Still, who cares about silverware when you can immerse yourself in an accidental challenge for Europe? Sunday was a wonderful occasion for NUFC.
Early on, the omens were worrying. The sun was beautiful, but that only made Liverpool's blood-red shirts look the more imposing. The Newcastle defence was vulnerable on paper and Kenny had picked a high-risk, high-reward team that opened dangerously. Bellamy was harrying Jonas on the flank and runners were arriving in the box. The trouble for the Reds was the old story of final balls going amiss or a lack of finish. Meanwhile, every three secondsthe ball came to an ex-Mag, who got roundly booed; it was nerve-wracking and funny at the same time.
Some moron at the Grauniad drew himself up to his full height and pontificated, "Newcastle fans were stupid to boo Carroll because the £35 million for him made their team better."
Proof of why the Grauniad should stick to hand-wringing stories drumming up hysteria about racism. Booing Carroll may well have helped NUFC win the game.
Many have wondered "why did Carroll dive, had he stayed on his feet he'd have scored?"
My answer is that he dived because if he'd stayed on his feet he would have scored. I think that as he charged towards Krul's goal, Andy Carroll got scared to score at SJP playing for another team.
Preposterous? Well, I might have thought so myself had I not been at the Tyne-Wear derby of 2009, when another exiled Geordie, Michael Chopra, spurned a glorious chance to put the Deckchair Creatures 2-1 up. (GB will remember). Furthermore, remember that Andy Carroll is just professional enough to smash a team-mates jaw to smithereens (allegedly). Lastly, the papers have spent months telling us that Carroll is homesick and would love to rejoin NUFC.
Prior to Sunday's game, Carroll said
1) if he scored he wouldn't celebrate
2) he hoped he wouldn't be booed
In short, Carroll's whole approach prior to the game was apologetic and mentally weak. (Can you imagine Peter Beardsley or Shearer talking like that?) Football fans can sniff out weakness 10,000 miles off and they react to it like a pack of half-starved hyenas. Booing Carroll was always going to **** with his head and so it did.
Funnily enough, he was far livelier than I've seen him in ages, although at times in a rather self-centred way that hindered his team which again proves that he was playing the occasion, not the game. The way he created the chance for himself was the old Carroll. Trouble was, he had time to think on that chance. Notably, his two later first-half opportunities came in a flash, when he hadn't time to mull over the implications of his actions. I had a great view of the dive and there was no doubt that he flung himself down. I don't think even Kenny believes what he said about Carroll losing balance-he's just sticking up for his players as he always does.
On the Simpson handball, Liverpool were hard done by. In the official's defence, the TV screen won't do justice to what a single pair of human eyes sees. The ball ricocheted towards goal quickly and I for one had barely registered the change of flight before it was heading away from the net again. My instant reaction was "that was close, did he handle it?" Maybe the ref had the same problem.
Ultimately though, adversity seeks out teams who are struggling. As I've mentioned, Kenny's team was high-risk, high-reward. For all their pressure, they didn't control the midfield and one felt that if NUFC scored first, Cabaye, Guthrie and Tiote would close that area down. That trio protected their own defence far better than their counterparts. Furthermore, Liverpool had precious little down the left. Jose Enrique's strength is going forward and Danny Simpson has his own defensive shortcomings, but this was hardly a factor. Not only did Liverpool lack a plan B, but they provided scant protection for Jose (contrast with the partnership he used to have with Gutierrez going in either direction). Not the wisest of ideas with Hatem Ben Arfa at his magnificent best. (Note too that when Krul tipped that cross onto the bar, HBA smuggled the ball out for a corner. He's alive to his defensive responsibilities now).
The first goal was a beauty from NUFC's point of view, awful for Liverpool. From then one could never be complacent about Gerrard, Suarez or Bellamy, but NUFC were confident and they had a functioning system. Liverpool still resembled half a team. Tiote had begun with a couple of heavy touches and ropey patches, but by increments he, Cabaye and a superb Guthrie closed off the space in front of Perch and Williamson, both of whomplayed well. The latter stood up to Carroll doughtily and Perch had his best game yet. Sad that his cheap overacting should sully his performance; he was brave, confident in his positional play, tackling and passing. Ba looked off-form but he worked hard and allowed the formation to work.
The second half offered two stark contrasts: NUFC buoyant, Liverpool fraying horribly. Guthrie's injury and Cisse's replacement hurt the team's fluency, but Liverpool's body language was dire. Meanwhile, the fans in the corner went to town without mercy. "Jose Enrique, we're in the top six" was comedy gold. Craig Bellamy applauded both sets of fans as he left-is that his last goodbye to Tyneside perhaps?
Reina was stupid; ironically, that card may cost NUFC a place in the prestigious Neverending Whatsitcalled European Plate Thingy. I think Gerrard shooed Kenny off the pitch thereafter for the simple reason that he might have got into trouble for entering the field of play, but Reina offering Perch out in the tunnel was the ultimate in idiotic bravado from a player who not so long ago was flirting with leaving Liverpool because he doesn't think they're big enough for him anyone. Poor petal.
Meanwhile, a couple of Liverpool fans tried to unveil a flag in the Leazes top tier. The legend was "Scousers rule the World". Is "the World" the name of a small district of Liverpool? The only one I've heard of is Toxteth. Anyway, to complete the farce stewards forced them to remove the flag because they'd draped it over an advertising board for Mike Ashley's shabby sporting goods store.
Anyway, in two weeks all Tynesiders will become honarary Liverpool fans. I've ordered a DVD of Carousel, started shoehorning the numbers "18" and "5" into every conversation and I'm reading "A Complete Social and Cultural History of the Uruguayan Peoples". When in Rome...
Seriously, nobody is knocking your past. Fantastic past. But a club that has yet to win one single Premiership title since it's taken off and become the BEST league in the world you gotta be having a laugh calling yourself a great club. Perhaps you meant "we've got a great history"
Nottingham Forest thought they were great once too, 2 Euro's in a row, a league championship and a few cups... where have they been since? a yo-yo club. Leeds United fans seem to think they are a massive club also.
The greatest English club is and will continue to be Manchester United. You can't deny it nor can you accept it. :-)
When Manchester United went over 20 years without winning the league, they were still treated as a big club...
The most obvious thing, and easiest thing to say now more than anything else is to replace Carroll with a different striker. I think our biggest problem is not having one, and everything else has spiraled off of that. Also the transfer policy has to be more directed towards continental buys.
Look at all the dross Newcastle got rid of when they were relegated. Most were British or overpriced players picked up from other British clubs, most replaced by players bought from the continent. Look how they've rocketed up the table. Whereas we have replaced continental buys with buys from Britain since Rafa has gone, and shot down the table. The contrast is alarming. If you buy players not good enough to play for an England side who can't win nothing, what are you going to have? Not success that's for sure.
Another way of looking at Newcastle's success is that they replaced an ill-fitting collection of injury-prone players lacking leadership with players who complement each other's games. The 08-09 team was chronically short of pace, width and goals.
Liverpool are disjointed in crucial areas for reasons that go beyond nationality. If Liverpool had Wayne Rooney up front and Ashley Young on the wing, I doubt they'd be in their current mess, even though that pair is English. Foreignness hasn't allowed Dirk Kuyt to score in Carroll's place or helped Suarez to notch as many as he should. Stewart Downing's form would have been less damaging had the Maxi Rodriguez of early 2011 been in evidence.
Liverpool have too many players under-23 and too many past 30. So on the one hand, they suffer from inconsistency and lack of top-flight maturity, on the other hand there are too many players past their peak whose bodies are breaking down. Throw in the proneness of Agger to injury with Lucas' absence and you've got the perfect ****storm. It's a bunch of players in search of a core group around which to build.
Goals cover a lot of failings, however. A prolific striker might have a knock-on effect on everyone around them, helping to revive Suarez, Henderson and Downing's productivity. Then the need for major surgery might not prove as drastic as has been thought.
Listen, Rafa was a great manager for us by and large. We won a European title and reached a finals. Had an 86 point season where we only lost two matches. I just think it's important when assessing potential candidates we not forget the whole picture. Sure, Rafa did a great job with signing a lot of international talent outside of England but let's not forget he had his fair share of transfer mistakes, as all managers do. And I know I am harping on this but I cannot get past the Xabi Alonso transfer and the subsequent decision to bring in a lesser (and injured at the time) talent in Aquilani.
Rafa is a worthy candidate but let's not gloss over his shortcomings as well here. I know it's a new ownership group but I really think they will be hesitant to bring in another former manager.
Quite. Alonso for Aquilani was an all-or-nothing scenario that failed and made the team increasingly dependent upon Torres and Gerrard. Assuming Kenny goes in May, his successor cannot afford to bungle even one big move.
Preposterous? Well, I might have thought so myself had I not been at the Tyne-Wear derby of 2009, when another exiled Geordie, Michael Chopra, spurned a glorious chance to put the Deckchair Creatures 2-1 up. (GB will remember).
I do indeed remember. I remember plenty of his misses though, I'm not so sure I'd put that down entirely to the occasion, although I think it played a part.
I remember Chopra scoring at the SOL for Cardiff and celebrating with a discreet v-sign to the crowd. Cue lots of hilarious and hypocritical complaints about it.