Newcastle have always been a club capable of rising to the big occasion, but are we finally seeing a team that can turn up week in, week out and perform at the highest level?
The great teams, like Manchester United’s “Golden Generation” are not built on mercurial talents such as Eric Cantona. Sure, in certain situations they provide that spark to set the team apart from the rest, but it is down to the reliable performances of stalwarts such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane. Their hard work and production is what allows the flair players to shine and grab the headlines. They are the water carriers and every team has them.
Where last season we saw great results (6-0, 5-1 etc), we struggled to turn up against the teams in and around us. We would be at our very best one week and then at 80% the next (or in some cases 60% in the first half and 100% in the second). I would much rather have a team that performs to 95% of its potential every week, with just the odd deviation. This is what we now have, it would seem.
I’ve always been an optimistic supporter but not a confident one for a long time. Right now, though, I know that win or lose, this team will give everything today and fight until the last
minute. St. James Park is turning into a fortress again; the way we all know it can be; intimidating for the opposition and a source of inspiration for our boys. With only one home defeat all year, if anyone wants to go home from the North-East with anything they’re going to have to earn it.
Gone are the enigmatic talents of Oba Martins and Mark Viduka, to be replaced by men who will work diligently for their fans, their manager and their teammates. There is a winning mentality in the team and characters that won’t lie down. They give their all, and if that isn’t good enough and they go a goal behind like they have done at times this season, their efforts are redoubled.
Part of this comes from the attitude exuded by new signings like Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, and part of it instilled by our manager and his support team. We’ve all heard about the team spirit and the new leaders that have emerged and help nurture it and allow new members to feel a part of
it. We’ve heard about the team building and social activities that have helped. We know about Pardew’s drills with the defenders to make the right decisions and attitude second nature so that they can consistently perform.
Knowing this, and hearing about the frustration of men like Graham Carr behind the scenes at the state of the club in recent years, allows me to understand and appreciate the work the club has done and the true nature of the improvements. The communication of this will get fans behind a team they know they can trust and believe in, and so helps contribute to creating an atmosphere for our players to grow, and others to crumble.
How far we can go is anyone’s guess. Few expect us to maintain our current position or trajectory, and who can blame them, given our recent past. Fortunately, it appears that this is not the team of the past and is not being managed as such either. The way we are persistently turning up on the pitch why not top eight, or even top six? Remember, we’re still unbeaten in the league.
This is a steady and methodical advance that’s affecting all levels of the club; we have only lost two of 24 competitive matches this season encompassing Under 18 and Reserve Team level. It has been a long time since I could have such confidence in our team and as much pride to call it my own. Sure, tougher times are likely lying in wait but I await them with anticipation, not trepidation, knowing that this club is as likely (if not more so) to rise to the challenge as it is to stumble.
Long may it continue. Howay the lads!
Finally a big thanks to Dubtoon for sending this in. Do you agree with his view? Are we more consistent this year? Is it too early to tell? As ever let us know YOUR thoughts.