drawn a few games recently to keep our head above water. I would suggest that even this meagre ambition may have proven impossible were it not for the fact we have one player that sticks in 90 minutes of blood, thunder, boll.cks and heart.
Isaac Hayden has shown magnificence that has informed anyone with a brain that he is the only central defensive midfielder we need, in spite of the fact that a manager without a brain usually sticks another two or three in to get in his way and keep those pesky wings free of clutter. When Hayden got clattered by an accidental follow through by Bissouma and needed to leave the field on a stretcher, it was not good news.
Fortunately, United only had to survive added time to regroup for the second half with Hendrick in the team. Instead they decided to stand back and allow Trossard ridiculous time and space to pick the corner for a 45+3 minute lead for Albion. This seemed harsh, until you looked at the fact we’d stood and let them have the ball for 80% of the game and they were one of the one teams apparently trying to win.
The defence demonstrated the effectiveness of the half time team talk when they stood off and watched as Welbeck scored – and I cannot emphasise this enough – the EXACT SAME GOAL at the opposite end. Fraser had hit the post with a good effort just prior to this, but United were offering nothing else and I utterly lost interest in this sh.tshow of epic proportions once the second defeat was confirmed with Brighton’s second. Apparently, Maupay made it three just in case our goal difference wasn’t terrible enough already.
It is literally now or never.
Given the squad we have, the fixtures remaining and the relative calm of an incredibly welcome international break, there is a chance for Newcastle to capitalise on the status of still being two points clear of the relegation zone. The removal of Steve Bruce, whatever the cost, will save Mike Ashley the hundred million+ of being relegated and whatever he might lose by derailing any lingering takeover.
People will ask who can replace Bruce but I don’t even think it matters. I believe the squad would bounce from the release of being freed from the shackles of this abysmal experiment and provide the relatively modest points return needed to avert catastrophe.
Critics may also point to previous relegations, where the respective appointments of Shearer and Rafa failed to save our hides, largely due to being too late in the day. In those circumstances, we were too deeply embroiled in multi-team relegation scraps and already in situ below that dreaded line. Now we only have to be better than Fulham with a two point and one game advantage. If this is pulled off, we owe a huge debt to both Sheffield United and West Brom for basically being non-competitive this year.
On paper, that task is eminently doable, but the hideous prospect of Joelinton labouring away on his own while his distant teammates sullenly crowd in the final third of the pitch makes you shudder at the prospect of hoping someone else can hold off Fulham each week, as the undignified desperate willing for Leeds to see out their win on Friday night is set to repeat itself in the next two rounds at least, with the Cottagers playing before us on both occasions.
I wonder if we could resolve all this by offering the job to Scott Parker, nobbling the opposition while boosting our own chances and bagging an up and coming young manager who just happens to be an ex-Mag into the bargain.
If there is a slim silver lining, at least the general perception of our situation might be changing. Jeff Stelling tweeted that he understands the Newcastle fans perspective on Bruceball now, which begs the question whether this miserable display was the first time he’s watched us this season. With a stunning sense of timing, the Mail on Sunday has carried a huge interview with Rafa Benitez today where he eloquently outlines the reality of the fans situation (“Some pundits say ‘they ask for too much.’ No, they deserve something”) and we may actually be at a point where the defence of Bruceball goes quiet as the Talksport rent-a-gobs realise they are making themselves look stupid.
There is no immediate action required as the international break will probably mean no training for a couple of days (although that’s the case in weeks with three matches it seems) and plenty of prep time for Tottenham. This is probably for the best as Lee Charnley is not a bloke I’d associate with springing into action.
However, I will be scanning the internet with painful regularity over the next two days to see if the sweet release has happened, bringing with it some sliver of hope for the club’s future. I would suggest that if this hasn’t happened by Tuesday morning, we can conclude the owner has decided to gamble again and take solace in the fact that the inevitable long stay in the Championship ahead of us will damage him massively.
This will damage us more though. This has been a difficult, traumatic, oppressive year for everyone with the way life has gone for us all. Sport should be an escape from the worry and mundanity covid has brought, but for Newcastle fans it has only added to the misery. I am finding lately that unacceptable displays like this one are ruining my weekend, no matter how hard I try to avoid the games themselves.
It may seem churlish to compare relegation danger to the mental impact of a pandemic but this club plays an enormous role in the lives of many people from the region. I genuinely believe that, should we go down, there will be around a million households in the north east full of very sad people, compared with a couple of thousand in West London should we scrape survival.
I should state this does not in any way give us the right to be there ahead of Fulham, before Savage, Jordan or some other irrelevance starts bleating on about entitled Newcastle fans. In a time when mental health conversations are prominent, is it maybe valid to say that rampant p.sstaking of something that is relevant to the happiness of a huge quantity of people, is a bit of a d.ckish way to go on?
I’d like to say I’m apathetic about it all; Ashley, Bruce, relegation, whatever rubbish result comes next. But I’m not. I want to take my little boy to a full ground with a buzzing atmosphere. I want to pile into the car with my mates and head off for an adventure around some away game. This doesn’t have to be on a Man City scale of total dominance, I just want it to be a fun experience that doesn’t fill you with foreboding before and she’ll shock afterwards. I want my club to stop being toxic.
This is a huge operation to hope for an end to the nuclear winter of the Ashley reign. I will consider any forthcoming news of the removal of Steve Bruce the first daffodils sprouting through.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Brighton 3 Newcastle 0 – Saturday 20 March 8pm
Trossard 45+3, Welbeck 51, Maupay 68
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Brighton 66% (75%) Newcastle 34% (25%)
Total shots were Brighton 11 (7) Newcastle 3 (1)
Shots on target were Brighton 6 (3) Newcastle 1 (0)
Corners were Brighton 3 (1) Newcastle 1 (1)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Dubravka, Manquill0, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Willock (Murphy 62), Hayden (Hendrick 45+2), Shelvey, Almiron (Sean Longstaff 76), Fraser, Joelinton
Darlow, Ritchie, Lewis, Fernandez, Gayle, Carroll
(Newcastle fans group call for immediate Steve Bruce sacking after Brighton humiliation – Read HERE)
(Brighton 3 Newcastle 0 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Brighton 3 Newcastle 0 – International breaks are prime time for sacking managers – Read HERE)
(Brighton 3 Newcastle 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s dismal defeat – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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