Writer: Ross Molyneux
Date:Monday April 23 2007
St James' Park
I guess choosing who you want to win the title this season is like having to pick between having Stalin or Hitler as Prime Minister. Other than their own brainwashed followers, they are both despised by the masses, claim conspiracy at will and try and eradicate the competition through propaganda and blackmail ("Penalty, penalty, penalty!").
You can still regularly see Ferguson sporting red and black regalia and rattling diatribe, whilst Mourinho would no doubt still be the housewives` favourite whilst decked out in snappy Communist garb and a greycoat - they do love a man in uniform (so I`m told!).
With that in mind, being at St James` yesterday was like being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. In the end it looks as if we might have done Sir Taggart the better deal. Competitively we have managed to stay unbeaten at home against the 'Big Four` this season for the first time in donkey`s years. Our return of 7 points against them isn`t the worst in the league I`d imagine but it certainly gets the mockers on when we`ve been beaten by the 'Not so Big Four` of Sheffield Utd, Man City, Fulham and Bolton.
This habit of raising ourselves for the big teams is definitely something that needs to be measured for next season, with three points against the latter teams far more priority than a point against the former four. Still I`m not really complaining about anything in the performance yesterday. Yes, the goals were still missing (soon to be resolved by EMO I hope) but the heart, commitment and passion were all evident in abundance. Plenty of benchmark performances were set by a number of our players as well which should be useful to keep tabs on.
In goal Harps had one of the quietest afternoons in his time as a Newcastle player, getting in plenty of male model hand-on-hips posing and some sneaky camera pouts. Across the back four, Nobby was simply outstanding, hitting some dangerous early crosses and being positionally astute all game whilst even Bramble and Carr belied their shocking reputations and recent form to turn in decent shifts. A special mention for my man of the match Steven Taylor, who turned in his best United performance to date, shackling Drogba, Shevchenko and Kalou to show a level of composure and leadership that does augur well for the future. Even Sheepteeth 'Fantastic` McClaren in the crowd can`t fail to be have been impressed ("Fantastic attitude, fantastic…").
In midfield, Butty ran Taylor close for the MOTM award (obviously Gary Neville had a word pre-game) and Emre seemed to have a return to form. Chelsea`s tactics of kicking the little Turk to ribbons didn`t pay off in the end, with three bookings for the Blues. Milner had a solid game, teasing Ferreira all game, but disappointingly not making more of their obvious weak link. Dyer on the other hand was steady but saw the best chance of the game well saved by Cech. Up front Sibierski and then Carroll battled manfully with Terry whilst Oba linked well but without any genuine threat on goal.
Overall then it`ll be the north west of England that`ll be miles happier with yesterday`s events, the Mancs due to the scoreline, Victimpool because of Ballack`s injury and knocks to Drogba and Makelelelelele. As for us, we can sit smugly and hopefully try and tie up some more positional cash with three wins against Reading, Blackburn and Watford. Fat chance, but at least we know the foundations are there for next season with that performance. It`s down to Shepherd and Roeder to deliver motivation, strength in depth and the areas of quality that have let us down over the course of the season against the supposed lesser teams.
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Date:Monday April 23 2007
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