Despair, anger, fear. All emotions are possible after the heartbreaking defeat against Portsmouth, a result all the more sickening because we looked like adding to our early lead three times before the interval. Pete Sixsmith seeks to steady the nerves, and remains optimistic that we will haul ourselves out of trouble…..
The first thing to do is not to panic. There is no need for it. We have the players to win a couple of games and go shooting up the league. We are a better team than West Brom, we are not in serious financial trouble like West Ham and Portsmouth, unlike Fulham and Wigan we have a large fan base, unlike Bolton, we respect our manager and unlike Newcastle we have stability behind the scenes.
I have to say that none of these thoughts entered my mind on the walk back to the car on Saturday. If I had had a full set of teeth I would have been grinding them in anger and frustration at a totally avoidable, potentially damaging defeat.
Listening to the phone in on Radio Newcastle, there was a lot of good sense spoken, interspersed with the usual heed the balls demanding that Keane be sacked forthwith and Harry Redknapp be appointed.
If I were involved in the cloning industry, I would be offering ‘arry millions for his DNA; just imagine, a whole league full of managers who don’t use the letter H.
By Sunday my mood had lightened a little bit, although the results of the afternoon games all went against us. I almost wanted the Mags to win, to keep Fulham below us, but once Spurs had won at Eastlands we were going to be in the bottom three anyway, so Danny Murphy’s penalty was greeted with a knowing chuckle at Sixsmith Towers.
However, it doesn’t disguise the fact that we lost a game to a side who, for the first 45 minutes, were the poorest seen at the SoL this season.
Had we gone two up, I think that they would have folded, and had Diouf not perpetrated the worst tackle ever in the history of the whole wide world, we would have got the point that our overall display deserved and then grumbled at only drawing with them.
My worries are twofold:
*** We do not score enough goals. We have the worst scoring record in the league, and for all the pace that Cisse brings to the team, we have no other effective striker at the moment. Nathalie Randall said to me when we signed him, that he scores one out of five, and that appears to be right. We missed Kenwyne to yet another Friday injury , while Murphy is not good enough as a second forward. The Chopra decision could well be a real problem for Roy. I think that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye and Chops may be happier away from the region.
*** The midfield has a tendency to run out of steam in the second half. Malbranque rarely completes a full 90 and I thought that Saturday was his least effective game for us. Andy Reid was tremendous in the first half and Portsmouth let him run the game. Second half they boxed him in and cut down his influence. This is where our other midfielders should take over and Richardson also slipped away after half time having produced an excellent first 45.
There are positives to take from this game: neat, crisp passing; a realisation that if Cisse is given the right ball he will score; the increasing authority of Ferdinand and the return to form of Whitehead, and as we go into a double against Blackburn, we must not turn on the players or the manager.
This is the first real test of his management skills and he deserves and needs our support. Football is not an exact science and there will be slip ups now and then.
And at the end of the day, it’s only a game of football. Ninety years ago, the lads in the trenches around Ypres would have had a lot more on their minds than whether we can win a couple of games and shoot up the league.