All I had to do was take to the streets of Newcastle, any day of the week, to understand the obsession with football and the monumental weight of expectation in that city.
I don’t think there is any city in the UK where you would see so many people wearing the local team’s colors when that team wasn’t even playing. It never surprised me.
I was like all managers before and after me and thought, ‘If you get this right, what a great football club this could be’ when I took over in 2004. But the managers didn’t stay with that club for long.
It was a very difficult place to work, to get everyone rowing in the same direction. You are only one game away from all that is wrong. You can run well, but the moment you lose a match, things change dramatically.
There was an unhealthy relationship between the local newspaper and the club when I arrived.
The obsession people in Newcastle have with their football team never ceases to amaze me
I enjoyed my time there as a manager but it was a very difficult place to work to get everyone rowing in the same direction and I always felt like there was a self-destruct button
The newspaper was quick with criticism: the fastest I’ve ever experienced in my time in football. I will never forget a local journalist who took pride in telling me on my first day of work there how he got previous managers fired.
I led the team there for two seasons and the city showed promise as we entered the second week of April 2005. We played a UEFA Cup quarter-final at Sporting Lisbon on Thursday and an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Sunday.
We were 2-0 up against Sporting on aggregate, but conceded three in the last 20 minutes, then lost the semi-final to United.
In four days everything had gone from good to bad. From right to wrong. That typified how things were up there, at that time. I always felt like there was a self-destruct button.
It didn’t always help that Newcastle is such a social city. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the socializing is done at the right time.
There were some villains in my group who overdid it. The place is something of an outpost and the players were put on a dangerous pedestal when they went out.
Anniversaries are always mentioned at a trophy-seeking club, but the 68 years since Newcastle last won a major is a burden to carry into tomorrow afternoon.
They are the biggest British club without a domestic trophy in the last 50 years and if you look at the smaller teams to have won one – Wigan, Birmingham City, Swansea City – you can see why there has been such a desire to have one here. to end. drought.
Nick Pope’s absence will hurt Newcastle badly on Sunday, but I think it’s a 50/50 game
Their performance this season is down to Eddie Howe getting a tune out of the players and steering the squad really well – his team is always daring and that’s something I love
Newcastle are the biggest British club not to win a domestic trophy in the last 50 years
I think it’s a 50/50 game. United are too dependent on Marcus Rashford for goals, but Nick Pope’s absence is very important. Pope has had a great season and the relationship between goalkeeper and defender is like a team within a team. The keeper and his defenders know each other’s strengths. If you’re a central defender, you instinctively know when your keeper is coming for a cross.
Nevertheless, Newcastle will go into this game with a lot of confidence. Their success this season is not about the Saudis lying around with money. The £250 million spent under this ownership has been proportionate.
The performance is down to Eddie Howe getting a tune out of the players and leading the squad really well. His team is daring and I like that. Under some previous managers, they were super careful, both at home and on the road. But Eddie has come over and wherever the team has been, they’ve said, ‘Okay, we’re going to play a game of football with you. We’re going to beat you, play football and try to win the game.’ That’s all in their name. So far, so good.
I know the significance of what lies ahead for Newcastle. They will dance on the Quayside and the Bigg Market in that great football town if they can find a way to win.
Modric shows that you can’t blame an aging midfield for Liverpool’s problems
That was a huge wake-up call for Liverpool on Tuesday. After starting out so well, they were back to the level they were at for the past five years before falling apart.
From unbridled, confident and energetic, Liverpool ended the night chasing shadows against a Real Madrid side who barely lifted any trees in their league.
Many of Liverpool’s problems came from their midfield, which had been the best at bullying teams for three or four years.
If they’re not good at that in a match, the whole team suffers.
You don’t win the ball that high up the field and the strikers suffer. You don’t stop the opponent from making the pass they want to make, so the defense suffers.
There is a great temptation to look at the age of the midfielders and say: ‘That’s the problem’, but it’s not that black and white. It’s not like you get on the wrong side of 30 and everything becomes a problem. Everyone hits that wall at a different age. There is no better example of this than little wizard Luka Modric who runs the show from midfield on Tuesday at the age of 37.
I’m sure the manager knows what it takes to get the team back to where they’ve been for the last five or six years and the season is far from over.
Liverpool have 16 games left this season. That’s 48 points to ensure they qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Luka Modric led the show from midfield for Real Madrid against Liverpool at the age of 37
Lack of courage hurts Hammers
An important weekend for West Ham, against Nottingham Forest, and I would like to quote some numbers that say a lot about their problems.
Last season they were fourth in the Premier League for goals from set pieces, with 15. This season they are tied for 16th, with four so far.
There are two components to scoring those set goals. Delivery, which I would suggest, has not changed. And a willingness to take a hit for the cause – stick your head where you can get an elbow over your chops – which is what I’d suggest.
I know Craig Dawson has gone to Wolves, but this feels like a reluctance to take one for a good cause. If the courage is not there in set pieces, it will be missing in the rest of their game.
A lack of courage from West Ham hampers them this year as they languish in 18th
Bobby Moore was a true knight of the game
Yesterday marked 30 years since Bobby Moore died and I have never forgotten what an exceptional man he was.
When I was a 17-year-old trainee at Tottenham in the late 1960s, I went to a particular nightclub popular with West Ham and Spurs players.
I had been a few times when I was introduced to Bobby. A few weeks later I was back at the place when he came by and remembered my name. This was 1969-70 and a World Cup winning captain remembered the name of a young Spurs pupil.
We youth players played the South East Counties league in the morning, kick off at 11am, and got free tickets to watch the first team in the afternoon. So I occasionally got to see Bobby play.
It is often a sign of greatness when someone makes a job look easy. Bobby wasn’t the fastest physically, but he was the fastest thinker and never got caught out for lack of speed.
The words “great,” “world class,” and “legend” are outrageously overused these days, but they all applied to him. It is a crime that he never received a posthumous knighthood.
Bobby Moore was one of the greatest of all time, both on and off the field. 30 years after his death, it is a crime that he was never knighted posthumously