First of all, can I say how very nice it is to be back.
I have written bits and bobs for The Mag going back for a number of years. But not recently.
I recall folks a couple of years back using the tag #ifrafagoeswego and thinking to myself: “That’s all very well, but I don’t think they will go.” But as it turned out that’s pretty much what ended up happening with me – and many others.
So, while for me it didn’t start as an intentional Newcastle United boycott, I haven’t been to SJP, or watched a single match on telly for the last two years.
I can’t say how happy I am to feel like I have my club back again.
Not seeing things or people for a while can give you a bit of perspective. It’s like when you see a friend or relative after a gap of a few years – sometimes your mouth is saying “You’re looking well, mind!”, while your brain is thinking “Dear me, what’s happened to you!”
Two things I’ve taken from the Newcastle United game against Spurs.
First, the defensive display. The names on the teamsheet were much the same as under Benitez. The performance was a world away from anything a Benitez team would offer up.
I keep reading that we are in desperate need of defensive reinforcements – but it’s not necessarily defensive players we need first-and-foremost – it is coaching, organisation, management. Dubravka, Darlow, Dummett, Lascelles, Clark, Schar, Fernandez – just a couple of years ago that group of players were part of the best defensive unit most of us have seen in black-and-white.
Second, and following on from that – the manager. There is a part of me which has sympathy for Steve Bruce (as I say, I haven’t been watching for the last two seasons so perhaps that makes me more disposed to be sympathetic). Local man, Newcastle United supporter, offered the job-of-his-dreams, never given the chance to do anything but bump along the bottom. But 90 minutes observation shows him as King-Midas-in-reverse. Much the same group of players who played under Benitez as a well oiled machine – well, they were a rabble.
Who would I like to see replace him? I must say my views have shifted a bit having seen that tactical circus at the weekend. It needs to be somebody who knows the league. And I think ideally somebody who isn’t entirely unfamiliar with the bottom end of it.
A lot of the superstar names being linked – Conte and the like – I don’t think they would come. Even with the money. Not for a relegation scrap.
Benitez would be perfect – a managerial superstar, loved by the fans, 100% sure to keep us up, and capable of going forward from there. But one of the things I admire about Benitez is that he gives the impression of being an honourable man. Having signed on the dotted line at Everton I would think a little bit less of him if he was prepared to drop them in it.
Of the ex-big-name players being linked. Maybe I do him a disservice, but Rooney has always given me the impression of being thick as two short planks. Gerrard is doing a good job at Rangers, but he’s too much of a Liverpool man I think. Lampard – maybe, but I’m not at all sure he’s the right type of man for the predicament we are moving rapidly towards.
What’s urgently needed is a bit of managerial expertise. For me the ideal candidate is Eddie Howe. Did a superb job over a number of years at Bournemouth, keeping them up, developing his players, and playing good football. Knows the league. Probably the pick of the bunch of the younger British managers. He’s available and you’d fancy he would jump at the chance if he was offered it.
Martinez – maybe, although I’ve always been a bit suspicious of him since the Haidara / Macmanaman incident. I can’t remember the detail but I recall thinking he wasn’t exactly covering himself in glory.
Rodgers – good manager without a doubt, but I just don’t much like the cut of his jib. And I don’t think he’d come anyway.
Having seen that at the weekend, I wouldn’t discount the likes of Sean Dyche (In fact I begin to wonder if Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis would be an upgrade!).
We need someone who’s going to keep us up. Focus now on the next 30 games – time enough to worry about who’s going to win us the league / Champions League / etc afterwards.