On Tuesday night, whilst the rest of the country was tuned into watching Tottenham beat Italian giants AC Milan at the cauldron that is the San Siro, 700 miles away a quiet revolution was slowly taking place. 28,000 people had turned up to watch Birmingham City take on Newcastle United, whilst over in Milan more than 3 times that many had arrived to watch Champions League history unfold.
I listened to the Newcastle match on the radio, like an old-timer. The Magpies gave a committed, positive and above all confident performance against Alex McCleish’s side, who doubtless had one eye on the Carling Cup Final. Newcastle won by 2 goals to nil. In many ways, that result was more significant than the Spurs one. It seems that finally, Newcastle are beginning to emerge from the massive hangover that was relegation and the sale of their biggest asset. Without realizing it, Alan Pardew and his rag-tag band of players are beginning to forge a mini-revolution on Tyneside.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t too excited when it was announced that Pardew was going to be our next manager. I was one of the Houghton-ites. I thought that Pardew would be another Ashley yes-man, quietly doing what he was told and never questioning his good mate Mike. Well, here and now, I’d like to say that I was wrong. Clearly, whatever his faults Pardew seems to have created a winning formula at Newcastle that is finally beginning to tell on the pitch.
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Newcastle fans have had many false dawns and more than their fair share of ups-and-downs, but we are finally beginning to see a change at player level which has inspired confidence in the manager and the squad. On Tuesday night, not only did Newcastle contain a Birmingham side that were unbeaten in 5 at home and had reached the final of a major domestic trophy, they did so in some style, scoring two good goals in the process. Pardew was delighted with the result, and was particularly pleased that Andy Carroll’s absence was lessened following goals from Lovenkrands and Best. He said,
‘I think it was evident that the players we have can fill the gap after Carroll. The pleasing thing is that the two strikers showed effort and commitment despite the pressure that is on them.’
The team know all about pressure. When we went down last season, we were expected to do ‘a Leeds,’ (another team who have begun to defy the odds…without anyone noticing) and plummet even further. When we tore up the Championship we were told the players we had were not good enough for the Premiership. When those same players found themselves in a comfortable mid-table slot before Christmas, we were told it was Andy Carroll’s goals that had saved us. Newcastle now sit 9th in the table, with 35 points, and Andy Carroll hasn’t played for them for the last 2 months. Not bad for a team which were expected to go straight back down.
Two seasons ago Newcastle would have folded against Arsenal, and conceded another 3 after the break. The very fact that they fought their way back to 4-4 (albeit with some considerable help from Arsenal’s recklessness) shows how far they have come since they went down. Relegation is still mathematically possible, until the magic 40 points, but Newcastle are looking up, not down the table.
It’s about time the Toon Army started to get a bit of respect.
Black and White is the new black. Twitter @petermagpie.com
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