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Opinion

Newcastle United alternative unsung heroes of 2020/21 – Six potential candidates

2 months ago
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There we are then, another classic Mike Ashley Newcastle United season in the bag.

Mid-table security without to much unnecessary faffing on in the cups and a few Bob trousered for slithering up the Premier League table to (blimey) 12th, to the extent that even Fabian Schar’s last minute penalty conversion at Fulham was worth a couple of million as it shifted us above Wolverhampton on goal difference.

In the end it seemed fairly comfortable then. There were ten games to go when Jamaal Lascelles’ injury time equaliser against Villa took us to 28 points, the sum total that Fulham actually ended up on.

The 17 points gained after the international break did no harm at all and once again we enter the summer hoping against hope that something may change for the better.

Of course, there are obvious stand-outs who helped save our season.

Callum Wilson, simply by agreeing to sign, provided the bulk of the goals, although the arrival of Joe Willock was arguably the biggest difference maker at a crucial time.

However, I have thought about the moments that have dictated our season, and I would like to present an alternative guide to the unsung heroes of the Newcastle United 2020/21 season. I believe that all of the following contributed in some way to cancelling out our generally dreadful approach to football and deserve some credit as follows:

1. Jeff Mostyn

Who? I hear most of you ask.

Well, Jeff here is the chairman of AFC Bournemouth. So? I bet you’re thinking, and at this point I’ve decided to end the imaginary dialogue narrative device and just explain why he’s made it in.

When Bournemouth were relegated last year and Eddie Howe left, his assistant Jason Tindall was appointed as manager, until Mostyn sacked him on 3rd February. If this date means nothing, I can finally reveal that this was only three days after Graeme Jones left the Cherries to join Newcastle, effectively arresting the slide we were experiencing and bringing some semblance of shape and organisation to Bruce’s bewildered mess of a side.

Jones’ replacement at Bournemouth, Jonathan Woodgate, was given the manager’s job and it’s accepted wisdom that had Mostyn acted quicker, this role would have gone to the man we can now call England’s Graeme Jones, vaporising any chance of him coming to Newcastle. Phew, thanks Jeff.

2. Trezeguet

Say what you like about Bruce, Newcastle were never actually in the relegation zone this season, were we?

Well, actually, technically we were. For 17 minutes on 4th April, the in-play table had Fulham above us on goal difference after our old mate Mitrovic put them ahead at Villa Park. This may have been a game changing development, as the confidence this would have given the seemingly doomed Cottagers would have marked a sharp contrast with the explosive effect it would have had on our squad’s mentality. Willock’s seven straight goals would likely never have happened as Bruce would revert to playing Hendrick to protect every point and we’d drift further away by the week.

Fortunately for us, Trezeguet intervened with the most welcome Aston Villa goals since Jack Grealish tried his luck against Brighton some five years ago. With the game entering it’s last ten minutes the Egyptian scored twice in quick succession to send United a healthy three points clear of that dreaded line, never to fall back beneath it. Cheers mate.

3. West Ham United

If I ever get to put my own choices into football’s Room 101, the non-triers are definitely going in. You know the ones, sides who throw out a seemingly superhuman effort when faced with Newcastle, then are spotted weeks later on Match of the Day doing some kind of keystone cops impression against your nearest rivals.

The most angry I’ve ever been at this was when Everton, having strained every sinew to beat Newcastle in 2016, turned up with their flip flops on to gift the mackems the three points that relegated us. By contrast, it gives you a nice warm feeling when a side seems to be actively assisting you in your cause.

West Ham had a fine season, finishing 6th, but managed to gift Newcastle six points along the way, with Hendrick scoring away and Joelinton notching at home. Not only this, but they consistently beat any relegation rivals, like some sort of East End hatchetman sent out to smack about anyone who threatens you. This is why they make the list whereas the Ev, another club unexpectedly doubled, were generously handing out points to most of the bottom six, and anyway they still haven’t been forgiven for their previously mentioned mackem love-in.

4. The British Government

It’s not often I give this lot any credit, and this is backhanded in the extreme as I’d much rather the coronavirus pandemic had been handled in a timely, competent fashion, saving countless lives and returning many more to a normal existence a lot quicker than transpired.

As it was, the initial failures to contain meant another full season of being locked out. This was likely for the best as nobody had to part with any cash to watch the repeated displays of toss that made up the bulk of the season but also the toxic atmosphere this would have delivered may have negatively affected the ultimately successful escape campaign.
Yeah, thanks a lot Boris, you can go now.

5. Simon Smith

I can’t help but think that however weak we are, it’s been a long time since I had any doubt about the goalkeeper.

After Dubravka’s outstanding contribution last season, his turning up injured for the new season may have signalled disaster, but Darlow stepped up to be a standout performer early on (remember his performance at Spurs?) I believe it’s been a consistent statistic over recent seasons that we should have conceded more goals (xG) than we actually have and, by virtue, be even worse off.

Some stellar performances from the keepers have kept that mad stat alive, and while the goalies themselves are undoubtedly quality players, maybe this is an area where the coaching deserves a bit of credit?

6. Steve Bruce

Na gerraway man, only joking

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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