Newcastle United: We Lack Guts & The Team Urgently Needs Leaders
As far as weeks go, this one has been a pretty embarrassing one as a Newcastle United fan. Firstly, on Sunday we were embarrassed in the derby as we were beaten by a crap Sunderland team who were rock bottom of the Premier League. Then during the week we were embarrassed by our much loved owner (again!) who has now decided to ban all the local press from St James’ Park. And then finally, predictably, our only realistic chance of silverware took its annual trip out of the window as we were dumped out of the League Cup by Manchester City on Wednesday night.
All in all, a pretty rubbish week. Still, at least it can’t get much worse... Only Chelsea this weekend!
This season Newcastle are becoming an increasingly frustrating side for their fans. Good performances are followed up with poor ones, poor ones are then occasionally followed up by surprisingly decent ones. It’s just impossible to predict which Newcastle side is going to turn up on any given match day. Sadly though, and more often than not, it tends to be the poorer performances making a showing for the majority of the time.
Last weekend against the Mackems, two rubbish sides went head to head. Shamefully Newcastle were beaten by a Sunderland side who had only one point to their name from eight games played. Sunderland were there for the taking, yet Newcastle failed miserably to take advantage of their vulnerable rivals. This Newcastle side does possess the odd sprinkling of quality, but their problem is that they lack characters and they badly lack leaders. On Sunday, the sad fact is, and this is what the fans cannot accept, that the Sunderland players just wanted it more.
Former dressing room leaders like Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Jose Enrique, Alan Smith, Andy Carroll, Steve Harper and others have all been moved on from St James’ Park over the last couple of years. They have been replaced by mostly foreign players who may well be better players technically, but are not even in the same league when it comes to leadership, heart and desire to win as those they have replaced.
Are the likes of Cabaye, Remy and Debuchy technically better footballers than say Nolan, Lovenkrands and Simpson? Yeah I'm sure they are, and long term they are a better option, but I know which trio I'd rather have in my team going into a derby - and it ain't the three Frenchman. Talent does not matter a jot if these players are not willing to fight and give everything for the cause, especially in a derby at the Stadium of Light.
Whilst the club will claim that all of these players have been moved on in the interests of both parties, it is quite obvious that the players who were happy and willing to speak up against the regime were soon shown the door. The former players committee of Nolan, Smith, Barton, Harper and Shola, who were happy to be the voice of the dressing room and openly discuss any issues the playing staff may or may not have had, has systematically been dismantled (watch your back Shola!).
Speak out against the regime and you shall be banished.
Unbelievably, and in a move typical of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United, this same fate has now befallen the local press. You really couldn’t make it up with Newcastle sometimes. Unhappy at their coverage of recent fan demonstrations against Ashley’s lack of ambition for the club, Newcastle United have now taken the staggeringly petty move of banning the NCJ media group (Chronicle, Journal, Sunday Sun) from St James’s Park.
With this ban, the club are now on dangerous ground. The long standing relationship between club and local press is a two-way street; the club needs the local press as much as the local press needs the club.
In his anger at the negative coverage his regime has been given, it seems the owner has chosen to cut his nose off to spite his face. With this ban the club has made an enemy from an organisation that would surely be more valuable as an ally; and further still, has risked alienating the journalist fraternity and potentially instigated a media backlash against the club.
Once again, speak out against the regime and you shall be banished.
Ashley may want to gag and bound all those who speak out and condemn his reign of tyranny, but any bans he may impose will be completely pointless when the state of his club is made quite clear by the sub-standard performances on the pitch.
Seemingly the only person allowed to speak these days is Alan Pardew, but quite frankly if you still believe that one word of what that puppet has to say is worth listening to then you're living in a different world to me.
To cap off this most glorious of weeks in NE1, we then get the pleasure of welcoming Jose Mourinho's second place Chelsea to St James' Park this weekend. In a fixture that produced arguably Newcastle's best performance last season, Newcastle defeated Benitez's side thanks to an injection of new blood acquired during last January's transfer window. It was a level of performance that the likes of Debuchy, Gouffran and in particular Sissoko have been unable to live up to ever since.
If Newcastle are to come close to matching last season’s performance, then to a man, they need to start taking some responsibility. The players undoubtedly have talent, but many just don't seem to have the heart or passion that the Geordie faithful demand.
Against Sunderland this lack of heart, and this lack of guts, is ultimately what caused their downfall. On Saturday, when Chelsea roll into town with all their vast array of riches in tow, if these Newcastle players do not find what they were lacking against the great unwashed, then it will be the start of another long week on Tyneside. Thankfully for us the fans though, at least we'll be allowed to talk about it.