Sunday, 14 September 2008

04: Newcastle United 1 - 2 Hull City - 13/09/2008

Of course, this was all because Newcastle United are a club in turmoil. Their defeat, paltry showing and lax attitude can be put purely down to the departure of the Messiah.

Heh. This is what those on Tyneside would have you believe. After all, a 2-1 home defeat can't possibly have anything to do with the sharpness, spirit and efficiency of Hull City, can it? They are only Hull City, after all.

Well, don't believe a word of the hype and propaganda which that pathetic bunch of spoilt, self-regarding cretins spit out. Newcastle United are a club in freefall. Team-wise, they have a superb goalkeeper, just one really good outfield player - a player who Mr Capello doesn't want at the moment - and a squad of ragbag individuals who struggle to make up a team. They are desperate, arrogant and in need of a trip into the real world.

Meanwhile, Phil Brown had decisions of his own to make. George Boateng travelled after his injury difficulties but was not risked, meaning the on-form Dean Marney kept his place alongside skipper Ian Ashbee in midfield. A new defence was stuck together, with Sunderland loanee Paul McShane slotting in at right back for his debut, with Anthony Gardner returning to the centre alongside colossus Michael Turner. There was no place for Sam Ricketts, who had to endure a long trip to Russia, 45 minutes of football and the effects of a virus during his sojourn with Wales. It's the first time he's ever been dropped while available for selection.

More tellingly, Brown seems to have tired of Geovanni's mere hour of influence and jettisoned the Brazilian in favour of a more central role for Craig Fagan, with Daniel Cousin having to serve a short ban before getting his debut. French comic and conjurer Bernard Mendy made his first start on the right of midfield while Peter Halmosi also acquired a starting place, having failed to do more than put on his training kit while away with Hungary.

So, with City forced into Newcastle's white socks and shorts because of a colour clash, we got underway. Supporters unfamiliar (and in some more rotund cases, incompatible) with the 14 flights of stairs to the top of the Sir John Hall Stand were still turning up long after the game was settling down.

The protests were loud but hollow - as ever, Newcastle fans unable to see their hands in front of their faces were chanting for the board to go, Ashley to go (he didn't sack Keegan, of course) and Wise to go (which I'll endorse, irrespective of whether he has done anything wrong, he's still Dennis Wise) and it was clear that the locals weren't that bothered about the game, not least because of their obvious disdain for the upstarts in grey who had turned up to play.

City took this in their stride. The first chance was theirs, with Fagan making a wide angled run before cutting in and wildly firing over. A poor effort, but alleviated by the intent behind it. Ashbee and the tremendous Marney were winning the midfield, King was giving urchin centre back Steven Taylor all sorts of trouble, Halmosi was having fun on his flank. It was all good.

Fagan, who spent his off the ball moments taking the mick out of Michael Owen, was rampant in his attacking mindset, teasing the home defence mercilessly before giving King a good shooting opening which Shay Given, a fine goalkeeper who really should have joined Arsenal when he had the chance, got his gloves round.

Newcastle rallied a little, with new Keegan-unapproved signing Xisco shaping to shoot after a counter attack, only for Gardner to get a solid and vital block on the ball from just six yards out. Then Geremi almost walked past Andy Dawson to deliver a far post ball which Danny Guthrie, possibly the most ineffective playmaker Newcastle have had, swiping his shot harmlessly back across the area.

On the half hour, Newcastle had a free kick. The damgerous whip-in was met by the glancing forehead of Owen but Boaz Myhill got down to get a brilliant palm on the ball. A world class save from a fine keeper against a striker who must be thanking his lucky stars he didn't snap Keegan's hand off when a three-year deal was put down in front of him days before the apocalypse.

Within two minutes of this wondrous piece of goalkeeping, City were at the other end, earning the lead. Marney fed Halmosi on the left side of the area and Nicky Butt, whose tackling earned him the tag of "Pele's Favourite Player" at the 2002 World Cup, took the Hungarian's legs away impetuously and stupidly. Penalty given, and King put home his first goal for the Tigers via Given's fingertips and a post.

The roar from the Tigers fans was huge, monstrous, and how notable that Newcastle's 'passionate' group of hardy devotees chose this moment to shut up completely. Well, how loyal you all are, eh? How supportive. Your team goes behind and needs you more than ever and you go into a big sulk, a humiliated collective huff. Newcastle fans and their adoration and commitment to their club is the biggest myth in football, bigger even than the falsely-raised status of size which the club itself (last trophy: 1969) claims. And we're beating them. This is good.

Half time, grinning from ear to ear from those who had climbed those endless stairwells to reach the summit, wiping the snow from their trainers as they found their seat. It was the easiest half of football we'd played since the second period against Watford at the KC in the play-offs. It wasn't over, but now we knew that a disparate group of Newcastle players were trying to heed the advice of an acting manager whose job was presumably on the cusp of termination once the club had brought in Keegan's replacement. We felt safe.

The second half was underway for mere seconds when Mendy, who clearly has great talent to go with the faux-showboating and tendency to commit almighty howlers, skipped and scampered his way to a cross which had Fagan's name on it, only for Motley Crue-haired defender Fabricio Coloccini to get his perm to it.

We did not need to wait much longer. Newcastle broke, slung too many men forward and when City won back possession, Halmosi and Marney combined to send King clear down the inside right channel. Momentarily the chance looked less likely when he had to cut inside on to his left but he wasted no time in placing a gorgeous curler past Given and sending the travelling Tiger Nation completely round the bend. King acknowledged the supporters with one arm raised, and afterwards needed treatment because we were so high up he was blinded by the sun.

We were 2-0 up and laughing - literally, this was. Not only was it an amazing feeling, it was funny. We were giving Newcastle, this forlorn club, desperate for love and sympathy, the spanking they deserved. Bubbles of grandeur had been popped conclusively. Some of their loyal supporters were leaving the ground. If I were influential at Newcastle, I'd ask them never to return, thanks. Then those three wretches did the circumference of the stadium with the COCKNEY MAFIA OUT! banner, earning applause from all sides and giggles from the City fans as we sang "Are you Grimsby in disguise?"

On the pitch, Newcastle caused a flurry of worry when Guthrie's cross turned into a shot which Myhill managed to touch on to the crossbar and away. But still City looked most likely to alter the scoreline. Mendy miskicked from 18 yards after fine work from McShane and King; then Turner headed home Halmosi's corner only for the referee to spot an obstruction of Given and whistle for a free kick.

Phil Brown brought on Caleb Folan for the excellent and eccentric Mendy, then Bryan Hughes - ever a surprising choice for the 18 - replaced Marney, who'd taken a knock but was by some distance the best midfielder on show. With ten minutes left as Guthrie battered another shot wastefully high and wide, it looked safe. Owen was dropping deeper and not making chances for himself, although one piece of heel-toe magic did bamboozle McShane and Gardner and leave even the City fans inwardly applauding the class on view.

Newcastle then scored, a little fortuitously, when Charles N'Zogbia, a good player who was noticeable for his anonymity here, aimed a shot past Myhill. It struck the post and bounced perfectly into the path of Xisco, who finished the job. It could have gone anywhere upon smacking the woodwork, but Newcastle got the break and Xisco retrieved the ball from the net. We expected an onslaught.

It never really happened. Newcastle had the possession but City's banks of four and five, helped by debutant Kamil Zayatte's introduction for the heroic King, mopped up everything and anything the Newcastle side could send our way. In the five minutes of injury time, the frustration turned into idiocy when Fagan was cracked nastily across the back of his legs by Guthrie as he timewasted in the corner, and the runny-nosed midfielder was given a straight red as players from all angles dived in.

The full time whistle was greeted by joy and mirth but not disbelief. We know the truth about how skilled, organised and laced in team spirit our squad is, and a few sniffy outsiders are beginning to realise this. A good time to play Newcastle United it maybe was, but a team still had to be carefully selected to account for an emotional atmosphere and an assumption of making up the numbers. This was an outstanding day in the history of Hull City. Newcastle United, meanwhile, should feel ashamed in all quarters - with the exception of the players. Matey owners, overrated managers and brainless supporters are merely part of the problem, not the solution. And didn't Hull City just prove it.

We're fourth in the table, with seven points from 12.

Newcastle United: Given, Edgar (Bassong 68), Taylor, Coloccini, N'Zogbia, Geremi, Butt, Guthrie, Xisco, Owen, Ameobi (Gonzalez 61). Subs not used: Harper, Cacapa, Danquah, Doninger, Donaldson

Hull City: Myhill, McShane, Turner, Gardner, Dawson, Mendy (Folan 73), Marney (Hughes 78), Ashbee, Halmosi, King (Zayatte 83), Fagan. Subs not used: Duke, Windass, Geovanni, Ricketts