Monday, 5 November 2007

A Newcastle Blogger's view of Saturday's game

There was no hiding place for Newcastle United after their 4-1 defeat against Portsmouth and Sam Allardyce has now got six days to sort things out for the biggest game of the season at the Stadium of Light.

Big Sam's tactical input since he took over had meant United were unbeaten at St James's Park this season before yesterday's farce unfolded.

And although Toon fans aren't yet convinced about the style of play Newcastle are playing in this new era, winning football matches keeps managers in jobs and smiles on the faces of supporters.

How you win sometimes doesn't matter but how you lose, like Newcastle did against Pompey, matters dearly to the folk of Tyneside.

Defeat when a team is exhausted on the full time whistle, when they are soaked in sweat, blood and snot and have attempted to block every tackle, keep every ball in touch and challenged for every single header still won't make you flavour of the month.

But it will at least show your watching public you care and make them a little bit more forgiving.

Yet against Pompey it was the visitors who gave Newcastle a lesson on how to play and how to perform away from home.

Harry Redknapp knew that, despite United's modern approach to the game and tactics of creating chances in the box by the amount of direct balls played into the penalty area, going for the throats of United from the word go and giving it a real go, and I mean a real go from the first whistle - he'd have the best chance of winning the contest.

And he was right.

For a minute he forgot about the modern game, ProZone and stats and figures and simply got his team fired up to win the battle - the old fashioned way.

Old fashioned as in when you throw teapots around dressing rooms and reward your players with cans of lager and fish and chips on the journey back.

And boy, how Newcastle could have done with that at Derby, Reading or Manchester City.

Redknapp used the traditional method of getting his side fired up and probably told his team they had nothing to lose considering they hadn't won since 1949 at Gallowgate.

They responded by chalking up a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes on the clock and that was game over there and then.

Some fans walked out long before the final whistle.

The boos around St James's at 3-0 were loud and clear, it was the same at half-time and the same by the end.

Shellshocked United had no chance of getting back into the game.

They appeared to lack a leader or an inspirational figure even though Steven Taylor did his best.

Yet even that looked to me like his team-mates weren't taking any notice of him.

So is this a blessing in disguise?

Have Pompey taught us a lesson in how to approach games away from home?

Yes they have, but how many Newcastle players paid attention in class?

Newcastle clearly have enough overseas stars who are talented enough to earn thousands of pounds a week.

But the nitty gritty of pulling on the black and white shirt is winning your home games and being up for the fight AND of course beating Sunderland is one of the reasons players like Steven Taylor wanted to become a professional footballer in the first place.

Toon stars like Abdoulaye Faye, Jose Enrique, Charles N'Zogbia, Cacapa (whose alarming dip in form was highlighted as part of the humiliation v Pompey), Geremi and Emre all have to be on top of their game at Sunderland.

Maybe forget ProZone for a week.

And perhaps don't bother showing them a video of where they went wrong against Pompey, that should now be obvious.

Pull down the big screen and show them the 2-0 play-off defeat against Sunderland in 1990 and how losing to that lot destroyed a lot of people's summers!

Show them Liam O'Brien's wonder goals and the scenes that followed, show the last ever win at Roker Park and pause the video from the last time when Michael Chopra scored.

He may be in red and white now, but that day required Geordie battlers and he delivered remember his face when he scored?

We've bounced back before from things like this 6-2 against Man U, 4-1 against Fulham and 5-1 against Birmingham but United could not be going into the derby in worse shape.

Can they hit back quickly?

(Least we aren't feeling as bad as 12 months ago!)

You can read the original article here
I think the writer works for a local Geordie newspaper. Good piece of work I thought.

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