I think experience has taught us not to get overly excited by any upswings in form and I can’t have been the only one looking ahead to Saturday’s game just gone as a blue and white hooped banana skin given we had a load of injuries and Joey Barton with something to prove to the SJP power-brokers. I also know I wasn’t the only one wondering how an Alan Pardew side would cope with the responsibility to take the game to inferior opposition but to be fair, United did everything that was asked of them and delivered the 3points.
Pardew and his players faced a very different challenge and overcame it. Fair play.
For a short time on Saturday a few of us were looking ahead to the Arsenal-Man Utd and hoping for a draw to keep us at fourth for the weekend. Tongues were firmly in cheeks as we spoke of the next home game after the trip to West Ham as a definite opportunity to rein in Chelsea’s relentless march to the title. Well, someone has to do it?
There is something wrong with you if you can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of Newcastle United winning football matches and it was great to see friends who have been downcast for so long smiling and toasting this very welcome upswing in form.
So, does it mean all the Black & White garden is rosy?
The answer is no, not really.
Pardew has put these runs together previously and while we’ve enjoyed them, they have invariably been followed by incredibly long periods of unadulterated misery of the type we have had from January to October. The manager appears to discover a pattern of play which is successful for a short-while, is worked out and then has to go back to the drawing board.
That is slightly a harsh assessment because what precipitated the post-January collapse was unquestionably the sale of Cabaye to PSG without any kind of succession plan in place and so we endured a thoroughly miserable second half of the season which continued through to August and September. However, in many ways, a true sign of our recovery might be assessing how we bounce back from the inevitable defeat that is surely in the post for us.
We will need to see Pardew’s team shows some resilience but I’ll also be interested to see how the manager can tweak his team selections and tactics to prevent his side from being worked out by rival managers, coaches and their analysts. For me, those are the tests to come and a big one will be in East London this Saturday against an impressive and in-form West Ham.
While I think we would all love to be convinced a corner has been turn I think we all have a sense of dread about the January transfer window. My own view is that if we are on anything like 25 points on 1/Jan/15 we could be facing another sale courtesy of Mike Ashley. There is probably smart money being laid on Tiote heading for the exits because all the background music with him is that he quite fancies one last big pay-day and he won’t get it at St James’ Park. The emergence of Mehdi Abeid as well as the form of Jack Colback probably convinces the Barrack Road movers and shakers that Tiote is now expendable and I can kind of see the sense of that. If United were to bring in £10m for Tiote there is an argument that is “good business”.
In my opinion, its only “good business” if any fee received is prudently invested in new players and in my opinion, a goal-scoring striker and a solid, commanding central defender remains a priority.
What would be a massive kick in the balls would be a sale of Sissoko. The Frenchman is finding his form and looking like the player we thought he might be when he left Ashley Cole for dead on his debut. This is the player to build a team around. This is the player who we could use to attract other players and get back where we belong which is in the top 6 or 7 and looking to exploit the current weaknesses at Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool. Sorry, I glazed over for a minute.
Were we to flog Sissoko for £25m or some such and I think we’d be as deflated as we were last January.
Not that Sissoko is the only one to have looked excellent in the last month. I loved seeing Sammy Ameobi clattering Joey Barton all over SJP on Saturday and generally letting our former midfield man who was boss. Sammy has been a revelation over these last couple of months and where there was always a precocious talent, he has added a fantastic physicality to his game that Shola would approve. I still think Sammy has to demonstrate he can play at a high tempo for a full match but what is certain is the lad is more or less a certain starter in Pardew’s team.
It will good to get Siem De Jong into the side to allow Sammy and the likes of Ayoze Perez something of a break but right now both lads look like they are absolutely on top of their game and loving playing football. They have the fearlessness of youth and I’ve fully jumped aboard the Ayoze band-wagon – the lad can definitely play a bit.
More is expected of Remy Cabella but there are elements to his game which are giving hope he has something there which is well worth persevering with. I do think the United conditioning people need to work on him (and Perez) to ensure he gets bulked up and is able to compete in the English game, which let’s be honest, for all of the improvements in technique over the years is still a physical battle.
We have every reason to be optimistic about what is happening but I think we have been down this road before. Mike Ashley has every chance of deciding to piss on our parade as he has done several times previously.
For all I have enjoyed our form and results of late, particularly our attacking prowess, what cannot be ignored is how well we have worked defensively and I have to take my hat off to Jack Colback who is working like a demon in front of a back-line which is looking as well organised as it has been under Pardew’s time as manager.
We are playing as a team. We have been good to watch but we have some massive tests coming up.
We really will know what this side has about it by the time we’ve played Burnley on New Year’s Day at SJP.
But let’s just enjoy the ride at the moment.
I think we were all mightily relieved to learn Ryan Taylor’s injury isn’t as serious as we all initially feared. Ryan was having a great game on Saturday before he had to go off and it will be great to welcome him back when he gets over this set-back.
Great news also to hear Jonas is training with Valez Sarsfield back home in Argentina ahead of coming back to Tyneside next month. A truly brilliant development this season.
Many, many thanks to all of you took the time to vote for true faith in the Football Supporters Federation’s Annual Awards. We are enormously proud to have been shortlisted for an award for the fourth season running and when we think about all of the competition out there as well as its quality we are made up to be even at the short-listing stage. It’s not been kidology that we are the underdogs in the competition and I’ve got an opinion on who might win our category.
The winner will be announced on the 1/Dec/14 at a swanky doo in that London and as soon as we know, we’ll let on as true faith will have representation there all booted and suited.
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …