Yesterday’s result was a little out of left field (understatement alert).
With Rafa’s men in and out the other side of ‘that’ three-game salvo against Reading, Huddersfield and Brighton lots of people, myself definitely included in this, took little ol’ Fulham for granted. In the month prior, we’d beaten two of the league’s most accomplished sides on their own patch, and picked up a hard-earned draw against another one.
True to historic Newcastle form though, exhibiting a healthy dose of ‘Murphy’s Law’ (no, not Daryl) Benitez’s men collapsed at home for the 5th time this season under the pressure of the expectant SJP crowd.
Players who usually play well, played badly. Players who sometimes play well, played very badly. And players who never play well, watched the game drift aimlessly by on a gloomy afternoon in the North East.
Jack Colback, a player that has been no stranger to fan criticism in recent weeks definitely fell under the latter category on Saturday. Tom Cairney, a player of which Rafa had his eye on in the January transfer window made young Jack chase his shadow for much of yesterday’s proceedings.
And whilst I can’t fault the Ginger Ninja’s efforts (either today, or since he signed for us), if we’ve learned anything about the former Sunderland man this season, it’s that he sadly belongs in a side no higher up than 14th position in the Championship. Unfortunately for him, I think yesterday sealed his fate as one of the names to appear on Newcastle’s ‘For Sale’ list this summer.
Surely based on the last month, Rafa can’t and won’t persist with him next season.
But the book can’t solely rest at young Jack however. Our skipper had a torrid afternoon at the heart of Newcastle’s defence. Disappointing for me in particular, after I’d just lauded him and Ciaran Clark as nailed-ons to be our first choice centre back pairing should we go up next season.
Further up the field, Mo Diame seemed to contract ‘Sissoko-itus’ during the match as he failed to get a grip on the game and likewise Dwight Gayle made little-to-no impact, although the support he did get from the rest of his teammates yesterday afternoon was pathetic, verging on the non-existent.
All-in-all, it was certainly one to forget. But I’m not particularly worried. As far as I’m concerned, blips like theses are all part and parcel of what makes a successful team.
Just 7 years ago, at a similar point in the season, we suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the hands of relegation-threatened-Derby whilst trying to win promotion back into the Premier League. And what’s more, we weren’t even top of the table at this point in time. If Chris Hughton, (who, let’s face it, doesn’t quite have the managerial pedigree Rafa does) still managed to see us safely over the line, then I have little doubt the same thing won’t happen again this time.
So why all the doom and gloom?
With 9 games still to play, the Fulham defeat could prove to be the wake-up call we needed. The reminder that things aren’t quite sewn up yet.
It’s the human condition to place extra emphasis on things when they go wrong and to completely forget the times when things go completely right. Prior to Saturday’s game we were unbeaten in nine and law of averages states we were bound to have a stinker sometime soon. My advice would be not to dwell on it – there’s still plenty of time to put things right.
Don’t panic (too much), Captain Lascelles.