While I’m sure many of you will say the results show it to be the case, others may find it a bit of a shock when I say that I find this writing lark to be a bit of a painstaking affair.
There’s the basic story itself. Is it worth the effort? Unlike your local Newspaper, I see no point in just regurgitating something that was reported somewhere else, that was copied from somewhere else, who stole it from……. Well, you get the point.
Then there are the rewrites, the polishing, and the final bit of proof reading – that’s very important because there’s nothing worse than putting out a piece that’s littered with spelling mistakes, inaccuracies, and, well blatant variations from that which is known to be true. You know, lies! We don’t want someone mistaking me for some wannabe journo from the Chronicle.
Then there’s the most critical bit. Is this a good time to be putting this out? With some articles you don’t worry about what happens over the next few days, but with others you have to be a bit more careful. Olly has a schedule, and as such there are time when he can publish straight away, and other times when you have to wait a few days to catch the cycle. Then there are other days when he just says “WTF is this?” You may have a very valid point, but Saturday rolls along and one match can completely change the way we, the fans, look at everything. After all, there is nothing so fickle as a Toon fan following a match.
So on Tuesday I started writing an article. Something I feel fairly strongly about and suspect a number of you do too, but the redraft didn’t get done until late Wednesday. A bit of polish was applied on Thursday and with the Southampton game on Saturday I didn’t want to risk sending the piece through to Olly in case Saturday was one of those rare exceptional games that blew my argument so far out of the water that it came down on top of a drystone wall on Shap.
It turns out you won’t get to see those particular fruits of my labours because on Sunday morning I hit the delete key on what had been a very insightful piece about how pitifully poor our front line is – Ayoze Perez in particular. And I provided the statistics to back it up, reeling off a list of our latest and greatest to prove just how great we once were, and how very average we are now. Those great names that have graced the Black And White over the years, compared to what we now have. It was a winner!
Then Perez actually turns up and gets his first hat-trick for us. A hat trick that 24 hours later would ensure our Premier League safety for yet another season.
What a g*t!
I suppose there’s no point in mentioning the fact that while he luckily nutmegged the defender, sneaked it past the keeper and in off the post, a very solitary Rondon was on the edge of the 6 yard box in so much space he could have parked the team bus there and still had enough space for a Brexit march?
Having seen the replay of the third goal a dozen times I’m still losing money betting on him heading it over the bar from 7 yards out. Sorry, but take a look in the dictionary and I can guarantee that under neither “accuracy” nor “reliability” will you find a picture of Perez.
So as I said, I had to bin that one, but fear not, there’s still plenty to talk about.
It’s often said that as Toon fans we don’t need brilliance to keep us onside – we just want the players to have a go. Truth be told, a losing team having a go tend to wear thin after a while and we start to yearn for talent but I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.
If you want the best of both worlds, talent and effort, then you’d be hard pushed to come up with anyone who embodied both more than the great Peter Beardsley. One minute he’d be rattling a shot off the crossbar at one end, the next making a perfectly timed tackle in our box at the other, while signing autographs, directing traffic in the car park and giving a completely unintelligible interview to the press all at the same time. Sadly when you think just effort, the names that immediately spring to mind are not quite so impressive. Maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of Peter Ramage, Shane Ferguson and even Shola Ameobi. Players who gave their all on the park with very little to show for it at the end of the game, as those wizards in the papers and sports channels had yet to come up with a statistic that could accurately track “effort”.
One of the most respected muslim clerics of the age claimed in the 13th century that mathematics was the work of Satan and, as a result, for hundreds of years Islamic schools dropped it from their curriculum. If only someone had refined the idea further and banned statistics I think our weekends could be so much more enjoyable. In case anyone is thinking of translating that historical fact into me having a pop at a religion, let us not forget that at a similar stage of it’s development Christianity banned the lower classes from reading and owning books.
Had that particular ban held up just think how much happier we would be staring at all those flashing lights on a Saturday afternoon saying something like “I’ve no idea what it says, but you can guarantee Mike Ashley hasn’t paid for it!”
I think it was McClaren who took the great Cheikh Tiote aside one day and asked if he could possibly see his way to stop pummeling everything that moved on the park, and instead start passing the ball around. He converted one of the best disrupters in the game into a namby pamby tippy tappy midfielder whose passing stats went through the roof but whose effectiveness plummeted out of site. The stats (WORK OF THE DEVIL) showed his numbers were phenomenal. What they didn’t show was that most of his passes were backwards, less than 5 yards, or both. Think Ki!
If you want even more proof of the inherently evil and ultimately useless nature of these numbers take a look at Almiron. One of the fastest players in the MLS he has come to the best league in the world and every couple of weeks the opposition have him matched for pace, he hasn’t scored yet and he’s struggling even to get an assist on the board. His stats would have him marked down as a waste of time.
But as I’ve said, stats are the spawn of Satan, plus , let’s not forget that 83% of all stats are just made up.
Nobody has put more effort into his game than our new boy. He has a go; he cuts across players, drawing the foul; he puts himself in harms way; he takes them on. And every now and again, as we saw against the Saints he’s off, catches them completely off guard and we’re in there with a chance. But where does this show up in the stats? It doesn’t. But it does show up where it matters most, and that’s in the results.
In the 2011-2012 season the EPL was thrown off kilter when a very average Newcastle Untied, managed by Alan Pardew, finished in 5th place. It was all down to one man’s efforts, and again, it wasn’t the manager. Tim Krul had pulled of save after save, giving a string of match winning performances, getting us points we didn’t deserve. In the same way that Little Timmy was our hero then, have no doubt that the performances that we have seen since January that have resulted in our Prem survival are again down to a single man, and it’s not Perez, it’s not Rondon, and it’s not Benitez.
As a player Perez has improved beyond recognition in recent months, but contrary to the blogs and rags this is not a miracle transformation brought about by Benitez. Instead the credit must go to Almiron, who has somehow managed to energize the Spaniard. Maybe the pressure of being the sole creative linking force behind a lone striker was too much of a load for him, and now he is thriving on being a free spirit running around doing his own thing? Or not. Maybe it’s just the competition?Whatever it was, it worked, and despite my long-term criticism of Perez, and the hours of hard work that I binned on Sunday morning I have to say that his workload and effort were phenomenal on Saturday, and in particular his run from inside our half to get on the end of Rondon’s pass for the second goal, making up 20 yards or more on the provider, could not have been any more impressive had it been done by the great man Beardsley himself.
In addition to the Saints taking a good hammering the bottle of JD also looked a little worse for wear the following morning. Saturday’s match was worth every sip, even though a couple of extra glasses were inhaled following the injury to Almiron, but if I’m a little more pragmatic about it he can sit out the rest of the season knowing that he’s done the job for which he was brought in and can sit back with a smug smile on his face as we revert to pre-January performances and tactics for the last few games.
You could argue that sticking with our proven tactics might secure a few more points, adding a few million to the coffers for the next window, but I suspect that now that the pressure is off we might see a more profitable tactic whereby Rafa gets a few of the older, more highly paid players into the shop window in the hope that they can up their profile a little. A couple of good performances from Shelvey, Joselu, and Diame, and maybe even Barecca, could rake in more than a couple of places worth of prize money.
As an added bonus, after all the talk online, did anyone else spot the new unexpected tactic from Rafa’s playbook? It was a rather bold move that we hadn’t seen before from the boys and I can only imagine that many extra training ground hours went into it. In fact it was so slick it didn’t even get a mention, but at least the fans saw it. Yes – Ritchie passed to Almiron and Almiron passed it straight back to Ritchie. Stunning stuff!