Why Newcastle United’s last two games will be important

Posted on April 27th, 2017 | 20 Comments |

Rafa Benitez.
Benitez: Still needs to restore a bit of pride?
Before last Monday evening, a run of one point from three games had seen Newcastle fall seven points behind Brighton. A convincing and confidence boosting 4-1 victory against Preston steadied nerves, assuring automatic promotion, but as a team feted as one of the best (or most expensive) ever to find themselves in the Championship, it is hard to escape the feeling that the Magpies still have something to prove before they take the step up to the Premier League once more. That’s without the possible ramifications of the looming tax scandal of course, but that’s a whole different story!

While Chris Hughton’s Seagulls wrapped up their promotion bid early, The Magpies seemed intent on putting their fans through as much anguish as possible (a familiar feeling some Geordies might say). However, Rafa Benitez’s men can be thankful for the equally dreadful form of Huddersfield making their automatic promotion bid much easier than it could have been. Of course, that poor run was stopped against Preston last Monday evening, and Newcastle now have a chance to continue making a statement of intent in their final two games.

A win over Cardiff at the Cardiff City Stadium would keep up the momentum before Newcastle United bid farewell to the Championship once again with their final game at home against Barnsley. Besides giving confidence to the team before they face a much tougher task next season, the fans deserve something to cheer about as they have packed the stadium week in, week out, despite unglamorous opposition turning up. Until Monday night, they have been rewarded with unexciting home form as Newcastle have just the sixth best home record in the league.

Last time Newcastle were relegated they surged back up to the top flight in a blaze of glory. Under Chris Hughton, they finished the 2009-10 campaign with 102 points, leaving them 11 ahead of second-placed West Brom and 23 ahead of third-placed Nottingham Forest. This season Hughton has inspired Brighton to become the leader of the pack, leaving Benitez – a Champions League winner, no less, playing second fiddle with a considerably more expensive squad. 88 points from 44 games would usually be excellent, but for a club of Newcastle’s stature, with one of Europe’s top managers, some might say they should be well clear at the top of the table and looking to break the 100 point barrier like last time. Then again, so should Aston Villa and look at them! Getting back to Newcastle though, they only had three players in the PFA Championship Team of the Year – Dwight Gayle, Jonjo Shelvey and Jerome Lascelles – compared to four from Brighton. In summary, they got the job done but have been slightly underwhelming. It has been their home form which has let them down as they have the best away record in the league. That is cause for concern going into the Premiership as they need to make St James’ Park a fortress once again. The least they can do is beat Barnsley in their last home game of the season, ahead of next season’s visits of Chelsea, Man City et al.

First though, the Magpies must face the ‘Bluebirds’ of Cardiff City tomorrow evening, and their manager Neil Warnock, who will no doubt have something to say as usual! Cardiff lie pretty much in the middle of the Championship table, in 13th out of 24 at the time of writing. Then again, the opposition’s position in the table hasn’t been a sure guide to who can triumph against the Toon. If we only think back a couple of games to Ipswich (16th), they certainly taught Newcastle a salutary lesson in complacency with their 3-1 victory. Looking further back, relegation battlers Nottingham Forest (20th) did likewise. From the other side, Newcastle beat the aforementioned, table topping Brighton home and away.

Looking at the obvious for guidance, our last game against Cardiff was a narrow 2-1 victory at St James’ Park back on November 5th. So in summary, Newcastle are very good away, but teams much further down the table like Cardiff may well have a chance if the Magpies have one of their off days.

Like Newcastle, Barnsley are another team that has struggled at home: Divide the table into home and away and they are 18th at home and 7th away. That has left them one place behind the aforementioned Cardiff in 14th. They are well clear of the relegation zone and have nothing left to play for, but they still represent dangerous opposition. But they have lost 10 of 21 on the road, and Newcastle really should be winning games like this. Now is the time for them to start to shine, and it might be worth backing them to do so. Review free bets here and you will see that Newcastle are the favourites, but you can get more value if you go Newcastle -1 Asian handicap, so you win if they win by two goals or more and get your stake back if they only win by a single goal. This is a game the Magpies should win by two clear goals. The likes of Gayle, Shelvey and Matt Richie should have little to fear from Barnsley’s limited defence and should be able to score a few.

In conclusion, Newcastle beat Barnsley 2-0 when these two met earlier in the season, with Gayle notching both goals, and the fans will demand a similar result and level of performance here. Barnsley are gritty and up for a fight, but limited technically and not great passers of the ball, so Newcastle’s superior quality should shine through.

NUFCBlog Author: Frankly Various Frankly Various has written 67 articles on this blog.

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20 Responses

  1. So, it should be an exciting climax to the season on Sunday with Brighton against Aston Villa and Us against Burnley for the trophy. Brighton are still in the driving seat but even if we win, it’s hard to get too excited until we know what happens with the ‘French Connection’ tax thing and what sanctions might come out of it in the future. If the Conservatives can get away with election fraud for years though, maybe Newcastle United can get away with a few ‘alternative facts’ in their tax returns as well?

    As I wrote in here, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Shearer sculpture, though some might say it’s quite appropriate that it looks lifeless and wooden. However, that Ronaldo one at Madeira airport makes it look like Michelangelo’s ‘David!’

  2. chuck says:
    April 30, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    “What happened to those great radio commenters of years ago (dead now I suppose) the ones who could bring games to life by their vivid descriptions, they and the horse racing and boxing commentators, who’s descriptions were always exiting and enjoyable, regardless of what actually took place.”

    When you write of great radio sports commentators, over here I tend to think of cricket, where the length of the test and county games still make it very much a radio sport in the days of TV. There have been a quite a few great cricket commentators, but the most revered was the first one I listened to when I was young, John Arlott. He was never the greatest cricketer, but he was also a poet whose warm Hampshire tones seem to make you think of some kind of bucolic idyll, and were just perfect for talking about Cricket all day.

  3. Cricket !

    Should only be played on the village green on warm summer weekends, which would allow time for tea etc.

    Then there are the present “limited over” games that are played at a furious pace, which really doesn’t suit the game and though cricket is viewed here in the US as incomprehensible, not unlike Rugby (rules) and somewhat similar to the average Englishpersons views on baseball, boring.

    It is (due to it’s fascination in the Indian sub continent, of all places) the worlds most popular game, go figure !

    You appear to be convinced NUFC will suffer, due to the tax scandal, don’t worry about it The FA are as crooked as FIFA & UEFA and won’t allow anything untoward to happen, it will soon be forgotten, being they don’t need any bad publicity, as they are already under pressure to make rule changes and alter their poor opinion, held by many fans.
    Though Ashley may have to donate a few bucks to Her Majesty’s Treasury.

  4. Chuck, I still think that football’s the most popular, though Cricket is right up there due to the Empire. Your neighbours in Canada didn’t really get into it much though. Maybe it was too frozen up there so they played Ice Hockey instead?

    I like the long form of cricket for five days. If I want 90 minutes of excitement I’ve got football. When it comes to a longer game, it certainly isn’t as boring as watching a load of men dressed like clowns trying to put a small ball in a small hole 400 yards away for a week, but you go bonkers for that sort of thing over there.

  5. Sports, like everything else, is in the mind and eye of the beholder and may in fact indicate a lot about each of us in regard to our particular favorite’s.

    52,000 bums in seats each home game, even in the second tier, so what does that say ?

    You gonna get that kinda passion for a game of cricket, well maybe in India somewhere.

    Soh NUFC eh !

    Well forget about any big time spending, it’s gonna be mostly guy’s who are close to, or about to end their contracts and those coming close to the end of their careers, plus hopefully some decent loans from the top clubs.

    Hey we don’t have a thing to worry about other than an instant relegation, Ashley knows that but don’t expect to see him splash out, he just needs to survive this first season with it’s 150 million quid reward.

    Question is, will Rafa. stay? without him it’s obvious things can only worsen (unless we hire ‘Bielsa)’ and a whole new management crew.

    We are lucky to have Rafa., who did a tremendous job on rebuilding for the second tier, considering he sold well and ended up with a profit, it’s now time to do the same to survive this first season at the top and build from there, take a leaf outta the Spurs book and do it slowly and deliberately.

    And if Ashley can’t fork up the readies then perhaps the Qatari’s will unless the Chinese beat em too it.

  6. On the subject of Bielsa style managers I’ve always quite liked Jorge Sampaoli. I thought he might have been an interesting choice a while back when he was managing Chile, but like most of my choices, he’s probably moved out our league now as he’s heavily linked with teams like Argentina and Barcelona now.

  7. Yep, that’s the reason I mentioned Bielsa, the rumor about Sampoli.

    The media are having a ball with the approach of the summer window and we (NUFC) have been associated with a load of players, which lately have been reduced to no more than half a dozen (the usual over-speculation of the fans plus unrealistic expectations of available monies) we know there was a balance of approximately thirty million from last seasons sales, which added to by forty million, totals to a possible seventy big ones available, I say possibly?.

    Which is not really a huge amount, considering the cost of home grown players and the continued overall price increases seen during the last five years.

    However if NUFC are to be somewhat competitive, the club has little choice but to spend and knowing how our dear leader feels, I’m sure most will be spent on loanee’s and those not getting regular playing time

    And with the enormous amount of players on their books, the top sides have to loan out their up and coming young players, it takes the cost of paying the players wages and allowing them experience in the two top leagues.

    Now this is a positive way of stack-piling young talent for the wealthier sides, which should not be allowed, with each club there should be a limit on how many players they can carry, being it gives an enormous advantage to those wealthy sides, better to enforce those players to remain with the various sides within the club.

    With a certain standard amount allocated to each club, well perhaps they could then loan out players, but only to non EPL clubs, even though the present system could be an advantage to NUFC, being few would object to their young stars playing for a known successful manager like Benitez.

    But it could improve the second tier play, if it were stocked by future stars, who could both improve the league plus adjust to the English system.

    I understand there are about to be certain changes to the game, which could take place during the 17-18 season, experimented in the lower divisions, one being a certain number of decision-makers, who will make instant decisions via camera, who can be the final arbitrators in the decisions to determine those questionable decisions by the officials.

    I believe another change will be to introduce a sin bin, punishment system, which would replace the present yellow and red card rule, which always has had it’s critics, perhaps an absence for somewhere in the region of ten minutes, for what is now considered a yellow card.

    This administers instant punishment which doesn’t effect future games, whereas acquiring a certain number of yellow cards now results in players missing future games, which makes little sense.

    These are nothing new to sport, Rugby has improved it’s version of officiating by introducing both the sin bin and oversight by a number of officials in regard to viewing the video of events, without any real delay of the game.

    But we are all aware of the FA’s fear of change, but the present chaos inside the 12 yard box during set pieces, plus diving now a commonly accepted ruse, could be hopefully eliminated.

    And for gods sake change the offside rule or experiment playing without it,
    there was nothing wrong with the original rule, but what has replaced it is
    highly controversial, being so arbitrary, where no two officials tend to agree. rules should not be based on arbitrary decisions such as “was the player in a position to effect the play” hell it’s difficult enough to call most fouls and handballs.

    Though playing without an offside rule would obviously result in more goals being scored and therefor change the inherent nature of the game.

  8. Bielsa !

    One cant help but notice how often he changes clubs and apparently is not liked much by those players he manages, I believe it’s a case of they either don’t understand his tactical approach or are not exactly charmed by how difficult it is to achieve.

    He is of course known for his unusual tactics, that are both difficult to learn and understand, plus the amount of practice required to get everyone on the same page, must be exhausting.

    it’s interesting that the present experimentation with three defenders in the EPL was used by Bielsa many years ago as were many other approaches.

    I would certainly like to see him manage in the EPL, it would no doubt be entertaining and one wonders how successful he would be.

  9. After reading the comments following Chi Onwurah’s tongue in cheek remarks concerning Prince Phillip’s retirement from a job that he likes, I could only wince at the viciousness of some of the comments , yes there were some who agreed with her, however the majority consisted of both racist and misogynist xenophobes.

    Which mystifies me in the sense she is the local MP for the area, now perhaps she was elected only because she was the appointed Labour Party candidate, in a traditional Labour constituency, or on the other hand, perhaps those anti-Chi remarks were made by mostly Tories or Royalists.

    However my understanding is she was quite popular in general as a representative MP.

    Prince Phillip because of his history of gaffes, made throughout the world and was no doubt informed to stick to the script, of course he thought himself far too clever for that and continued putting his foot in his mouth throughout the years and will not be missed by most and especially by his handlers.

    Even poor old Lizzie must have been mortified at times, ah well we republicans (not in the sense of the US political party) don’t care much for those royalist who by accident of birth are worshipped by many.

  10. Chuck, Lots of people all over the world have a Prince Philip in their life,, an embarrassing dad, grandad or grandma with some attitudes from a bygone era..Think of him as an aristocratic Grampa Simpson for the UK.

    Bielsa is an interesting coach who might have patches of good form with teams, but he hasn’t really translated it into anything managing in Europe yet. I wouldn’t say he couldn’t do something eventually though..

  11. So that’s it then, pretty much a perfect ending with Steve Bruce helping us out once more, this time with a late equaliser against Brighton. They seemed to totally lose their impetus after they guaranteed automatic promotion otherwise it would have been different.

    Annoyingly, Sky decided to show the relegation dogfight with Nottingham Forest and Blackburn over the battle for the trophy at the top. Also, when watching the highlights in the evening, they put on the relegation matches first as well. What also annoys me now is that rather than just showing the highlights of one game then the other, they’ve started to splice these crucial crunch games together now, going between one and the other until you hardly know what’s going on anymore.

  12. There are a number of dives here who have imported what’s known as “The Box” which shows all kinds of European and English games, in comparison we have “Spectrum” the local dominant cable supplierl, who reached some kind of a deal with “Time Warner” the previous owners, who were awful and many thought ah! at last we will get an organized corporation.

    Wrong ! as it turns out apparently the new system is a combination of three different networks, whose operating systems appear to be incoherent with one another and appear to have no idea what to do about it, to add to the confusion the NBC network has viewed EPL Soccer as a growing market, which only adds further confusion to an already screwed up system.

    My point is don’t be so anxious to change what you have, being bigger or newer is certainly not a remedy for poor service, but then when one has little choice, many corporations monopolizing or just skirting the anti trust
    (anti- completion laws) by various methods.

    It’s similar to your Sky Sports and BT sports, where Sky is really dominant.
    Which is also the case as Fox Sports here in the US and elsewhere around the globe, but is not considered a monopoly.

    Careful what you wish for.

  13. Actually I would like to see Sheffield Wednesday make it to the Premier league, out of the four sides about to waste time, but earn a few extra bucks with this pointless four team competition, plus certainly the third place side will have every right to feel cheated.

    Seems a long time since a Sheffield side was in the top league, probably goes back to Thatcher’s deindustrialization program, when cities like those in the industrialized North, had to reinvent themselves, which not too many have achieved yet, thanks Maggie !

    It’s looking like Hull may go down with Sunderland and Boro. three Northern sides, while sides like Brighton and Bournemouth, seaside resorts FFS make it to the top.

    An obvious indication of what parts of the country are doing well financially.

    Though it was good to see sides like Burnley, who along with many other northern former industrial towns were the backbone of the old first division,
    and it’s not only the northern teams but the west midland sides, all former manufacturing areas, who are doing poorly.

    I suppose most Newcastle fans are now concerned about how much money Rafa. will get to rebuild this second tier side, with Ian Wright mentioning a hundred million would not be out of place, I wonder if he’s aware that Ashley is involved in buying part of Debenhams and a couple of US stores, which will cost somewhere in the region of two hundred million.

    Why with those purchases would he want to invest one hundred more in NUFC, better to get them back into the EPL, then sell the club to the Qatari’s or Chinese, which would make a lot more sense.

    Sure there are big bucks in the EPL, but it requires a constant outlay on players and we know how certain top clubs have spend millions just to stay in place Man U. have spent like drunken sailors, being their sponsorship deals require them to be in the Champions league or suffer a loss of revenues.
    If the don’t either win the crap European cup or reach a fourth place finish
    this ending season, then they loose enormous sponsorship revenues, which could easily happen.

    Ah well that’s life in the EPL to-day, you are on a treadmill, spend to earn.

  14. Agree Worky on Channel 5 coverage. They seem to try and capture the live experience (which it does not ). Its a highlights program on the crucial last matches of a season, you would have to have been on another planet or in an induced coma not know the outcome. What I’m sure the majority of fans want is to see as much of the action all in one go. Ninety % or more know the result, your not going to make it more exciting going from one match to the other as if in a time warp.
    So now it begins, a daily list of players we are “interested” in (not that it ever ends). Today we kick off with Yaya Toure any advance on Yaya Toure. There will be a great deal of resurrected names from days gone bye just to keep lazy journalists active also. I will as always wait for the pictures of acquired players holding up the shirt at SJP and live in hope to their quality.
    “In Rafa I trust”

  15. Apparently the meeting of the big NUFC two, Ashley and Rafa. has taken place, though no one seems to have a clue as to the results .

    However we should all be aware after nine years of Ashley, there’s not going to be any one hundred million quid available.

    Like I said there’s gonna be those at the end of their contracts, plus a whole bunch of loan players available, which may be a positive for the club, by having Rafa. as your manager, as most PL top sides want to blood their up and coming youngsters in the EPL it’self and having Rafa may just be a bonus.

    I guess we may sign a few, (four or five decent players is a must) but fill in the rest of the spots with loanee’s, you know the usual Ashley way, but big bucks, don’t hold your breath.

    On the other hand, this is his last chance to do the right thing, ten years of his cut rate, business practices is about enough and one more relegation more than the fans can take.

    Now that the club is back in the EPL, it would be an excellent time to off-load the club, to either a person or group who want to see the club succeed and with everything in place (one of the best state of the art facilities in the country) there’s only the buying of a PL quality playing staff to consider, a great deal !

    Being Ashley has his hands full getting richer, buying more stores for his cheap-ass tat and sewing expensive labels on them, lets see how he does in the US, the graveyard of UK retailers, with Bobs stores freshly bought by him.

    The important question being, will he sell, if in fact NUFC is no more than an adjunct to his tat empire, why hang onto it, but if he sees it as a cash cow with it’s recent big bucks revenues, we are in trouble.

    I mean do leopards change their spots ?

  16. There are many who claim NUFC fans are possibly the most supportive of their team and the figures, both home and away appear to substantiate this.

    However they are also known to have ‘Great Expectations, ‘ which in fact could also be considered unreasonable, which certainly appears to be the case as we speak.

    With the recent meeting of he big two ‘Ashley & Benitez’ which as far as we know ended in a satisfactory manner, though the meaning of “every last penny etc”, remains somewhat unclear to the more suspicious of fans.

    The reason being it’s somewhat ambiguous, not a fixed amount, which each fan, according to his expectations can believe in.

    In which case their will no doubt be controversy when the final ‘Transfer / loan player’ is signed for the approaching season, which unless Rafa. does a satisfactory job of recruiting, will result in sound and fury between many a blogger on line.

    Then there’s the expectations, league-wise, if the EPL side fails to finish either in the top ten or close, there will arise the question of how Rafa. had wasted good money on poor players, yes he presently occupies a somewhat Christ-like role at the club, “the savior”, though to-wards the end of this last season, there were rumblings of discord, certainly concerning some of his second tier signings, as the side stumbled to-wards the league title, only to be decided by Jack Grealish, perhaps Rafa should put in a bid for him.

    But as we are aware the passionate fans of NUFC seldom agree on anything, this is only to be expected as the club has such meaning for Novocastrians, with ‘St. James’ Park’ sitting like a cathederal in the city center, it’s obviously this Stadium has more meaning and support than most religions, of course they produce a better form of entertainment also.

    Certainly this years transfer market, will provide a great amount of interest among fans, many who may believe it to be a new future for the club, others bitterly disappointed and some in between, but there will be no general agreement between fans in regards to Rafas. signings, which may be a good thing for him, by possibly lowering unachievable expectations.

  17. “Ian Wright mentioning a hundred million would not be out of place”

    When a figure of around £100 million is bandied around when it comes to players, that’s a similar figure to one quoted as the bonus Newcastle United will reap with promotion now. Trying to follow the logic of sports hacks and pundits like Wright, maybe they’ve speculated from that?

    “Being Ashley has his hands full getting richer, buying more stores for his cheap-ass tat and sewing expensive labels on them, lets see how he does in the US, the graveyard of UK retailers, with Bobs stores freshly bought by him.”

    Aye, it has been on quite a few occaisions, but with the exceptions of global fast food chains and a certain coffee chain, it doesn’t really go so well the other way either with chains like ‘Banana Republic’ and so on. I think Asda sales actually went down after they were taken over by Wal-Mart.

    “I mean do leopards change their spots ?”

    No, a leopard can’t change its spots but staying in the world of cliches, you actually CAN ‘polish a turd’, so maybe Benitez can continue to give Ashley and the rest of the gang a bit of a shine, so long as Ashley doesn’t do the same thing to him as he did to the last manager who managed that feat, Chris Hughton.

  18. It appears like most Newcastle fans you have bought Ashley’s line the “Every last penny’ bit.

    How much is every last penny again, it will be whichever amount is spent and everyone will be happy, but I urge you and others to total the amounts both outgoing and incoming if that is possible, as there will be the second tier heading out and the new players hopefully fitting in, a somewhat chaotic situation that will require a bunch of accountant to figure, which is probably what Ashley is counting on.

    The fact is the fans have been tamed, they only care about returning to the PL where hopefully the side will stay, which is what Ashley is counting on also, one sees it in the contribution to various blogs by reading peoples expectations, most it seems would be satisfied by a mid table finish.

    As for Ashley having changed his approach, the only thing that has changed are the prices demanded for homegrown and imported players, it’s not like Ashley has changed his approach, plus the fact he realizes he is responsible for two demotions and the loss of revenue from those periods and doesn’t want a repetition.

    However just look at what the media are projecting, players near the end of their contracts, loan players and those from the relegated sides, in comparison to the top clubs, who following what was generally a poor season for most, who are about to spend record amounts in an effort to win silverware and become more competitive in the Champions league .

    Man. U. is desperately attempting to win the Shit Euro Cup, as it is essential to compete in next years championship’s or lose a third of their
    revenues from Kit suppliers etc.

    It’s the same shit , different times and it’s doubtful if NUFC can ever be as successful as they were in SBR’s time and certainly not as entertaining as the KK sides.

    As more and more clubs are bought up by foreign owners, with big bucks, it’s those big bucks that count in regard to success, even the amounts spent on foreign mangers, mostly ex champions league winners, what chance does Benitez have, when fighting an uphill struggle without the funds to build a successful side.

    Looking at Spurs to-day, it’s very apparent why they are sitting in second place in the EPL

    NUFC were a few years back, a much wealthier and better team, sitting at around the 20th.spot in the world, after having suffered two periods of being demoted, that is no longer the case and it becomes obvious why, poor upper management, Ashley by hiring such non football idiots such as
    Llambias and useless managers is directly responsible, he believing NUFC had some kind of devine right to a place in the top league without a plan for the future and never realized that clubs have to improve themselves continually.

    Well things have changed in regard to management, (Rafa) but like the second tiers player who are about to be cleared out there remains a bunch of top management remnants that would find it difficult to find any kind of job, time to dump them and use Spurs as a role model, it’s more than a one man job and Rafa. has hopefully not taken on more than he can handle.

  19. Tamed? Well I’d hardly say they were wild beasts before anyway.How many times did they even picket Sports Direct shops? They can chunter for Britain but without much action.

    Are Spurs another Keegan’s Newcastle? ie Cavalier entertainers with lots of praise who come second? They’ve done it twice now. I want to win a trophy rather than come second or more realisitcally now for us, come in the top seven and slip into europe that way. I don’t even care if it’s the League Cup, we haven’t won that before anyway