IF there is one game Newcastle manager Alan Pardew knew he must not lose – again – it was the big derby match again Sunderland.
Pardew’s credibility took a huge battering in the wake of Paolo di Canio’s moment in the sun in April, when the Black Cats won 3-0 at St. James’ Park.
It was an awful performance against the red and whites, and led to a further downward spiral that included the catastrophic 6-0 hiding from Liverpool at St. James’ Park. It’s possible that mauling could have, on another day, led to relegation and Newcastle’s fixture list including trips to Yeovil, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough.
2012-13 was an awful season for consistency, short of one long miserable streak around the turn of the year where the team were absolutely miserable. Awful defeats against Reading, Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and others certainly made it a depressing time of the year.
Having survived that, here was a golden chance for retribution. The squad di Canio assembled over the summer has proven to be a monumental dud, and had left the Black Cats without a league win all season.
But with a faint air of predictability, he managed defeat again, thus becoming the first Magpies manager to lose consecutive Tyne-Wear Derbies since Joe Harvey in 1966-67.
Harvey has since gone down in history as the last manager to lead Newcastle United to a major trophy, when he won the 1969 UEFA Fairs Cup – now known as the Europa League – but the odds of Pardew winning a trophy at any point in his stupidly long contract are shortening.
Aside from the fact Pardew is now bookies’ favourite for dismissal, the fact remains that any trophy winning team needs consistency – something his team don’t seem to have.
New Sunderland manager Gus Poyet seems to have some hold some sort of spell on the Magpies. After all, a man that was dubbed “the scourge of Newcastle” by Sir Bobby Robson following his annoying habit of constantly scoring against the Toon in the 90s/00s has followed it up with back-to-back victories over Pardew with Brighton in the FA Cup.
Nevertheless, it was very worrying just how little Newcastle did to go for the win.
After Mathieu Debuchy’s equaliser, Sunderland were on the ropes and Newcastle should have gone for the jugular. But instead, they offered shockingly little in attack, with wayward long shots the nearest the team got to breaching Keiren Westwood’s goal.
The team was duly hit by a late sucker punch in the form of Fabio Borini’s wonderstrike, and left the club’s fans to pick over the wounds of an infuriating performance where too many players were anonymous.
Not helping the mood was a bizarre and unwarranted ban for Newcastle’s local newspapers.
Following fan protests before the home game with Liverpool earlier this month, the Newcastle Journal, Evening Chronicle and Sunday Sun newspapers – all part of the NCJ group – have all received bans by the club for covering them in detail.
This ridiculous stance was revealed in the post match press conference at the Stadium of Light, where the club PR refused to let Pardew answer questions by NCJ reporters.
Media bans are certainly common at St. James’ Park. The Daily Mail was banned for two seasons after a series of articles shortly before the club’s demotion in 2009, while The Daily Telegraph is still banned following an article about dressing room unrest written in the wake of the Liverpool mauling in April.
It maybe an odd and ultimately damaging strategy, but sadly appears to be one of the few areas of the club to show some consistency, which is something the players could learn from
A tricky run of games is the perfect tonic to provide some cheer to the fans, but would only reinforce the fact the club struggle for consistency on the field.
After all – its always good to see a win over big names like Chelsea and Spurs, but just as frustratingly annoying to see defeats by Hull and Sunderland.
Pardew and the players now have a difficult week as they still seek for acceptance. Anything less and it could be a bleak winter on Gallowgate…