As I’ve been fond of repeating this season, Newcastle United have been losing football matches at places like Preston, Rotherham, Wigan, Burton and many others most of my life. Its one of the reasons the club has never truly progressed and reached its full potential. Though that subject is probably deserving of a dissertation on its own! But this last week has been extremely satisfying not only for the wins over Birmingham, Wigan Burton and the points they have brought but for the attitude and commitment demonstrated all over the pitch, particularly in the last two of that run of three games.
We all love the bravura displays of football from United that we can celebrate and there is absolutely nothing wrong about that but equally, the doggedness and determination displayed in the unlikely surroundings of places like the Pirelli Stadium give this supporter a warm glow from the knowledge we have a team of players giving everything for our just and righteous cause. This all comes from the environment the manager is creating and over the first half of the season I don’t think many people will disagree we are seeing players growing in confidence and stature. Darlow, Clark, Lascelles, Shelvey and Hayden are providing a real backbone to the team but they are also emerging as real leaders whose character will be critical when we start really getting to the business end of the season and the prize of a return to the Premier League is in our grasp.
I’ve bored the lugs off my mates talking about partnerships around the pitch and how every successful United side I’ve ever seen has had them. I’ve been waiting for them to emerge this season and I think its fair to say they are starting to show themselves now. Clark-Lascelles is an obvious one but so is Shelvey-Hayden and these duos will really start to mature in the second half of the season. Clearly, we can do with some more strong partnerships come to development soon and I’m hopeful we’ll see that in attacking positions because if there is one weakness in this team it is that we have been heavily reliant upon Dwight Gayle’s 17 goals so far this season with neither Perez or Mitrovic particularly forming any kind of relationship with our top scorer. That may well be the way Rafa likes it – having Dwight as a lone wolf in attack or it might be necessity. We’ll wait and see on that one.
What has been encouraging has been the emergence of Mo Diame as an important player for us. Mo may have ACON commitments that will rob us of his talents but until he does the off to warmer climes I’m hopeful he can keep delivering the performances and goals that have been so useful in the last couple of games. His pace, strength and finishing have been vital in the trips to Wigan and Burton. His contributions have been a welcome antidote to those in our ranks who are quick to slaughter our own players and write them off if they aren’t delivering immediately. Diame hasn’t had a particular eye-catching start to his career at United but his pedigree is good and he was a pick by our celebrated manager, who rarely gets these things wrong. Maybe some of our fans should show a bit more patience with our players? See also Mat Sels who some have chosen to nail because of a couple of mistakes. Rafa rates this lad and as long as he wants to improve and the manager believes in him, maybe some of the harsh critics we have amongst us should accept Senor Benitez knows a bit about players and should be left to get on with it.
We are coming into the transfer window and obviously we are going to have to put up with a lot of rubbish in the media about every player every hopeful agent is attempting to punt in our direction. I did laugh at The Chronicle including HBA in a list of players Rafa might be interested in. I don’t think so. Ben Arfa, whatever your thoughts about his talents etc has become the new Andy Carroll of transfer rumours at United. Treat with large doses of salt. He’s had his last Steak-Bake on Tyneside.
Of all of the players on our books heavily linked with a move away from SJP, its Mitrovic who is my tip to be a likely departure in January. My belief is his agent isn’t happy with his charge stuck in the twilight of a Championship team and working for a manager who maybe doesn’t share the enthusiasm of his fan-club for our would-be centre-forward. The Serb has been linked with several clubs and I just don’t see him as a Rafa-style player as he lacks the athleticism, movement and nous of players our boss has worked with previously. If Rafa wants to move Mitro on and use the money to bring in another striker and hopefully a creative midfielder that will do for me. We should be prepared for that kind of eventuality and be supportive of the manager in whatever he choose to do. He has earned our 100% support and trust.
As I type up this twaddle, we’ve just discovered that Shelvey has copped for a 5-match ban and £100K fine as a consequence of allegedly racially abusing a Wolves player this season. As I understand it, United have five days to appeal and are awaiting details of the full ruling. If United believe Shelvey to be guilty then I’d suggest we take our punishment, have serious words with Jonjo and deal with the matter and move on. If however, United believe this is unjust then they should obviously appeal. That will be United’s call and one we will watch unfold.
There’s no doubt we have a formidable rival for promotion and the League Championship in Brighton. I punched the air in delight on Saturday night hearing Birmingham were beating the Seagulls but my joy was shortlived as Comrade Chris’ side came back to beat Zola’s new team and remain firmly on our coat-tails. I think that is how it is going to be this season.
That makes this Christmas fixture card all the more critical. We have done the heavy lifting as part of our run-in to these fixtures with away wins but now we have to do it at home when we face Sheff Wed and Forest at Gallowgate. I’ll confess a fondness for Sheff Wed. I regard them as a proper traditional football club in a proper northern city with a good, solid working class lineage of support. For what its worth, if your club has never had its terraces filled by miners, dockers, shipyard, mill and steelworkers then in my world, its not worth a light. Sheff Wed fit the bill and those of us of a certain vintage will recall big games with Wednesday, passionate crowds and packed stands. I’m looking forward to the Wednesday fans packing the away end at SJP and after the game I’ll wish them well – hopefully when we’ve done the business and banked the three points. Like a lot of supporters of my age I had a strong admiration for Brian Clough and admired his achievements at Forest – a club which was fundamentally cast as a supporting actor to his genius. I have no real admiration for Forest or their fans and I do have harbour some grudges of a 1980s industrial nature which I show no inclination to give up. The conduct of Lansbury in particular at our recent visit to the City Ground has hardly endeared the current team to the faithful Black & White tribe. It is hardly surprising that Lansbury has gone missing ahead of the trip to NE1, having sustained some mysterious though convenient injury in a warm-up. Not many of us are buying that. I’ve no doubt after the grotesque injustice of that Friday farce, our manager and players will want to exact revenge. I hope they get it and the team from Nottingham gets a good scalping in front of a revved up crowd. Do your worst comrades.
Anyway, this will be the last TBAWE before Christmas and on behalf of everyone who is part of the team that puts everything together under the true faith banner may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. We really appreciate how you indulge us by giving us your time and we all hope you think what we do here is worthwhile.
All the best to you and yours.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Issue 128 of true faith is now available for you to download at your pleasure. true faith is Newcastle United’s longest running and most widely read fanzine. It is one of the most prominent, respected and well known fanzine titles in the country. It is also 100% FREE of charge and available exclusively in digital format. true faith retains all of the principles and traditions of the original fanzine movement but achieves the best of both worlds by including the bells and whistles of the digital format. true faith is written in the main by match-going supporters who follow Newcastle United home and away but is not the preserve of the super-fan or any of that rubbish. true faith is written by people like you. This current issue of true faith includes 70-pages of the best fanzine writing you can shake a stick at with every angle on Newcastle United and the world around it covered in detail. There’s also a lot more besides. We all hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did putting it together.
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