We were poor at Sheffield Wednesday and truth be told our football hasn’t been sparkling for a while. Despite that however, we’re still looking very good for promotion and there is not a cigarette paper between us and Brighton. Whoever wins the league will come from a short list of Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion.
Had we managed to beat Sheffield Wednesday there was going to be an outside chance we could secure promotion at home to Leeds United and for old school Mags that would have added a frisson to proceedings because we remember the days when Leeds United were a force in the land rather than a salutary lesson of where grotesque management at every level can take you. That’s off the table now but Huddersfield’s defeat at the hands of Notts Forest means the 10 point gap we had between them before 3pm on Saturday gone still stands. The chasing pack still has it all to do and given the manner of Reading’s defeat at Norwich I don’t envy their task.
I do despair however at some of the comments I read about performances via social media and sometimes I wonder if I should heed the advice of some mates and just ignore it completely and withdraw from it as it all appears to be extreme, knee-jerk, flamboyant expressions of joy or unhappiness which verge on the bi-polar.
I’ll put my cards on the table. I regard the presence of Rafa Benitez as one of the single best things that has happened to Newcastle United in my life-time. In terms of prestige and achievement in the game, he is the best manager we have ever had. That is not to diminish the great achievements of Joe Harvey, Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson but take your Black & White goggles off and Senor Benitez is on a completely different level to those marvellous club servants. Without Benitez we might be looking at a position similar to Aston Villa or worse. Probably worse. Instead, we are looking at a return to the Premier League.
Let’s put a few things into perspective. On Wednesday night Rafa brought on Sammy Ameobi as a substitute. Now, I’d have loved Sammy to have been a success at United but clearly that is just not going to be the case and he has hardly covered himself in glory with loan spells at Cardiff and Bolton. Yet, such are the resources available to Rafa that he’s getting a run-out in an absolutely vital promotion game in front of over 48,000 at St James’ Park. That is part of the legacy Rafa has inherited at United. Let’s not forget, our club remains in the recovery position after years of mismanagement, stagnation and decline. Rafa is the best chance of a half decent future at United but he isn’t a magician. He will make mistakes but what he has achieved in one transfer window has been nothing short of miraculous even if the style of football is somewhat functional. It is achieving the results we need.
The quality of club Rafa inherited means he is being forced to use players like Anita and Goufrann who will be released on free transfers at the end of the season and who I’d wager will not find Premier League clubs to play for next season.
Rafa coaches the players every day. He knows what they are capable of and that is why it is only desperation that brings Mbemba into the side who has not inspired confidence at all. Mitrovich finds his way back into the first team blocked by a 34-year-old striker, Daryl Murphy for whom the Championship is his level. According to a now invisible section of our support, Mitro started the season “on fire” but has hardly lived up to the billing of his fan club and who would argue he has what it takes to get us the goals to get us back into the Premier League? He’s had numerous opportunities and the stakes are just too high to continue to play the Serb because he doesn’t work hard enough, isn’t tough enough to dominate defenders and whose finishing is appalling.
I hear calls for Rafa to play two up top in what can only mean a 4-4-2 formation and despair at the lack of appreciation for how much the game has moved on from that and the absence of players the manager has at his disposal to make that happen. Gayle and who? Murphy? Lacks the mobility and pace or endurance it seems to play a full game. Mitro? Lacks everything.
The kind of club Rafa inherited has absolutely nothing coming through the academy the manager could put into the team. Frankly, this jam tomorrow I constantly hear about prospects from the Academy is wearing a bit thin. Big questions need to be asked about the whole purpose of the academy because Paul Dummett aside I’m struggling to see what it has produced in a very long while. It is an area that Rafa will need to address because no-one else at the club has had any positive impact upon it at all if the measure is in graduates to the first team squad.
Rafa has a small squad but it is one where Haris Vuckic and Curtis Goode have been on the books for years and look as close to a first team call up in 2017 as they did three years ago. They are nowhere near but the long term deals they are on mean we are stuck with them.
These are the cards the manager has been dealt.
Tiote was on the books until February and contributed zip. Big money but produced nothing for our just and righteous cause and stunk the place out for years with his face tripping him and wanting out for a big pay-day from some mugs who will put up with his nonsense.
What has been evident from this campaign is how inexperienced this team is, the nous it lacks at times and the edge it has missing to get us out of difficult spots. We don’t have the players to run the clock down in the last moments of games and it took Rafa to tell, to even push Lascelles to talking to the referee on Wednesday night when Stroud had his brain fart. Imagine Chris Hughton having to tell a Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton et al to get in front of the referee and point out the error of his ways in similar circumstances? No, me neither.
What I observe on match-days is a manager working his nuts off, wringing everything he possibly can from his players to get Newcastle United promoted. He is the leader and it’s a quality we seem to lack on the park at the moment. I do detect a fragility about the team and that is why they need us more than ever to get the club over the line and back to the Premier League because the consequences of that not happening could be absolutely catastrophic for Newcastle United for years to come.
Some in our support need to wake up and smell the coffee.
We will be promoted. It isn’t a piece of piss but you know one of the best seasons I’ve ever had following United was in the 83/84 season with Kevin Keegan, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley, Terry McDermott and Glenn Roeder in the team. We finished third that season. But we went up. It was a fantastic season of some of the most memorable football I’ve ever seen. But we were third. Rafa’s team is doing better than that with players who aren’t as good as that team or the one of 92/93 or 09/10 and in a division which is much tougher.
There are five games remaining. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the football club we all love and drag us over the promotion line.
I wasn’t the only one spitting blood at Lee Charnley’s statement in the week. I have absolutely no time for this man and thought it crass he should refer to Rafa’s salary as well as portray Ashley has some kind of heroic figure whose money is saving Newcastle United FC. Let’s get it right Ashley is the man behind the appointments of Graeme Carr, Denis Wise, Joe Kinnear, Alan Pardew, John Carver and Steve McClaren – all men who have degenerated the club in their various ways and ultimately cost the club millions of pounds and loss in prestige and status. Ashley has been responsible for appalling management of the business side of the club with commercial and gate income absolutely tanking on his watch.
Charnley gives rare pronouncements from the High Castle at St James’ Park and I thought when he did he might have referred to the complete change in atmosphere Rafa has brought to the club and the stoicism of the support in providing it again with attendances that are unknown at this level of football in this country or anywhere else for that matter. Should the Mackems seal their long awaited relegation, we’ll see how many they are pulling in for Burton and Fleetwood next season. It was an artless and inflammatory statement to make but I do think it comes under the heading of “managing supporter expectations”. Curiously, in the days that followed that statement, the local press is pushing out stories that when promotion is secured Rafa will be looking to bring in six new players for next season so there seems to be a slight disconnect between what Charnley is putting out as Ashley’s glove puppet and what may or may not being discussed between journalists and Rafa.
The vibes I heard back in January when Ashley failed to make funds available to absolutely secure promotion were that Rafa was extremely disappointed but latterly I hear he’s happier as Ashley is making noises about investment in the summer. The truth is we will have to wait and see but what I do know is we have to be preparing for Premier League football next season with Rafa rather than another season in the Championship with some Nigel Pearson style whopper.
So then, the Sunderland ex-CEO Maggie Byrne has received a compensatory payment of over £750K for the loss of her position following her handling of the Adam Johnson affair. Apparently, only she knew the detail of the evidence against Johnson and not Allardyce or Advocaat or Ellis Short? I have also had an unconfirmed report Byrne is now working for Short in the US.
Can you remember when we pointed out all of this out on these pages and incurred the wrath of the great unwashed down the road? Well, it all looks like Byrne has been paid a load of dough to keep quiet in my opinion.
That club is dissolving disgracefully. Through contacts I happen to know those ordinary men and women on the club’s staff and about to be made redundant are being treated shabbily by Sunderland AFC despite ex-gratia payments being made to the likes of Byrne and an all-expenses waste of time trip to New York in January despite the financial black hole it is about to fall into come relegation.
The temptation for schadenfreude given the manner in which some of their supporters behaved last season as we were relegated with all kind of unoriginal stunts is strong. However, I don’t think returning the favour of paying for a plane to fly over Sunderland is the right thing to do. But that’s just my opinion and if there are people out there willing to fund it, then on you go. It just appears to be a bit small time to me.
Quite the opposite of small time was a group of our supporters taking a commemorative wreath to the memorial at
Hillsborough before our game to recognise the deaths of 96 football supporters who died as a result of gross incompetence, arrogance and who have been denied justice for so long because of a huge establishment cover-up. That our manager has such a strong connection to Liverpool FC and the Justice Campaign added some poignancy to the gesture but on behalf of everyone connected with this fanzine, a massive thank you to the supporters who organised and funded this fantastic gesture.
Best wishes to our former net buster Andy Cole recovering from a serious operation. Andy did blot his copy book for us in many ways after his move to Man Utd but he did provide us with some fantastic memories and played for the club in one of its fantastic eras. I’ll prefer to remember that rather than some thoughtlessness and wish him all the very best. Get well soon Andy.
I think one of the developments of the season that we should all take immense pride in this season has been the establishment of the Newcastle United Fans Food-bank which works closely with the Newcastle West End Foodbank and in turn all of the local Foodbanks across the region. In just five home games over 10 tonnes of food has been donated outside St James’ Park by our supporters. That is what we are about in the real world rather than some smacked arse on twitter going off on one about not winning every fucking game 5 nowt.
There will be a collection this Friday from 5pm before the game with Leeds and hopefully, it will be worthwhile for the marvellous volunteers turning out before the game and they receive another load of donations for people in our communities in dire need.
Gallowgate Flags are looking to have a full display this Good Friday Night when Leeds visit for a fixture that always has a bit electricity about it. You might wonder about a 7:45pm KO on a Bank Holiday night given the characteristics of both clubs but hey-ho, SKY telly own football and get what they want. You can help the display by bringing Black & White scarves and creating an inspirational spectacle and atmosphere that will get us the win and another step closer to the Premier League.
It’s all there for us, we have to stick together and get Rafa and the lads over the line.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
The new issue of true faith (TF130) is out now and can be downloaded for you at your leisure. There is more than 90+ pages of the finest fanzine writing in the UK from Newcastle United’s oldest and longest running fanzine with the biggest readership of any fanzine in the UK. The fanzine is available exclusively in digital format but maintains the old school design and feel which was much-loved for so long in its hard copy days. The true faith fanzine is completely and totally FREE of charge and you can download it instantly no matter where you are in the world. true faith is put together by people who pay to watch Newcastle United home and away as well as a select bunch of ex-pats and those who support our beloved club in the flesh where and when they can. Our writers come in all shapes and sizes – all ages, genders, races and so long as you love United you will do for us.
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