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Opinion

Newcastle United – Celebrating the change?

4 weeks ago
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McFaul, Craig, Clark, Gibb, Howard, Moncur, Barrowclough, Smith, MacDonald, Tudor, Hibbitt

Eleven Newcastle United names that for those of a certain vintage will roll readily off the tongue…so why is that?

Well, in those halcyon days, clubs might have had a squad but generally it was the same 11 players week in and week out.

OK, you could take out Jinky Smith for Tony Green but sadly injury stopped that, moving forward Terry Mac (first spell) would replace Tommy Gibb and the full backs would become the brilliant Irving Natrass and Alan Kennedy.

The point I am making, is teams rarely changed their line ups.

Take the FA Cup run in 1974, Newcastle had home games against non-league Hendon and lower league Scunthorpe, both ended 1-1 and went to replays, did Joe Harvey field weakened sides? Not at all he fielded the best he could, it has to be said Hendon and Scunthorpe both competed and could have won at SJP.

Down the road, our neighbours spectacularly won the cup a year earlier, and they had virtually the same team all the way through.

At this point, I have to hang my head in shame, as my claim to minor fame is that I could name Sunderland’s 73 winning team, including the sub, quicker than any mackem on the planet. Ex Metro Radio presenter Tony Horne took me up on this boast and put me against a mackem on his breakfast show, of course I duly won live on air! But is this really anything to boast about? Actually, not really, as back in the 70s I could name virtually every cup final team as I was glued to the TV from early morning (breakfast with the teams, it’s a knockout, coach leaving the hotel, cameras on the coach, TV crews on Wembley way) to kick off time.

That’s the way it was, the FA Cup was valued as the greatest cup competition in the world!

Today however, things have evolved to a point where nobody takes much interest up until the quarter finals, attendances and cheap ticket prices prove this point, go back again to the halcyon days and look at footage from 1975 of the 4th round tie between Leicester and Leatherhead, a full Filbert Street, a non-league team with a centre forward (Chris Kelly) who had as much lip as Supermac and a classic encounter complemented by a young John Motson commentating……. I know I am being nostalgic but those were in my eyes better days! For the record, Leicester came back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in a game of high drama.

Of course things evolve and certainly some things have changed for the better, but the raw excitement of the FA Cup is something that has changed for the worse, is it foreign influence? Possibly a little bit as the foreign coaches do tend to complain about too much football, also I have zero memory of any cup final from abroad attracting any attention at all.

Of course the main factor is money, the CL riches ensure that teams simply don’t value the FA Cup anymore, Man City could easily put out three extremely competitive teams on any given day but would it mean anything? I doubt it very much. It’s a fact that PL clubs simply can’t get fans through the turnstiles for cup games despite almost giving the tickets away.

Are we any different up here? To be honest, not really, but the crowd against Cambridge should be interesting, given there will be at least 5,000 visitors I would be disappointed if we don’t get a near sell out.

NUFC have rightly requested and had approved a postponement of the Everton game, is this right?

In this day and age it is absolutely right, NUFC were out on their feet at full time on Monday and with COVID and more injuries in the camp it is only right that we make use of the rules in the same way that each and every other PL club has, would it be allowed back in the exciting halcyon days I spoke about above? I doubt it very much but as I also mentioned, things have changed.

Back to Monday night and again we are unlucky to not to win against a clearly disjointed Man Utd, make no mistake on another day we could have given them a severe beating. What is needed now is the same intensity for each and every game up until the end of the season, other teams have games in hand obviously but we have a little bit of momentum, wins against the teams around us and we will climb out of the bottom three.

However, I honestly do not think relegation would be a disaster, it would be a disappointment, no more no less, but we are used to them.

The transfer window opens up in a day or two and hopefully signings are already in the bag, ready to hit the ground running, Kieran Trippier is one talked about as being over the line and he is definitely a positive, but right now we need a centre forward. Callum Wilson may be out for a few weeks so somebody proven needs to come in and be ready, the Cambridge game is an ideal game to get new players bedded in.

Whilst 2021 draws to a close but COVID permitting, 2022 looks to be very interesting.

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