Another turbulent week on Tyneside culminated in a fantastic 2-0 victory over Chelsea for Newcastle United. Sam Winter analyses the driving force behind the victory and why it can lead to a successful season in the Barclays Premier League.
It was Bill Shankly who once said, “At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it.” And following another turbulent week on Tyneside full of more unwanted headlines and uncertainty, it was the holy trinity that came up trumps on Saturday against Chelsea.
|Supporter unrest led to Mike Ashley banning local media access to NUFC|
Newcastle went into the encounter on the back of local media and supporter unrest, Mike Ashley once again having waved his unpopularity wand and banned local media access to the club. A few upset fans brandished their copy of the Evening Chronicle in the direction of the director’s seats but the vast majority did the imperative: got behind the team ON the pitch. For on the pitch it had been a distressing week; defeat at the hands of the enemy and bowing out of the Capital One Cup. Many would be forgiven for anticipating a routine Chelsea victory against a possibly vulnerable side.
I felt that Alan Pardew made tactical errors in his selection against Sunderland; primarily not starting a central striker and playing his three forwards as rotating wingers in a game where time on the ball is reduced. The ball needed to stick up front at times with a Shola Ameobi, not a Hatem Ben Arfa, something which worked for Sunderland’s front two.
|Pardew had his selection wrong against Sunderland, Ben Arfa failing to rise to the occasion|
Improvements in midweek gave some hope that Newcastle would be able to get a result against Mourinho’s men, but an unwanted 120 minute workout on Wednesday made fatigue an obvious stumbling block. Pardew gambled; instructing his troops to conserve their energy and contain Chelsea in the first half, something which could have gone very wrong.
But it didn’t. Each and every man put a shift in, not only containing Chelsea’s flair but restricting their opportunities to John Terry headers from corners. Yoan Gouffran was particularly excellent, doubling up to assist the shaky Davide Santon down the left side.
Second half superiority
Going into the second half goalless the expectancy was creeping up. Chelsea weren’t setting the world alight or finding any way past Williamson and Yanga-Mbiwa. The introduction of Vurnon Anita was another inspired Pardew tactic, the Dutchman giving Newcastle a fresh zip and vigour; a purpose that unleashed the dangerous Loic Remy.
Chelsea were wobbling, Ashley Cole once again terrorised by Moussa Sissoko and troubled by the brilliant Mathieu Debuchy. Cole lost his head momentarily, unnecessarily giving Newcastle the free-kick that led to an emphatic opening goal by Gouffran. Even Pardew had a word in the goal; his “round the back” advice to the talismanic deliverer Yohan Cabaye.
The Holy Trinity of football was now in full swing. Pardew’s tactical instructions, the fans at their spine tingling best, and the players with their work ethic and drive had created an unbreakable spirit. Mike Ashley was suddenly at the back of everyone’s minds. The roof came off when Loic Remy slammed in the second two minutes from time, Anita with the sensational assist. The noise of the Gallowgate at full throttle, a side on the hallowed turf beaming with brilliance, and a manager on the touchline fully justified.
"These are the days you want at SJP"
“You could see it boost everyone; the fans exploded again. These are the days you want at St. James' Park” said Tim Krul after the game. And boy do we want more of them. Newcastle’s performance against Chelsea should be the minimum in all home games; they need to be playing like that against the Hull City’s of this league. Consistency in performance is not far off in my eyes and hopefully that will lead to consistency in results – particularly with back to back home games coming up soon.
Mathieu Debuchy has been excellent of late, a stand-out performer in the last four games, something which indicates an improved team as a whole. With Tiote looking back to his best, Cabaye pulling the strings and Coloccini on his way back from injury, supporters should be optimistic for the foreseeable fixtures.
Working in tandem
Saturday proves what can be done when the club as a whole works in the tandem. When St James’ Park is rocking like that there is no better place to be. The noise drove the players on to victory and that is all that matters, not what Mr Ashley is getting himself up to behind the scenes. For as Shankly says, directors aren’t important; it’s the players, manager and supporters who make it all tick when it really counts. And with more days like Saturday, St James’ Park will once again be a truly beautiful place to be.