What a relief - 17/05/2004
Shearer - the team needs to reflect his determination
Whilst this season will never be remembered as an exceptional term, the mood leaving Anfield was much better than it had been on arrival. OK Man Utd did us a favour, but getting a point at Liverpool was a great result.
All that really counts is that once more, Newcastle are in Europe. In trying to attract players and for extra revenue, qualification for the UEFA Cup was crucial. Whether it's enough to capture Alan Smith, I'm not so sure. But Newcastle must chase and sign players of the calibre of Alan Smith for the club to progress. There have been no significant signings within the last twelve months, and as a result the club has gone backwards.
Three years ago Newcastle finished fourth with 71 points, last year we were third and collected 69 points, whilst this year only 56 points were won. That's some drop, and although Chelsea have come into their own, the statistics don't lie.
The failure to win more than two away Premiership games held the club back. No team will ever qualify for the Champions League with a record like that. Twelve points were lost by conceding a goal in the last ten minutes of our away games. Those points would have seen us on closer to Man Utd than Liverpool, and comfortably qualifying for Champions League football!
So how is it that a club with such a strong home record managed to get so few away wins? I think there were probably three main reasons, apart from no new faces in the squad:
1 - The manager hasn't got his tactics right
2 - Players aren't as committed as they are at St. James
3 - Bad luck
Last season the club finished games strongly and picked up a number of points with late goals. The training hasn't been any different this year and we've probably played fewer games this season - you can't blame fatigue. If the players aren't 'up for it' then they this needs to be addressed by the management team, and if they can't motivate players then they must move them on.
Last August there was excitement and an expectation at the club. After what has happened since then, I think and hope that the mood will quite different and expectation will be replaced by a new determination.
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