In some ways, Rafael Benitez was extremely philosophical in the wake of Newcastle United’s 3-0 defeat to West Ham United on Saturday, but in others, he was brutally honest about the future. There can be no doubting that the Magpies’ three-game winning run was justifiably ended by the Hammers at St James’ Park; in fact, the manner arguably flattered the hosts.
After months of protests and drumming up support on social media, Newcastle United fans are ready to take a stand. West Ham United are the visitors to St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon, but in a strange way, that is not the main focus of the day on Tyneside.
It was twelfth time lucky for Newcastle United on Monday night, as they ran out 2-1 winners against Burnley at Turf Moor, a ground they hadn’t won at exactly one month short of 43 years. More telling than the result and two significant monkies finaliy being thrown off their backs, was the manner of the performance on what was a rather strange, but ultimately heroic, evening in Lancashire.
What do Sean Dyche, Alan Pardew and Michael Laudrup have in common? All three of them know first hand how taxing and frustrating the Europa League can be on teams who are not built to compete in it; though only the former, and his Burnley side, are still living through it now. The Clarets are preparing to welcome Newcastle United to Turf Moor on Monday night.
Rafael Benitez could have looked at the timing of the international break in two ways. On the one hand, it may have frustrated him; after two wins on the bounce at home to Watford and Bournemouth, perhaps it will kill the momentum his side were building. But for a thinker like the Magpies boss, any opportunity to stop and reassess is probably a welcome one.
Quotes attributed to the agent of Major League Soccer side Atlanta United’s star man, Miguel Almiron, this week suggested he was at St James’ Park to witness Newcastle United’s win over Bournemouth on Saturday. Rather typically, it has led fans to get over excited about the possibility of signing his client when the January transfer window opens.
If Watford was the first hurdle, then Bournemouth will be more of an uphill struggle for Newcastle United. Victory over the Hornets last weekend, under the most pressurised of possible circumstances, has lifted the mood on Tyneside and breathed new life into an area which, after weeks of misery and frustration slowly developing into fear and genuine concern, may just start to believe again.
Just six minutes after half time during Newcastle United’s first win of the season against Watford on Saturday, everyobody feared the worst. Jonjo Shelvey, the creative hub of Rafael Benitez’s squad, hobbled off the pitch to be replaced by Ki Sung-Yueng. He was joining Yoshinori Muto and Jamaal Lascelles in being forced off through injury.
Passion, pride and effort are three things that have been in short supply at Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United, but in captain Jamaal Lascelles, there is a beacon of hope and the promise of a brighter future. His new six-year contract, signed on Thursday afternoon, has been met with a mixture of excitement, skepticism and frustration for many reasons, but below all of the talk, it cannot be understated how important he is both on and off the pitch on Tyneside.