Newcastle United 1 Norwich City 1; I was there, surprisingly enough...
It is a moot point whether the infuriating, unending series of individual blunders that have seen vast swathes of unnecessary goals conceded, or the alarming incompetence of the fawning lickspittles acting as the sanitised face of the theocratic Saudi despots who now own the club, is the more malign influence on the future direction of Newcastle United. Without a doubt, the former will get the club relegated, unless Nice Guy Eddie proves himself a miracle worker, while the latter will be liable to the kind of summary injustices meted out round Riyadh way when the whole takeover unravels in an explosion of recriminations and bilious invective. Ever felt you’ve been cheated?
It must have been around 7pm on Friday November 19th when news of Nice Guy Eddie’s positive PCR test. Despite the swivel eyed lunacy spewed across social media about the Scamdemic by the likes of Jamie Tinfoil and TMWNFHJOP, the vast majority of NUFC fans accepted the news with a kind of stoic resignation that hinted at a hitherto undiscovered maturity in the face of adversity. You simply had to make the best of a bad job. If the bloke who relegated Bournemouth wasn’t available, his successor who got the boot after 7 months in the big chair, assisted by someone fella relieved of his duties at Luton when it looked like they were going down, would have to make do and mend. The eventual outcome wasn’t a surprise; Ivan Toney, a player that the sainted El Fraudio Benitez contemptuously tossed to one side in order to fritter away the best part of £12m on the dubious talents of the indescribably awful Muto, showed exactly why he’s one of the hottest attacking properties outside the top 6. Admittedly a draw was an improvement on the Algarve-Bruce days which would have seen a 4-0 tanking after the players collectively chucked it once they’d gone behind, rather than the decent team effort we saw.
However, we all know why we didn’t win that game; one of Karl Darlow’s all too frequent bouts of nerves did for him, with a pair of terrible misjudgements. While Herr Tinfoil and pals may disagree, I suspect Darlow’s symptoms of long COVID manifest themselves in an inability to keep the ball out the net when someone shoots at him. Like Woodman at the start of the season, Darlow’s fragile sense of self-worth means he just isn’t up to the mark when it comes to playing in the top flight. Of course all that pales into insignificance when the story of a female Asian Newcastle fan being racially abused by some numbskull knuckle dragger in the Gallowgate. This, along with the vile image of someone making a Nazi salute to the Spurs support, is probably even more of an indictment of our club than the murderous regime who currently own us. How can such behaviour be allowed to happen? Scum like this don’t just need to be kicked out of the ground, they need to be eradicated from the gene pool.
Meanwhile, what of the club at a corporate level I hear you ask. How are Amanda and pals getting on with transforming the careworn husk of a club that was devoid of all sense of direction and purpose under the previous ownership? Well, they’ve got shot of Lee Charnley, which I suppose is a bit of a step forward, but that really is it. No Director of Football has been appointed and no other outward signs of any forward momentum can be discerned at all. Perhaps they’re trying to pretend that they’re still digesting Tracy Crouch’s uncontentious and sensible report following her fan-led review of the English game. I’d imagine that such a document will rank below even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the must read pile at the House of Saud. In all seriousness, the lack of a Director of Football and the associated utter absence of direction or strategy will be the undoing of this takeover and, quite possibly, this club. We won’t sign anyone in January because there’s nobody in charge who has the remotest idea what is going on. Are you still singing “we’ve got our club back?”
The sorry second half disintegration at Arsenal put the tin hat on a weekend wrecked by wintry weather. Storms and gales put paid to the entire local grassroots programme while, probably uniquely, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, sunderland, Hartlepool, Gateshead, South Shields and Blyth were all away. Carlisle United and Carlisle City both got their games on, but there was no public transport to speak of, so I couldn’t get there. Instead, I was stuck indoors with the Arsenal v Newcastle game. As is always the case, the plucky underdog gained a ripple of patronising applause for their tenacity in holding on for almost an hour, but as soon as Arsenal scored, that was game over. As my mate Cola tweeted afterwards; the main positives to take from the game were that Lascelles and Ritchie were both suspended for the Norwich game. Bearing that in mind, never for one second did I believe Clark would get the nod for the vacant centre back position.
And so, for the first time since a 4-1 win over Rochdale in an FA Cup third round replay on January 14th 2020, I entered St James’ Park. Partly out of curiosity, but mainly because of the fact my mate John was over from County Kildare for the first time since January 18th 2020, when we beat Chelsea 1-0 with a Hayden goal in the 95th minute. Imagine that; beating Chelsea… Imagine beating anyone; I stopped doing so on 10 minutes when Clark’s incompetence followed by idiocy saw us a man down and facing a hell of a struggle. Thankfully, Norwich are as bad as us and didn’t really threaten, partly because of an immaculate performance by Fernandez. It was nice of VAR to offer up a penalty for something I couldn’t see, perched in Leazes East Corner as I was. What I did see was a team who worked hard and obeyed the manager’s sensible tactics to the letter in the last 80 minutes. I didn’t see any blame for Dubravka for the goal; just a decent save and an unstoppable finish from Pukki. And so, after a brilliant block in injury time by Dubravka, we gained a valuable point from a must-win game that we’d looked likely to lose.
For me, the plus points, other than some determined defensive work, included an utter absence of fancy dress Arabs, songs in support of the regime or another bloody flag display. Precisely where we go from here will partly be decided by Saturday’s result, but more crucially by any sense of urgency or, perish the thought, signs of progress from within the boardroom.