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Opinion

I only watched England last night because these ‘Newcastle United targets’ were on show

2 weeks ago
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I decided to watch “Ing-urr-land” play the Azzurri on Saturday night because two supposed Newcastle United targets, who have recently been linked with NUFC, were in direct opposition to one another.

The first of that pair was Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse, who lined up in an England midfield alongside West Ham’s Declan Rice.

Jack Grealish and Mason Mount were deployed further forward supporting Tammy Abraham (and as far as I could make out) Raheem Sterling playing off his shoulder.

Roma’s Tammy Abraham is another who has been linked with a possible move to St James Park over recent weeks.

His teammate at the Giallorossi, Lorenzo Pellegrini, is reported to be another of the Newcastle United targets, even though he only recently signed a new contract at the Serie A club. He was the playmaker for Roberto Mancini’s youthful new team last night.

After defeating the Three Lions less than 12 months ago in the final of the Euros, Italy surprisingly then failed to qualify for this year’s upcoming World Cup in Qatar, and Mancini has been given the opportunity to carry on and overhaul the national team.

The game last night was what I expected. Although Gareth Southgate has undoubted talent at his disposal, the England head coach is gaining a reputation of being the new ‘Cabbage’ on the International circuit and you could see why.

By ‘Cabbage’ I don’t mean to make any comparison with the useless oaf (I vowed never to mention his name again in one of my articles) who was Eddie Howe’s predecessor in the St James Park dugout. I was thinking more of the hapless ‘Turnip’ Graham Taylor who had the unenviable task of succeeding Sir Bobby Robson as England supremo, after Italia 1990 (I actually liked Taylor who was an excellent manager / coach at club level).

As the game settled last night both sides had a fair percentage of possession. Rice was the pick of the England side and I was impressed with Tammy Abraham’s workrate and positional awareness. Although he had little if any decent service he was a more than an adequate replacement for the rested skipper Harry Kane.

Our own Kieran Trippier was his usual reliable self, this time on the left, supporting Grealish admirably at any given opportunity.

My main attention though was on the Ward-Prowse and Pellegrini tussle in midfield…and I have to say that the Saints midfielder came out second best. He lost possession on a few occasions, whilst Pellegrini looked silky smooth and assured.

Both teams created great opportunities that were squandered in the first half and the second half was a more low tempo affair, with both managers giving numerous players a run-out from the bench.

Another player linked with Newcastle United, Kalvin Phillips, came on for a late cameo. However, as the game petered out to an inevitable goalless draw you could tell that most of this lot would have preferred to have been on their summer holidays, rather than playing in this Micky Mouse competition.

On what I witnessed and observed last night, I have to say that Ward-Prowse would be a definite no-no for me when it comes to Newcastle United targets. In fact, it was the first time I had scrutinised him for a full game and I was less than impressed. Pellegrini was good but I actually would prefer some of the other stylish midfielders that we are being linked with.

On a general note, I looked at Jack Grealish’s performance and was left contemplating that you don’t get much for £100 Million these days. Raheem Sterling always seems to flatter to deceive too, whenever I have seen him play recently.

So as a summary, I spent 90 minutes on Saturday night watching a tedious competitive international (that incidentally had to be played behind closed doors because of the trouble at the Euros final at Wembley last summer), although there were some children allowed in at Molineux to give the occasion a little atmosphere.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time because of some of the players on show that I have mentioned.

If anything, it whetted my appetite and got me thinking of potentially better players whom Newcastle United might hopefully bring to Gallowgate in the weeks ahead.

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