The bell for round two was sounded on Monday evening, taking the form of a referee’s whistle. This season threatened to be more of the same for Newcastle before a ball had even been kicked, with a summer of unsatisfactory transfer (in)activity behind them.
Within 45 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, two goals down and a man light, the Magpies were on the ropes, already struggling for breath, looking to their corner for inspiration. They could have been forgiven for wondering exactly who to turn to. Alan Pardew brought smiles to the faces of players and fans alike with a stunning first full season in charge, but lately has been giving the impression of a joyless puppet, as the walls close in around him.
Joe Kinnear was brought in to help the boss with transfers, yet the only addition to the squad has been the on-loan signing of a player, Loic Remy, who Newcastle nearly signed in January. Oh, and since then he has become embroiled in controversial off-the-pitch legal stew. Valid questions can be asked about his temperament, but his ability and strike-rate for another struggling side in QPR cannot be denied.
The summer has mainly seen the dream team of Pardew and Kinnear making noises about possible signings, with ‘getting them over the line’ being the buzz phrase of choice. Well as things stand, getting the ball over one line and keeping it from crossing another are both proving troublesome. With Steven Taylor banned for three games, and Santon remaining inexplicably injured, Mike Williamson is within touching distance of game time, an outcome that will leave many heads in hands.
To get the season on the right track, and avoid a relegation scrap, many things are required. Unfortunately, a change of manager (and director of football for that matter) should be high on the agenda, as even that would lead to better performances from a group of players that have lost their motivation, their drive, and pride for the shirt, if it ever existed in the first place for the Frenchmen.
Next, is a replacement for Yohan Cabaye, who, while immensely talented, is obviously unhappy on Tyneside. A winger, a forward, and another centre-back are also needed, before anyone else even leaves. One thing is for sure – Cabaye is what attracted a lot of the better French players to the club. With his departure, many will follow.
With home games against West Ham and Fulham to come, four points are a minimum requirement for anyone looking to claim Newcastle are heading in the right direction. A small percentage of Newcastle fans will doubtlessly be hoping for a complete implosion in the next couple of weeks in order to rid themselves of the unholy trinity, but one would hope the eleven that takes the field will retain a decent level of support, or the club may find itself in a relegation tailspin that no manager can reverse.