A return to St James’ Park for the first time since the last day of a mad season when we bounced out of the old place after walloping Spurs but knowing we’d been relegated. The Rafa worship that day may have done the trick or at least contributed in persuading everyone’s favourite Senor to stay at United. As a result we have one of Europe’s top managers putting right the wrongs of an extended period of incompetence. The atmosphere around United, despite relegation has been transformed. However, we were still relegated. That is our reality in case we forgot.
I’m not a fan of friendlies, particularly ones where we are required to tip up £16 and even though I elected for a seat in the posh seats of the Platinum Club (imagine the bar of the North Sea Ferry to Amsterdam with less jakies) I’m often wishing the 90 minutes away to get back to the serious business of talking shite to the dafties who turn up to these games. As it happens I had a rather pleasant conversation with an old boy at the game with his grandson. The same chap had come to St James’ Park as a boy in the 1950s with his own grand-dad and he mentioned he still came along to games with his father-in-law who was a mere strippling of 97. I love stuff like this and it’s a reminder about what our club is all about – a binding tie for our community, families and friends. Geordies.
Anyway. Rafa has been busy over the summer and in the departure lounges we’ve seen Townsend, Taylor, Colloccini, Wiljandum, Cisse, Obertan, Marveaux exit stage left. I don’t think we are far away from seeing Sissoko, Thauvin and Tiote move on too with question marks over the heads of Janmaat and Krul. Of what lined up yesterday we saw Sels, Hanley, Haynes, Ritchie and Gayle in what some are calling our Boca Juniors new away kit. I think I’d buy one if didn’t have W***A defiling the front of it.
To the football. I gave proceedings the kiss of death on commenting to this fanzine’s design guru Glenn Ashcroft at half-time that I thought we looked solid and very well organised. But we did. We were also as aggressive as you can be in these games, moving the ball around quite nicely and using width which caused the Dutch side problems, particularly with Ritchie whipping plenty of decent balls in from the flanks.
Lascelles is emerging as the obvious choice of captain, providing Rafa hasn’t got plans for someone else as yet unknown to take the arm-band. He’s not a bad player either, composed on the ball and with Hanley alongside of him for the first time I feel we look quite solid in there. I don’t think I’ve felt that way for a long time … well, okay, ever.
We conceded two sloppy goals in the second half but to be honest 3-0 at half time probably flattered us as well. I’m not unduly concerned about our defensive ability and headlines and talking points posing those questions seem more about driving clicks on websites than genuine analysis of what position the team is in to win promotion at the first time of asking.
I’m not hysterically optimistic we are going to run away with the division on the basis of what I saw yesterday either but neither has my positivity taken a bruising either.
I am impressed by our physical strength. I’m a fan of having a team of plenty tall, hard skilful bastards and we have plenty of those I think – Lascelles, Hanley, Mbemba, Haynes, Shelvey and Mitrovich won’t be found wanting when we have to fight our way through games and looking back to Rafa’s Liverpool teams they were seldom short of fighters.
The areas I would like to see address however are at left-back – Dummett might be adequate in the Championship but looking back to the campaign of 09/10 and it’s difficult to ignore how effective Jonas and Jose were down the left hand-side. I’d love to see the same with Ritchie and AN Other.
Perez turned out yesterday but he didn’t make a huge impression on me though if reports are to be believed he’ll be pressing anyone of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (I know, I know) for a starting place at the Camp Nou but seriously we do need more creativity in the side and I’d be happier with another goal-scorer.
In terms of utility players I find myself in the position of looking at Yoan Goufrann with a different perspective. He was far from good enough for the Premier League but he may be able to offer a lot more in the Championship and fulfil a kind of Peter Lovenkrands role for us. I wouldn’t be disappointed if he was still on the books on the 1/Sep/16. I do worry he is attracting an anti-fan club in the crowd who over-react to any mistake and regard anything good he does as a fluke. I heard a bit of that yesterday around me. That’s not going to help.
Not a sniff of Thauvin or Sissoko against Vitesse with the latter not going to take part in Monday’s training open day at SJP for the bairns on Monday.
The phony games are over now. The real stuff starts on Friday at Fulham.
Come on United!
Newcastle United: Sels, Janmaat (Sterry 73), Dummett, Lascelles, Hanley (Gamez 62), Hayden (Saivet 73), Colback (Shelvey 62), Anita (Gouffran 73), Perez (Armstrong 62), Gayle (Mitrovic 73), Ritchie (Aarons 62).
Unused Subs: Darlow, Tiote, Thauvin.
MICHAEL MARTIN – Follow on @tfeditor1892
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