Newcastle v West Ham: A good start at the Boleyn and getting the crowd on Sam’s back early doors could be the key to getting back to winning ways….
They say things change quickly in the world of football, but when it comes to the topsy-turvy world of Newcastle United, things change at the speed of light! Just last month it was all looking so rosy in the St. James’ Park garden, Newcastle had just demolished nine-man Stoke City 5-1 at home and were sitting pretty in sixth place.
Fast forward three weeks and I wouldn’t say the wheels have come off at Newcastle, but after four defeats on the bounce, they are certainly starting to shake.
The first of the quartet of defeats, at home to Arsenal in the final game of 2013, was perhaps harsh on Newcastle. Overall they played well and a draw would certainly not have been undeserved against The Gunners in a hard fought game on Tyneside. Whilst Olivier Giroud’s winning goal was a poor one to concede, ultimately Arsenal’s quality just edged it as Newcastle looked a little lacking in the final third when up against a top class side.
A defeat at home is always disappointing, but at least Newcastle showed that they are not afraid to mix it with the contenders of this league, even if they did come up a little short this time round.
The following defeat at The Hawthorns on New Year’s Day was an entirely different matter. In a game reminiscent of the many sub-standard performances of last season, Newcastle were poor and were badly let down by one of their own key players.
During a particularly drab and entirely forgettable game, both sides were shockingly poor and lacking in any form of quality. The game then turned on one moment of madness, as the much-improving Mathieu Debuchy inexplicably, and unnecessarily, leapt into a ridiculous two-footed challenge and received a deserved red card.
From that point on the writing was on the wall with West Brom nicking it in the final five minutes. All in all, the defeat, the red card and the injury to skipper Fabricio Coloccini spelled a horrible start to 2014 for Newcastle.
It didn’t get much better three days later against Cardiff in the cup.
After some shockingly poor performances in the F.A. Cup in recent years, given the previous good form, there was a little bit of hope that the club could put together a good run in the cup this year. In a season where we are sitting comfortably in the league, this was the year where we could afford to throw caution to the wind and have a real go at the cup.
We all know that winning the thing would be a long shot, but as both Swansea and Wigan showed last season, it’s certainly not impossible for one of the “also-rans” to actually go all the way.
After seeing Wigan and Swansea’s display so triumphantly what can actually be achieved, the defeat at home to Cardiff stung all the more.
Not since 1969 has this city seen a trophy and quite frankly the clubs approach and attitude towards the cups is galling. In a meeting with fans liaison groups earlier in the season, club representatives openly admitted that the cup competitions are not a priority for Newcastle United and that the Premier League is the be all and end all.
It seems in the modern game, and I say this with a heavy heart, the clubs in the Premier League (not just Newcastle) are more concerned with league position than providing their fans with a day out at Wembley and the possible trophy that we they all crave.
It’s so frustrating because as a lifelong Newcastle fan, yes I'd love to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League again, but given a choice between that and an F.A. Cup victory, give me the F.A. Cup every day. That’s what the bottom-line obsessed owners fail to grasp, it’s not about the money for us - it’s about the moments. The moment Drogba gave Chelsea in Munich and the moment that Swansea gave their long suffering fans last February.
The craving for that one moment of sheer ecstasy and adrenalin is why we do it, that’s what we pay our money for. Sadly for us, Mike Ashley, and all the owners just like him, take full advantage of that craving and take us for every penny we are willing to give. Never mind, there’s always next year... (Yeah, right)
Next up for Newcastle was one we could have done without after three straight defeats – the visit of Manchester City.
Newcastle were excellent against City and the result could have been so very different had muppet referee Mike Jones, not ridiculously chalked off Tiote’s screamer. It was a tough one to take, but if nothing else we can take heart from the performance against the league favourites. (The really annoying thing about it all is that Tiote has about 15 shots every game and that the first one he’s got on target since the volley against Arsenal)
This weekend we travel to West Ham for a meeting with one of our former managers, Sam Allardyce. Until last weekend, West Ham seemed to be heading the same way we were under ‘Big Sam’, and that was down. However, after a huge win at Cardiff, along with the return of a certain pony-tailed centre forward, there does seem to be returning hope at Upton Park.
As someone who watched him develop, I have always been a fan of Andy Carroll and his return does concern me. However, I am confident that West Ham are still there for the taking. Sometimes when you’re down there, it’s easier to play away than it is at home. If we can get an early goal, and in turn get the crowd on Sam’s back, then a result is definitely possible.
The City match suggested that we getting back to the kind of form we showed prior to Christmas; if we can carry this on into this next game then there is no reason why we cannot put a halt to this losing run. If we can’t however, and our old friends (and Sam) come back to haunt us, then defeat number five could well be on the cards.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter, @Jonnyanderson11