Ryan Fraser’s classy gesture, Burnley or bust as the records stack against Newcastle United after Norwich City draw
No Premier League team has stayed up after not winning in their opening 14 games. There’s still hope for Newcastle United - but time is already running out.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Commitment, heart and desire? Yes. A season-defining three points? No.
Callum Wilson’s converted penalty promised lift-off. Teemu Pukki’s equaliser provided that similar sinking feeling.
Another huge, huge game follows this weekend - Burnley at home. And it really is now or never.
Ciaran Clark’s stupidity, Eddie Howe’s apology
Not even a good night’s sleep - or for many, not so good after another game without a win - can bring any kind of understanding or sympthany Clark’s way.
Howe described Clark’s decision as “impluse”. Newcastle fans, however, aren’t so kind with their words as the defender left their team to play 81 minutes with 10-men.
Howe’s game plan went out the window, and Ryan Fraser, a player hunting to revive his Toon career under his former boss, was sacarfised for Federico Fernandez.
Fraser’s reaction to being suited was pure class - another sign of how much love and respect the Scotland international has for the Howe.
Howe held his hands up to Fraser when the substitution board went up. Fraser did the same, with a gesture to say ‘it’s OK, I understand’.
Indeed, it should be Clark doing all the apologising, not Newcastle’s head coach.
These moments happen but on the club’s biggest night of the year, it’s hard to be as forgiving, especially for a player who has underperformed hugely this year.
A performance that had everything but three points
Howe said afterwards he could not fault his players’ effort and commitment and it’s impossible to disagree.
Those in black and white were dead on their feet after giving everything to cause. The only criticism there can be is they didn’t hold onto their lead.
But Newcastle fans say they only ever demand a team that tries, so when a few boos rang around St James’ Park at the full-time, we can only presume it was out of pure frustration that an elusive three points slipped away.
Joelinton MOTM, Jamal Lewis & Federico Fernandez close second
The improvements since Howe’s arrival are clear to see but on an indivudal player basis, perhaps Joelinton is the biggest.
Against Norwich, the Brazilian was everywhere for his side. He covered every blade of grass, whether that be on the wing, in support of Callum Wilson or as a central midfield.
To his critics, let’s just forget about this £40million price tag. If the 25-year-old continues to put in shifts like that for the club then he should be lauded off the pitch.
And quite tellingly, the two players brought in from the cold last night- Jamal Lewis and Fernandez - were a close second behind Joelinton.
Lewis was excellent down that left-hand side. In the opening stages, it was apparent he was told to push high up the pitch by Howe until the red card arrived.
But he adapted. There are question marks over his defending at times given his desire to attack but Lewis certainly erased those against his former side.
Based on that performance, there will be no rush to recall Matt Ritchie. Jamaal Lascelles, however, could be straight back in after Clark’s dismissal.
But should Howe keep faith with Fernandez? He made a strong case to continue his partnership with Fabian Schar when Burnley visit this weekend.
There will be temptation to immediately recall captain Lascelles but perhaps the Argentine is a safer bet with the former completely out of form.
Eddie Howe’s black and white army
A positive Covid-19 test, less than 24 hours before the Brenford game, forced Howe to delay his St James’ Park home dugout debut but it was worth the wait.
OK, so it wasn’t the perfect evening as he marked it with just a point but on a personal note for the new United head coach, it was undoubtedly spine-tingling stuff.
Pre-match, Heinz hit ‘Just like Eddie’ belted over the tannoy before the ever-superb Wor Flags display banners that read ‘Eddie Howe’s black and white army’ and ‘Make each day your master piece’, a quote from John Wooden that Howe lives by.
Welcome to Newcastle United, Eddie.
St James’ Park at its very best
The Geordie-faithful took the 12th man cliche, or in this instance the 11th man, to a new level in the second-half.
Every run, block and crunching tackle was greeted by a rapturous noise and applause before the crowd erupted when Wilson netted.
Newcastle, their 10 players and 50,000+ fans didn’t quite their just rewards but it was atmosphere that will be admired around the world.
You wouldn’t think the club was bottom of the Premier League, without a victory since May and fearing relegation.
That is kudos to Newcastle’s magfincient support, one that really is unqiue. Howe knows that all too well.
Burnley or bust
At the beginning of this defining week, Norwich City and Burnley were labelled as must-win games. Not by Howe, but pretty much from everyone else.
Well, Newcastle have already tripped at the first hurdle. The fear is that will bring consquences further down the line but right now, Howe & Co can do nothing to change it.
Howe’s side must beat Burnley. Failure to do that spells disaster for various reasons.
In their ‘mini-league’, Newcastle have failed to beat Southampton, Leeds, Brentford and now Norwich at home. Watford away is another.
From a possible 15, they’ve picked up five points. Not beating the teams in and around them means United will have to go out and win against teams they aren’t expected to. We all know the December fixture list by now...
Getting the duck off the club’s winless back is becoming more and more desperate each week. It’s needed for confidence.
But when a relegation rival comes to town, it’s equally important to prevent them from pulling away at their expense.
The records are stacked against Newcastle
Swindon Town (1994), QPR (2013) and Sheffield United (2021) are the only other Premier League teams not to win in their opening 14 games.
Indeed, all were relegated. Not a pretty statistic, to say the least. However, the gap from safety is only five points.
On current viewing, staying up is a very difficult task but not impossible task. That said, that can all change very quickly if this plight continues.