Newcastle United were beaten 3-1 on penalties last night and went out of The EFL Cup to a 10-man Hull City side they had dominated for large periods having enjoyed the vast majority of possession and 32 shots to the Tigers’ 12 as The Magpies let a big chance at silverware slip away.
Geordie fans love manager Rafa Benitez and the way he has revitalized the club taking the black and whites straight to the top of The Championship and will not be overreacting at losing 2 games in a row after winning 9 on the spin yet it is important Benitez and his lieutenants do react.
Winter has arrived in England, the temperature has dropped suddenly, pitches have gotten worse very quickly and the unforgiving second tier of English football can become a slog that requires a certain physical toughness and mental hardiness to thrive.
Last night’s conceded goal was sloppy from keeper Matt Selz’ point of view yet also showed Hull capitalizing on the lack of height down the Newcastle right side while Isaac Hayden could be blamed in part for both that goal and the one conceded against Blackburn as it was he who was marking Charlie Mulgrew.
In the 2009-10 Magpies promotion season, Newcastle had solid characters, wise heads and experienced leaders like Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Coloccini, Alan Smith, Ryan Taylor, Mike Williamson plus Joey Barton towards the end of the season to ensure Newcastle saw games out and their promotion campaign through.
Geordie Steven Taylor played 20 games in The Championship plus Geordies Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll added further local grit and desire while Newcastle’s last two games in 2016/7 have been lost without any Geordie presence in the side due to a Jack Colback injury and Paul Dummett being dropped or rested.
Kevin Nolan was pivotal for Chris Hughton’s 2009/10 Championship-winning side grabbing many games by the scruff of their necks and possessing the nous – game management is the popular modern term for it – to keep leads and his head and making sure everyone about him kept theirs.
Newcastle need to draw on the experienced figures in their extensive squad – internationals, Captains and leaders like Grant Hanley, Cheick Tiote and Daryl Murphy to give the team a stronger spine in adversity.
Step Forward Cheick Tiote and The Magpies Leaders
Newcastle’s average age against both Blackburn and Hull – 25 – was a lot lower than it had been during the majority of the 2009-10 campaign and while naturally Rafa Benitez has an eye on the future and the team growing – and growing up – together, results in the here and now are crucial.
Experience is vital in football and 30 year-old Cheick Tiote is a veteran of over 250 club games winning title trophies and Cups for Anderlecht and FC Twente as well as 50 international Caps with Ivory Coast with whom he is a reigning 2015 African Nations Cup Champion.
With this pedigree and over 120 Premier League games for Newcastle, it is a no-brainer that Tiote plays when the team needs to get a grip as it does right now.
Under Alan Pardew, Tiote was named Captain against Chelsea and Liverpool, matches which Newcastle won and drew against a top Chelsea team and title-challenging Brendan Rodgers’ Reds side and the intensity of the side was noticeably increased under Tiote’s command.
Under Benitez last season, Tiote came in and formed a defensive shield alongside Jack Colback which almost kept The Magpies in the top flight ending the season six games unbeaten and he is an important player who should not be overlooked as Newcastle look to rebound at Forest on Friday.
Geordies Give Newcastle Grit and Local Knowledge – Dummett and Colback Must Play
Local lads Jack Colback and Paul Dummett were missed badly in the last two games reflecting former Chairman Freddie Shepherd’s view that local players and coaches – Sir Bobby Robson was his manager at the time – have a Geordie chip that gives them an edge for Newcastle.
This is something in the the local DNA and football consciousness – many fans were quick to denounc last night as ‘typical Newcastle’ – that Rafa Benitez both needs to embrace and change for the better especially that of winning when it matters – from penalty shoot-outs to major trophies – that has become foreign to Newcastle.
Dummett is far and away the best left-back at the club by far and while Jesus Gamez may have adjusted to the pace of The Championship had he not been injured, Moroccan Achraf Lazaar with his attacking instincts looks more suitable for the left-wing or left-wing-back position.
As for Jack Colback, it is telling that Newcastle have won every game he has played in this season with the exception being the opening day refereeing farce at Fulham when Newcastle were robbed of three possible penalties, at least two stonewall, for handball.
Scottish power must not be forgotten as although Grant Hanley has had a stuttering start to his Newcastle career, the Scottish international sometime Captain has a hell of a lot to offer both physically and mentally at both ends of the pitch.
It was also good to see Daryl Murphy feature last night as a late-substitute as the 33 year-old will provide both height and a heavyweight presence plus goals and key Championship experience throughout Winter.
When the going gets tough, the tough must play and as Benitez’s team has evolved throughout the season so far, it surely will again now in order to bounce back and regain that Championship-winning momentum.