Clarkie's back - 14/01/2004
The Manchester United performance was excellent and represented more than just a point won. Whilst one good performance doesn’t make a good team, for me it proved that Newcastle are still a force.
As most of you will know, I write a regular article in ‘The Pink’ (Newcastle’s Saturday sports results paper) and had mentioned that Newcastle needed to swamp the midfield and let Shearer try and hold the ball until support arrived. Bobby Robson must have agreed as that’s exactly what he did…and it worked a treat. Using this system meant that Paul Scholes and Van Nistelrooy in particular were denied space, and whilst some might say these are negative tactics, I’d disagree. Sitting back enables you to break from deep and with the pace of Dyer, Robert and Jenas, Newcastle do this very well.
The penalty decision was unlucky, but most would have taken a point prior to kick off – I would have!!
Now it’s Fulham on Monday night and I just hope the lads can continue where they left off at Old Trafford. To drop points would be terrible and seriously undermine the chances of reaching the Champions League. It’s not going to be easy, just a look at the league table will confirm that.
I think Chris Coleman is a clever manager, he seems to be able to adapt his play to head off the strengths of the opposition. I fancy him to do a similar job to Newcastle as we did to Man Utd – five across the middle and for Shearer read Saha. The ex-Newcastle loanee – if he plays – can hold the ball, he’s got pace, and with his 12 or so Premiership goals, he knows how to score. He reminds me of Tino Asprilla in that he can beat a man and then seems to use instinct to take the move further – quite often that results in a spectacular shot. The other player who needs to be watched is Malbranque, he’s technically excellent, can see a ball, has quick feet, and uses his low centre of gravity very well. But I look at the Newcastle squad and there’s simply too much quality for Fulham to handle. If Newcastle play well, then it’s three points in the bag – but they will need to play well!
You can’t talk about the game without mentioning Lee Clark. Clarkie was a Geordie legend in the mid 90’s and was well thought of by those in Keegan’s squad. Since leaving the toon he’s never made a return, and I for one would pay for my ticket just to see the reaction he’ll receive from fans. He still plays in black and white and although you should never give to much credit/respect to visiting players, I’d love you Geordies to give him a heroes welcome. He has a box in the ground and he’ll no doubt have loads of family and friends at St. James. Raise the roof and then give him some stick when the game starts – he’d love that!
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