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Opinion

Educating Newcastle United fans about friendlies

3 weeks ago
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I have always enjoyed the reaction of some Newcastle United fans to friendlies.

As well as hopefully having a holiday somewhere canny, it is one of my personal highlights of each pre-season.

Newcastle beat some pretty poor opposition by a handful of goals and life is so sweet, dreaming of what could lie ahead.

Lose and not create many chances, even if against a decent level club, it is panic stations.

Having scored eight and strolling to wins against Gateshead and 1860 Munich, fair to say the (black and white) natives were happy.

However, losing 1-0 to Mainz in a tight match of few chances and the opposition taking their one big clear opportunity…questions need to be asked, apparently.

Well, it was blazing hot sunshine on Monday afternoon in Austria and didn’t really suit at all an all action performance, if that was what you wanted / expected. It was a good workout for both teams in difficult conditions and a lot of the time the two sides passed and passed the ball without too much pressing from the opposition players. It was almost as though the two teams were playing themselves towards match fitness, not taking unnecessary risks, getting a good workout with the result surely not mattering…

The thing is, I have noticed it is not just some Newcastle United fans, I think England fans are often guilty of taking friendly results (including the daft nations league) far too seriously. It doesn’t matter if you get beat in meaningless games. I think fans of other national sides understand and accept this far more, friendlies are maybe for trying things out, different players / tactics / formations, seeing if they work or not, hopefully you still win but if you don’t, no harm done. Maybe this has helped contribute to the near 60 years of hurt for England. Managers of the national side feeling the pressure from fans and taking friendlies far too seriously, rather than simply using them to prepare for the tournament finals.

You look at the five big European leagues and the national sides of those five countries, quite embarrassing really how England have got on in recent decades, compared to all of Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

Anyway, back to Newcastle United fans, some of them anyway.

Mainz 05 finished eighth last season in the Bundesliga, losing 2-1 away at eventual champions Bayern Munich despite having led – lost to two second half goals, whilst as recently as 30 April they (Mainz 05) beat Bayern Munich 3-1 at home.

Yesterday, Newcastle were probably the better team but both sides largely cancelled each other out and without the kind of 100% throwing everything at it that you get in competitive matches, no real surprise that both sides struggled to create many chances.

Another factor ignored by some Newcastle United fans…

Newcastle team v Mainz 05:

Dubravka, Trippier, Schar (Burn 57), Botman, Dummett (Ritchie 31), Guimaraes, S. Longstaff, Joelinton, Almiron, Fraser, Wood

***Then on 60 minutes this became the team for the final half hour:

Pope, Krafth, Lascelles, Burn, Targett, Shelvey, Willock, Anderson, Murphy, Saint-Maximin, Wilson

Bottom line is that Eddie Howe is pretty much cutting his first choice team in half.

Against Mainz 05 he started with Trippier, Botman, Bruno and Joelinton (as well as Fraser and Almiron). Currently what I would guess is exactly half his first choice outfield players.

Then the 1-0 defeat ended with Burn, Targett, ASM and Wilson (as well as Shelvey / Willock), the other half of his current first choice ten outfield players. Pope and Dubravka scrapping to be first choice keeper.

Newcastle team v 1860 Munich:

Pope, Krafth, Lascelles (Botman 46), Burn, Targett, Willock, Shelvey, Anderson, Murphy, Wilson, Saint-Maximin

***Then on 60 minutes, Botman joined on the pitch by another ten subs – Dubravka, Trippier, Schar, Dummett, Bruno, Joelinton, Sean Longstaff, Almiron, Fraser, Wood

As you can see, it was the same for the 3-0 over 1860 Munich.

Starting with Burn, Targett, ASM, Wilson (as well as Shelvey / Willock), then ending the game with Trippier, Botman, Bruno and Joelinton (as well as Fraser and Almiron). The exact opposite of what happened against Mainz 05, in terms of starting / ending and getting an hour or half on the pitch.

You know what, it is almost as if Eddie Howe has a plan…

A plan where if you end up losing then it simply doesn’t matter.

If he really wanted to make a point to Newcastle United fans, or whoever, then Eddie Howe could have indeed say picked what he considers his best eleven to start and play for an hour against Mainz 05 on Monday, then made a lot of changes for the final half hour. I dare say it would have almost certainly have produced a decent number of NUFC chances and a Newcastle United victory, but what would it have achieved?

Please, if you are going to bother watching pre-season friendlies, please take a reality / chill pill beforehand.

The result really doesn’t matter AND don’t expect you are automatically going to be entertained and / or lifted by what you see. Competitive games and friendlies where players aren’t fully match fit, are NOT the same thing.

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