Three completely unexpected wins at Spurs, Man City and at home to Liverpool has liftedthe mood on the Black & White planet and given us all a spring in our steps. Whatever misgivings anyone has about the manager, owner, players and whatever anything else, the fact is a week like this doesn’t come along very often and my advice is to savour it while it’s here because as we know only too well, enjoyment and happiness on the good ship Newcastle United is often fleeting.
I have to say some of the comments from the national press about apologies due to Pardew and the manager turning the corner and all the rest of it makes you wonder at the intelligence of some of the people who write about football in this country for a living. In the wake of the win at Man City, we had Patrick Barclay of some free paper in London giving it large about how we Mags should be apologising to Pardew about the treatment he‘s been getting because he has proven us all wrong. Honestly man, you would think we had won a piece of silverware rather than simply reached the quarter finals of the League Cup the way Barclay & Co. have gone on. I’ll take my hat off to Alan Pardew when he has won the League Cup and has us safely finished in the top ten of the Premier League. That’s not because I’m hard to please it’s because like most of you reading this, I’d like to think I’m a bit more balanced than changing my opinions on the back of a handful of wins or losses.
Most of us didn’t reach the point of calling for Pardew’s head as a knee-jerk reaction to a short-run of poor results. We reached the limit with Pardew on the back of a calendar year of lamentable results, piss poor performances, rank decisions, unbecoming conduct and risible patter which has left us wondering what the hell is going on at our club. Since we finished fifth and Pardew was voted LMA manager of the year, we had one season where we narrowly avoided being relegated and this year, results have pointed very much in the direction of the Championship. That’s the truth of it.
I would suggest very few of our fans have anything personal against the manager and everything is about what goes on during matches. The stats against Pardew in the PL and the Cup competitions are absolutely damning and it’s difficult to see him surviving at any other club. However, if Pardew does turn it around and we end up having a great season, I doubt anyone’s logic will be so distorted but to be anything other than delighted. Having a great season in the PL and the Cups is a long way off and can’t be called either way. The last four results however have taken a massive weight off Pardew’s shoulders and give him and his team some breathing space. It is a platform for recovery rather than a recovery in itself.
Personally, I see a theme of the last week a definite shift in attitude. Spurs, Man City and Liverpool were all expected to beat us and whilst we caught all three sides out of form, our game plan has been all about an underdog mentality which has saw us grafting our bollocks off, playing large parts of games without possession and spending lots of those matches, pressing, closing down, tracking back, doubling up, defending for long periods, being disciplined, resolute and doing all of the dirty jobs required to get a result against more exulted opposition. We’ve caught teams on the break with pace and we’ve seen some nice goals as well from our lads. Fair play. The team and the manager deserve praise. Pardew got the game plan right and the team committed to the manager’s instructions and we have got our rewards.
Like many of you I groaned when I heard the League Cup draw – a long trip to Spurs on a school-night – but on reflection I think this game might suit Pardew’s mentality than a home tie against opposition where we might be expected to beat. I don’t think that draw is the nightmare we think it is. I hope I don’t live to regret my fragile confidence.
Where the challenge will come for Pardew’s team will be up against those sides we are expected to put away, particularly at home. When we play against any side outside the top eight at SJP in particular, we have every right to think we can beat them. Those sides will be tighter and be less expansive and we will be expected to have more possession and offer more of a goal-threat. We need to beat those sides (and some of them away) if we are going to meet the club’s alleged target of finishing in the top ten.
We face something of a decent West Brom next weekend but I expect we will go there with a similar game plan to the one we took to White Hart Lane (second half) and The Etihad. Hopefully, we’ll get our rewards.
Since half time at White Hart Lane however it would be churlish to do anything but lavish praise on the manager and players and I’m delighted to do so. I’m particularly pleased to point to the performances of Dummett, S. Taylor, Sammy Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan as they are all players who have had questions marks against their names over a long period but they have stepped up to the plate in the last fortnight. I have been waxing at the performances put in by Mehdi Abeid, who has been dogged in that midfield and at the risk of being premature I’m going to wonder out loud just how easy Tiote and Anita are going to find their route back into the first team. Aarons, Cabella and Ameobi are similarly going to make it very difficult for a lacklustre Goufrann to get back. All of a sudden, we might just have something resembling competition for places. I may be getting carried away.
The acid test is how they deliver consistently. It’s also about how they bounce back when the inevitable defeat comes along. The manager and his team have it all to do to demonstrate consistency and resilience.
I was delighted on Wednesday to see Ryan Taylor back in a B&W shirt. This lad has shown remarkable professionalism and dedication to battle back after 26 months out of the game and I don’t think anyone would begrudge Ryan his moment at the end of the game at City when he took the ovation from an ecstatic away end. He put in a great performance and his courage will have inspired those around him.
Whether the involvement of Dummett, Taylor, Colback, Armstrong and Ameobi as bona-fide Geordies in a Newcastle United side had any positive impact upon us at Man City, no-one can say with any authority really but it does feel right having a few of our own in the team and its good for our identity as a Tyneside club. I’ll be absolutely honest though but when my party of Mags holed up in a ropey Manchester pub before the game saw the team selection for City, we weren’t exactly brimming with local pride but more fearing the pasting coming our way. Thank God we were wrong and we got a great win.
Its brilliant so many of you have signed up for the true faith DIGITAL fanzine. The numbers have really grown and we’re delighted with the positive feedback we have received and it is all exactly in the direction we wanted.
Remember, its £17.99 for an annual subscription but there is a £5.99 quarterly recurring option as well. The price is exactly the same no matter where you are in the world and the service is the same whether you are in West Denton or Winnipeg.
Switching from hard copy to digital was a tough call to make but we have judged that if we wanted to continue developing the fanzine as well as maintain its quality in both lay-out and writing, we had to leave paper behind and jump aboard the digital band-wagon. It’s still really early days but we feel as though we are being vindicated.
As editor, I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so invigorated by the additional content we have been able to add as well as the additional features and other bells and whistles now featured. We have achieved all of this whilst reducing the costs and improving the service.
To take a look at what we’ve been doing with the digital fanzine, just click here and you’ll be able to see the first fully digital issue we knocked out. This was also our Summer Special and I think it gives a pretty good demonstration of what we’re doing.
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We are making a couple of changes with the SATURDAY SPECIAL. First things first, we are dropping the Saturday part of the title of our newsletter and it will henceforth be known as The Special. The reason for that is we are going to bring it out on every weekend match-day, so it could be a Sunday when you get it if we have a game that day. Seem logical?
As has been said previously, we view The Special as a kind of fanzine within a fanzine. We’ve responded to the complaints raised about not having anything to read on match-days (following the end of the hard copy version) at the game by producing The Special as something which we think is ideal to be read by fans travelling to and from games, waiting for mates in pubs and all of that.
Rather than you having to hunt a fanzine down in a newsagents or through our sellers, we come to you and are in your in-box on the morning of a game. It’s all unique material and it is written by a team of our long-standing writers – namely Deputy Editor Gareth Harrison, Guy-Hannay-Wilson, Mark Brophy and Alex Hurst.
The style of The Special is nice and crisp, easy to read, bite-size chunks of articles which are perfect for smart-phones in particular, though it works just as well on any other device and its not just for those people going to the match.
We are also going to add a mini-podcast to The Special as well, starting from this weekend. That will take the form of yours truly firing a question at Alex & Co. and the lads giving their answer in The Special podcast. The mini-podcast shouldn’t last any longer than 10 minutes. So, take some ear-phones for your phone to listen to The Special as well as read it.
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All you need to do to get The Special is sign up here.
Anyway, that’s enough of the plugs. Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …