Saturday, 25 September 2010
Everton 0 Toon 1
Blimey - is an underused word, but it seems to be the most appropriate word to sum up NUFC over the past week. The last time we had the joys of celebrating two away wins in a week in the top division seems like it was in the pre-war days (the Iraq war, that is) the last time NUFC won at Stamford Bridge was during the last recession and the last time Toon won 4-3, as opposed to losing by the same scoreline, was when footballers walked to the ground, had real jobs, and handlebar moustaches.... Still, I wasn't fortunate enough to be a Chelsea on Wednesday evening, but I was at Goodison Park on Saturday to witness an away win on Merseyside for the first time since before the invention of the fourth official. Blimey.
There were several notable things about the win on Saturday... It also had an old fashioned feel to the game, but that will have been mainly due to a 3.00pm kick off on a Saturday and the wooden bench seats. As an aside, how on earth do they get away with having such a dilapidated ground? One of the funniest incidents was seeing an older gent handing a steward the back of one of these wooden seats, pointing out that it wasn't an act of vandalism that had broken it, but woodworm. Actually, the funniest moment for me was finally hearing the Coloccini song in full throttle sung by 2500 delirious fans....
After reflecting for a week on the performance I've concluded that the main difference was that for the first time in about five years the squad played as Newcastle United, and functioned as a team. Some of the team ethic has been instilled as a result of adversity, those players to stayed after relegation had a point to prove. Some of it has arisen out of sheer bloody mindedness, a desire to prove the doubters wrong; NUFC aren't just going to implode and go away. However, most of it is due to a determination that no one is bigger than the club itself, no huge star players, no one playing for themselves - just a group of 11 (or so) all pulling in the same direction and getting results. It felt good. It felt like football should be.
The result was all the more gratifying as we witnessed a fantastic match winning goal from Hatem Ben Arfa, (has anyone else noticed that he looks a bit like the bastard offspring of Laurent Robert?) saw a debut from someone who does for 90 mins what Nicky Butt showed us in flashes for the past two years, Cheick Tiote take a bow... Adding in two new personalities to a team could have really disrupted the balance and make up, but it didn't appear to do so at Everton.
I also need to apologise, I was wrong. Way back in 2007, I commented that the young left back that NUFC had signed from Spain wasn't good enough. I made lots more earthy, vociferous comments at games as this player seemed to be out of his depth in the English league. His first season was error strewn, he was slow and often made an incorrect decision. In my defence I think my views were coloured by a litany of overpriced and poor defenders, and I lumped Jose Enrique in with those mercenaries. Over the last three years his confidence has grown, he has adjusted to the pace of the game and has become the most outstanding performer for the team. Most of all, he stayed when other non-UK players started their exodus after relegation. A real team player. Jose, Jose, Jose.... indeed.
Sunday brings on the cloggers from the Potteries. I expect Wolves Mark II - it ain't going to be pretty.
Howay the lads