Only last week, things looked bleak for Newcastle United. Following a devastating, last minute 3-2 defeat to Norwich City that left the Toon Army six points from safety, there was a spineless, gutless display against a classy Southampton who simply left them for dead, with the Saints running out 3-1 winners at a canter.
For many, that defeat was the final straw – all hope seemed lost, and relegation seemed inevitable – though many had been saying that for months. Dismal display after dismal display meant that nobody really believed the team – if you could even call the group of headless chickens running around on the pitch a team – could possibly survive.
Too Little Too Late for Newcastle?
And yet, in the space of a few short days, hope springs eternal. An excellent performance on Saturday against Swansea City saw Newcastle run out 3-0 winners – their first win since a 1-0 victory over West Brom on February the sixth. Still, Swansea are sitting comfortably in mid-table, and with nothing to play for relegation scrapping United were almost expected to win.
What was thoroughly unexpected, however, was the 1-1 draw against Manchester City – a side still battling to secure Champions League football next season. Whilst the result was not ideal – particularly given the fact that Sergio Augero’s goal for the away side was clearly offside – the performance was much improved, and brought Newcastle within two points of Norwich City, and safety.
What was especially good to see was the vast improvement in the performance of Moussa Sissoko. The Frenchman has come under a lot of criticism this season for a string of lackluster displays, but after being handed the captain’s armband against Swansea his confidence seems to have come back in spades. A goal against the Swans was followed up by one of his best displays of the season against City – one he almost capped with a wonder-goal following a superb, end to end run.
However, despite the new-found belief, the Magpies remain rooted firmly to the foot of the Premier League table with just four games remaining. Surely, even the most optimistic of fans must be worried that this sudden resurgence is far too little, and much too late.
What is most irritating is the fact that, throughout the season Newcastle have, on occasion, shown themselves to be a more than capable side. The 3-3 draw with Manchester United, the 2-1 win over Liverpool and the 6-2 win against Norwich in particular all prove that, when playing as a team and firing on all cylinders, Newcastle are a match for any side.
So why has there been such crippling inconsistency? It points to a team that, for a long time, have been rotten to the core. Much like the team that was relegated six years ago, United have a side full of mercenaries – players that are merely looking for a pay cheque or using the club as a stepping stone. They don’t play for the shirt, or the fans, they play only for themselves – and they only perform when it suits them.
A good result against in-form Liverpool would go a long way to pulling off an unbelievable escape – but the fact remains that there are problems at Newcastle United that will not be solved by staying in the Premier League
Main Photo: 9 August 2015 – Barclays Premier League – Newcastle United v Southampton – Moussa Sissoko of Newcastle United – Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.