So it’s come down to this. In a remote part of the country, in front of less than 30k, the future of Newcastle United is to be decided. I’m an optimist. I think Moussa Sissoko is a good player. I think Mitrovic and Mbemba will be worth £30m each (maybe more for Chancel) within 4 seasons. Tim Krul can be the world’s best keeper. However I do not think that Newcastle United will be a Premier League side if we lose in East Anglia on Saturday.
I’ve said publicly that Benitez will keep this side up, I still think he will. However I forgot that this is Newcastle United and the team has to have at least 5 first team players out of any important game. They’re the rules. I gather Benitez spoke to Keegan, Shearer and the like before taking the job up here. he should have spoken to Souness and Pardew and asked them how one club could consistently lose players to training ground injuries. Colocinni is still out. Not injured during a game. Haidara – injured again in training. Tiote. Any ideas? Janmaat might be out. Krul and Elliot both injured on international duty. Serious injuries that most goalkeepers avoid in their whole career. Both keepers have sustained serious injuries in the last few years. It’s happening too often across the club to be coincidence. It’s boring.
I’ve realised that even a draw (assuming Sunderland beat a hopeless West Brom who’ve given up, again) might not be enough. I noticed this when worrying about whether I would have to start driving to all the midweek home games next season. If the Championship was only fun because of Level 7? If Benitez and the players are constantly saying they’re ‘not even contemplating relegation’ then why am I? I can’t help feel that the game is up if we lose Saturday. I have total faith in Rafa Benitez. I would back us to win comfortably with anything like a full strength team. The problem is we may be heading there with Moussa Sissoko and Vurnon Anita playing fullback. Shelvey is one yellow card from a two game ban. Karl Darlow has played with success in the second tier of English football but he was shocking on his only appearance this season. Even he’s suffered a serious injury this season.
Norwich are nothing special but they’re everything we haven’t been. They try. Their young manager gets everything out of a limited squad. Their players aren’t constantly injured. they only have two injuries this weekend in Redmond and Tettey. Two first team players but it’s better than the 11 (eleven) we have out (again). Norwich haven’t won at home in the league since they beat Southampton on January 2nd. They’ve conceded only once in their last three games and last time out they won at West Borm which has piled the pressure on us and Sunderland. With a superior goal difference of four goals, they have a 3 point cushion on us going on 4 points. Were they to beat us by two or three goals, then it would be effectively a 7 point cushion with 7 games to go. Too much.
There is hope, however. We have the manager. Against Sunderland, with all sorts of players in mental positions we looked more likely to win the game. The confidence seemed to come flooding back at the end. Norwich were torn apart when we hammered them at our place in October in what was the highlight of Steve McClaren’s pathetic tenure as United boss. Those scars should still be there for Norwich’s players and Winjaldum and Sissoko enjoyed their best days is black n white. Alex Neil knows that a win puts him in a shoot out against Sunderland, Norwich’s next opponent at home. A draw is a good result for Norwich, so how does he approach this one. This is their season. Us, Palace and the mackems back to back. You’re looking at 5 points minimum from that lot. After that it’s Arsenal, Man Utd, Watford and Everton to complete their season. Best get the job done early.
We need to win, so we need to score. We need to be positive. I’m sure we will be. Norwich don’t play counter attacking football like we can, they need to control the game to create chances. Benitez will exploit this and hopefully we’ll be full of pace with Sissoko and Townsend. Siem De Jong has to start. Perez and Winjaldum starting together doesn’t work. De Jong brings other players into it. He owes us big for that miss against Vile. Mitrovic will get the nod over Cisse and Shelvey will play alongside Winjaldum again if Tiote isn’t fit (hopefully he will be). We need Shelvey to get forwards more so I would play Saivet but i’d imagine Benitez doesn’t fancy him. I’m getting really nervous as I type all of this. It’s a massive game. When I was younger and going to lots of away games teams like Sheff U and Wigan played in these type of win or bust games while we romped to 7 wins in a row under Glenn Roeder. My away record this season sits at played 5, lost 5, scored 0. I’m there again on Saturday and really dreading the drive back the following day with the realisation NUFC could be a Second Division Club once again. Everything bar the manager screams relegation. The owner, the ‘board’ and the previous manager. Benitez can only do so much.
Still, Norwich are shite. We’ve been worse but look like an actual team now. Seb Bassong is their captain and he’s not that good. None of their players would get in our side (probably) and we’ve the best manager in the league. Win against this lot and we’ll stay up, I’m sure of it. Benitez will have had two weeks with the squad bar internationals. I think we’ll see a difference and will build on the good work that was noticeable in the previous two fixtures. Under Benitez we’ve become disciplined and compact. Add goals and we’ll be fine. We don’t do stupid red cards any more. We don’t let our heads drop at the slightest sign of adversity. 3,000 mags in Norwich. Travelling to see goals.
Prediction – United win.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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