The most enjoyable international break I can remember
As Newcastle United fans, can you remember a more enjoyable international break than this one?
I certainly can’t.
Maybe there were some back in the day but the Mike Ashley era pretty much wiped out any positivity that came before it. With each passing season under the FCB it became ever more painful to think of happier times.
So why has this international break been more enjoyable than what went before?
Well, this is my take on it.
The matches against Wolves and Forest directly before this international fortnight, were of course key.
Really good performance levels for the vast majority of these two games and in both we had the dominance and chances to blow the opposition away. The fact(s) we didn’t was down to the usual recent factors of failing to take chances, bad luck, bad officials, inspired goalkeeping / defending and so on.
However, NUFC were still more than good enough to win both games and score four goals, three of them from Alexander Isak.
The fact we won these two matches has made it a very different international break than it otherwise have been, for me it has been day after day of positive thoughts as I think about those wins and in particular, keep looking at the league table.
Which of course brings me on to another massive reason why these couple of weeks are proving so enjoyable. Newcastle’s much improved placing in the table also down to so many of our rivals dropping points just before the internationals. Liverpool losing against Bournemouth, Man U hammered by Liverpool and only drawing at home to Southampton, Chelsea only drawing at home to Everton, whilst Spurs collapsed from winning 3-1 at Southampton to a late 3-3 draw.
The net result of all that is Newcastle United are now favourites along with Arsenal, Man City and Man U, to fill the top four positions. If Newcastle win on Sunday, we move into third, above Man U on goal difference and a point clear of Tottenham with NUFC having a game in hand on Spurs as well.
The other significant factor making this international break so enjoyable for Newcastle United fans, is that usually if you are kicking off a bit of a winning run then the last thing you want is a 16 days break until your next match, that is not the case this time though.
For me, the break came exactly at the right time, a much needed opportunity to recharge batteries and / or recover from knocks, injuries and illness.
Pope and Schar didn’t go on international duty as they opted to look after existing minor injuries and rest / recover, prioritising Newcastle United.
The extra two weeks is now reported to have given the chance for Anthony Gordon to be now fit and available again.
I think every chance Callum Wilson will also show the benefit of this break, having not looked 100% recently.
Two weeks without games is also a bonus for Miguel Almiron to get a fortnight closer to a return, expected back sometime in April.
Whilst of our first team contenders on international duty, Kieran Trippier only came on in the 81st minute of the Italy match. In the case of Alexander Isak, he started both Sweden matches but subbed with twenty minutes to go in tactical substitutions, so maybe even a bonus the time he spent on the pitch, helping to get him even closer to peak fitness and goal threat for Newcastle.
I think we can also take it as a decent positive that if called upon for Newcastle, the fact that fringe players Lewis and Dubravka both started their respective two international matches, won’t have done them any harm if Eddie Howe needs to call on them.
Overall, I think just the whole mood has been great during this international break. Eddie Howe showing flexibility and allowing Joelinton and Bruno to take breaks with their families, the players posting photos on their social media.
Whilst the warm weather trip to Dubai for most of the squad, was kept very low key, the media getting zero access to any of it. Eddie Howe, his coaching staff and the players, totally away from it all, recharging those batteries and getting into the best possible mindset, to then only focus on these remaining eight weeks of the season when returning to action.
Of course, once crossing the white line, Eddie Howe can’t play the game for them once the players kick off in the Man U match on Sunday.
However…I very much doubt that any Premier League manager has organised better preparation for their team / squad ahead of this return to football in April.
It is almost as if Eddie Howe knows what he is doing…
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