Pundit – Newcastle Look Completely Different Under Benitez

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright believes that Newcastle are now almost unrecognizable from the side that kept collapsing under former head coach Steve McClaren.

When Steve was finally sacked – far too late – we had only 24 points from 28 games played with McClaren still insisting he could save Newcastle from the drop – which he had been saying all season – he just needed more time.

And Wright thinks that if Rafa can save Newcastle, the turnaround on Tyneside would be even more important than the turnaround in that second half in Istanbul back in May, 2005.


Rafa Benitez – two games from glory?

This is what Ian Wright has said in The Sun as he made Rafa his  manager of the weekend:

“All of a sudden survival looks a very real prospect for Newcastle — and you have to take your hat off to Rafa Benitez for that.”

“Saturday’s priceless win over Crystal Palace hauled them out of the bottom three for the first time since February, and made it eight points from the last four games.”

“Or, to put it another way, nearly a quarter of the points they’ve managed all season in just over two weeks. Talk about making your mark — the Spaniard has certainly done that since arriving in mid-March.”

“The Toon have looked a totally different team since Benitez got hold of them, and the fans are just praying they didn’t wait too long before giving him a call.”

“I know they’re not out of the woods yet and Sunderland have a game in hand.”

“But with Villa next up, you wouldn’t back against Rafa completing a comeback even more important than that one in Istanbul with Liverpool.”

Rafa will be drumming it into his players this week to forget all about the hype that will be building up for the  game at Villa Park on Saturday – and he will have a game plan to win and get all 3 points.

Villa’s defense is hopeless and they have conceded 72 goals – 8 more than Newcastle – so we expect Newcastle to test Villa’s defense from the very first whistle on Saturday.

It’s another must win game for us – we hope the lads can get the job done.

Comments welcome.

99 comments so far

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    Comment #1

    Alan Pardew ( not noted for wit and repartee ) when asked about HippoHeeds comments said “prehistoric” which was quite good for him.

    Allardyce took over 0n 9th October when sunlun had 3 point from 8 games.

    They now have 32 points from 35 games
    24 more points from 27 games.


    He’s had 7 months and a window !

    They should have changed him with 10 games to go !

  • job

    May 3, 2016 at 8:38 AM

    Comment #2

    Still think the pl will contrive to have us down was the scums penalty really a penalty

  • job

    May 3, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    Comment #3

    Palarse ‘s certainly was not

  • Bambams

    May 3, 2016 at 8:45 AM

    Comment #4

    Have a good watch of Sunderland when they play.

    I have really took an interest in how many free kicks they win. They are constantly over reacting to the slightest touch. It started for me when Fletcher almost threw himself into the stand from Colo shoulder when he was sent off.

    If anyone else has the many motd recordings stored have a look.

    Is it a skill or pure cheating.

    Seriously keep a watch on them when the slightest of touches sends them to the ground.


  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    Comment #5

    Yes, Fat Sams record throws some weight behind what I’ve long considered the reason why we ultimately have always had a good chance of salvaging our season at the death. Sunderland and Norwich are shithouse!

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    Comment #6

    It is 29 points if your other figures are correct. 29 from 27 games, more than a point a game and in most seasons enough to keep a side up. Given the Sunderland squad, he hasn’t done too badly.

  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 8:55 AM

    Comment #7


  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    Comment #8

    Lil, what is Mbabu’s most natural position?

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    Comment #9

    Didn’t see the game at the weekend as had other things going on. How was the game? An important result for us, shame Sunderland got the late penalty, but other than that not abad weekend at all for Newcastle.

    Next week could be interesting, ‘a mass release of energy’ from the Villa fans on 74 minutes, not entirely sure what that will be, but lets hope that it doesn’t prove to be a distraction for our players from what is another huge match for us.

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Comment #10

    Probably right back. That is where he played before joining us, and where he has been used most for all our teams. Although he looks very comfortable on the ball and given the ease with which he coped filling in at left back he could well develop into quite a good and intelligent defensive midfielder.

    Right back at the moment though.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Comment #11


    Reminds me of the standing joke when “diver” Klinsmann played for Spuds all those years ago.

    A guy was watching TH on MotD one Saturday night when he had to go for a scoot – he brushed the tv with his hip and Klinsmann fell over.

  • job

    May 3, 2016 at 9:03 AM

    Comment #12

    Ashley are you watching Leicester celebrate take note and learn

  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 9:03 AM

    Comment #13

    We were well organised throughout but wound up too tight in the first period to really threaten. Then relaxed and opened up the play in the second, and did enough to deserve the win.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    Comment #14

    Lilo you are right
    I took no of games from points- doh

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:07 AM

    Comment #15

    However 1 point a game when you only have 30 games left and only 3 points in the bag is only a total of 33.

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 9:10 AM

    Comment #16

    Thanks, quite a few of the reports I’ve read said we were pretty poor in the first half, and Palace dominated midfield for most of the first 45. A lot of pressure on them at the moment, so no surprise that they are tightly wound.

    In all honesty, performances matter little at this stage, it would be nice to be the better side and win, but I’ll take scrappy 2 lots of scrappy 3 points over the next couple of weeks!

  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    Comment #17

    Mmmm. Ok, thanks. Somehow got the impression he was a CB, but yeah, he looks physically impressive, both powerful and athletic, as well as comfortable on the ball, so yes, the makings of a good fullback or defensive mid.

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    Comment #18

    Yeah, but 1 point a game over a season is usually enough to keep you up. I wouldn’t be expecting any manager who had gone there to be doing a huge amount more so far. He still has 3 games to pick up points, and 2 of them are against sides that aren’t convincing anyone at the moment.

    Not praising him, but it is pretty even between the two of us for who will go down now, and if he keeps them up then he will have achieved his aims for the season. Wouldn’t be overly critical of his performance just yet is all I’m saying.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:18 AM

    Comment #19

    Kevin is from Switzerland and transfermarkt is compiled in Switzerland – so this should be right !


  • jimmysmith

    May 3, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    Comment #20

    Yeah, in the first half we struggled to handle Cabaye and the other lad in central mid, and also Bolasie. Cisse appeared very isolated up top, but we upped the tempo early in the second and finished the better side. Townsend was very good throughout, as was the defence.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:23 AM

    Comment #21

    It just takes nicking the odd jammy win like against us at the stadium of shyte or Palace away on a cold Monday night and you’ve cracked it.
    His big problem is that he’s lost 11 games.

  • BandB

    May 3, 2016 at 9:27 AM

    Comment #22

    I’m pleased we appointed a manager who commands respect as well as fear.
    Rafa has been able to inspire as well as galvanize players and fans alike.
    It is difficult to imagine Leicester winning the league had Pearson remained in charge. We at least have our next-step appointment already in place.
    Players and fans though need stay focussed on clearing the two hurdles still to jump, lest premature celebration creeps from one group into the other.

  • Bambams

    May 3, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    Comment #23


    I have never mentioned it before but they know how to win a free kick.

    I know other teams/players will have dropped easily but it’s just showing now with Defoe and his reading of CB how to play for the tackle.

    No coincidence he made sure he was just inside the box when he took the pass.

    Teams can be relegated with the decision of a ref…its just so difficult for them at times.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    Comment #24

    You say it’s hard for refs and I agree , but also for defenders.
    Colback got roundly abused on here for Riad Mahrez’ free kick on the right wing down at Leicester (Rafa’s first game) but the Algerian completely suckered Jack and the ref Craig Pawson.

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 9:44 AM

    Comment #25

    Yeah, but most teams at the bottom need that. There aren’t many (any?) Sunderland players I’d take from their starting 11 into ours though, so based on that he has done reasonably with them. I agree, he has lost too many, but then so have all the teams down the bottom, and nicking lucky or hard earned wins is key to the survival hopes of any team in the relegation battle.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 9:52 AM

    Comment #26


    The various comments on Leicester City’s fine effort.

    Knowing football supporters – there will be a few of the Foxes die-hard fanbase this morning feeling just a tad irked and ticked off at all of the bandwagon jumpers who have come out of the woodwork.

    They are probably watching TV this morning humming “where were you when we were crap ?” quietly to themselves.

  • job

    May 3, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    Comment #27

    Oi oi bandb

  • shaun83

    May 3, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    Comment #28

    Sunderland getting that point against Stoke is a real sickener, could be vital. I know it’s gone and can only look at next game etc but still that’s a blow

  • Charlie in the Gallowgate

    May 3, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    Comment #29

    We were poor first half – Palace played a spoiling game took time wasting to a new high first half to disrupt us (ref played 3 minutes xtra – no serious injuries to consider) and in our frustration played into their hands playing hoofball to to lone striker Cisse who is not cut out for the high ball game.
    Second half kept ball on the deck passed on the deck and ran at them –
    different team different game and got the result.

    Lets not blow all the hard work at Villa!!!!!!

  • Charlie in the Gallowgate

    May 3, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    Comment #30


    This weekends games not included.

    Refereeing decisions are regularly the source of debate among fans, pundits, players and managers so this season a five-strong TEAMtalk panel will be passing judgement on every red card (or avoidance of one), every penalty and any other major incident every matchday.

    We’ll also keep a tally of the major decisions to go for and against each team in an attempt to settle the never-ending debate about whether certain clubs are favoured more than others by Premier League referees.

    Seasonal for and against

    Team For Against Total For/Against
    1. Liverpool Fourteen Six +8
    2.Leicester Seventeen Ten +7
    = Man United Nine Two +7
    = Man City Thirteen Six +7
    5. Aston Villa Seven Two +5
    6. Sunderland Nine Five +4
    7. Tottenham Eight Five +3
    8. Crystal Palace Seven Five +2
    9. Everton Four Four 0
    = Stoke Seven Seven 0
    11. Watford Six Seven -1
    12. Chelsea Nine Eleven -2
    13. Norwich Four Seven -3
    =West Brom Seven Ten -3
    15. Arsenal Ten Fourteen -4
    16. Southampton Seven Eleven -4
    18. Newcastle Five Ten -5
    18. Swansea Five Eleven -6
    19. Bournemouth Five Twelve -7
    20. West Ham Seven Eighteen -11

    Here’s the six incorrect decisions which could yet cost United their top-flight status:

    1. What should have been as 2-0 up rapidly becomes 6-1 down
    Manchester City 6-1 Newcastle United (October 3, 2015)

    In some ways, this offside call was as bad – if not worse – than the Aguero one at St James’ Park, yet it quickly got forgotten about as United collapsed to a 6-1 defeat having controlled the game until just before half-time.

    Aleksandar Mitrovic had put Newcastle ahead, and he slotted in a second after 25 minutes.

    Daryl Janmaat had advanced down the right, and played it across the face of goal to Mitrovic – who was stood at five yards behind the Dutchman when the ball was centred – and the Serbian had it in the back of Man City’s net once again.

    Incredibly, the offside flag was raised – and eventually Aguero netted five, and United capitulated.

    But if they had gone 2-0 up, things might have been very different.

    2. Handball or a clothesline – take your pick?
    Sunderland 3-0 Newcastle United (October 25, 2015)

    The first of two controversial incidents within the space of 30 seconds at the Stadium of Light back in October.

    With the scoreline at 0-0 after 44 minutes, Georginio Wijnaldum advanced into the box and flicked the ball around Lee Cattermole.

    Not only did the ball hit Cattermole’s arm – a handball could have been given, but would likely have been harsh – the Sunderland defender then almost clotheslined Wijnaldum as he prevented the Newcastle midfielder getting past him.

    The latter, certainly, should have been a penalty for Newcastle.

    3. The snowball effect
    Sunderland 3-0 Newcastle United (October 25, 2015)

    Referee Bobby Madley only compounded his mistake with another on Wearside.

    Immediately after Cattermole’s indiscretions went unpunished, Sunderland counter attacked, Steven Fletcher got in behind Fabricio Coloccini, and the Argentine knocked the Black Cats attacker down.

    It probably was a penalty by the letter of the law, and it was a stupid challenge, but it should not have been a red card.

    Madley allowed his poor decisions to snowball, and he dismissed Coloccini.

    The resultant penalty was scored, and eventually Newcastle lost 3-0 having thoroughly outplayed Sunderland when they had 11 men.

    Have NUFC been hard done by this season?
    500+ VOTES SO FAR

    Yes – referees have had some shockers
    No – it all evens itself out
    4. A small call, but it made a huge impact
    Newcastle United 0-1 Everton (December 26, 2015)

    As decisions go, whether a side should have been awarded a goal-kick or a corner would usually appear marginal.

    When that incorrectly-awarded corner then results in a 93rd-minute winner though, then controversy abounds.

    Against Everton on Boxing Day, Romelu Lukaku clearly got the final touch on the ball and Newcastle should have been given a goal-kick.

    Instead the Toffees won a corner, and Tom Cleverley eventually looped a winning header over Rob Elliot.

    You could argue Newcastle should still have defended the set-piece better, but there should never have been a corner in the first place.

    5. Penalty woes continue
    West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Newcastle United (December 28, 2015)

    When Mitrovic was not awarded a clear-cut penalty at The Hawthorns in December, Newcastle’s spot-kick drought at the time – which has now thankfully ended – stretched to 367 days.

    Right on the hour Mark, Mitrovic cut inside Jonny Evans in the box and went to hit a shot, before the Baggies defender clearly pulled the Serbian back.

    Mitrovic got an effort away while falling backwards, which was deflected behind for a corner, yet United were not given a spot-kick despite Evans’ obvious infringement.

    Eventually Darren Fletcher headed in a winning goal for the Baggies, but if Newcastle have been awarded their penalty, things could have turned out rather differently.

    6. One of the worst offside decisions in Premier League history?
    Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester City (April 19, 2016)

    When Aleksandar Kolarov whipped in his free-kick from the left-hand side, Aguero had been stood in an offside position for 30 seconds.

    Somehow though, assistant referee Dave Bryan did not raise his flag before or after the Argentine nodded Man City in front.

    The entirety of St James’ Park, Bryan aside, knew Aguero was offside.

  • Lilongwe Geordie

    May 3, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    Comment #31

    Thanks, that is similar to the reports I read. I think I was probably watching the better football then by the sounds of it!

    Really important we keep our focus next week and don’t allow ourselves to be distracted by Villa’s protests and off field actions. Also pleased that the crowd (from what I have read) largely ignored the return of Pardew and focussed on backing the team.

  • Tsunki

    May 3, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    Comment #32

    I agree we seem to have been one of the top teams for refs to make poor (and crucial as the season panned out) decisions against. But where free kicks and penalty awards are concerned, our almost total lack of movement up front has done more to stop us being awarded anything, more so than poor refereeing decisions imo.

  • Tsunki

    May 3, 2016 at 10:46 AM

    Comment #33

    Villa don’t seem to have won a game since the Attlee government hit a rocky patch I really hope we aren’t the ones to break their curse.

  • Ron Knee

    May 3, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Comment #34

    We’re generally happy to oblige struggling teams!

  • Tsunki

    May 3, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    Comment #35

    On the issue of Leicestershire “plastic fans” I don’t understand why any long term supporter would be irked at the influx of new interest. Do they not want their clubs fan base to grow, their side become more successful, to carry the impetus forward so they become established as a top flight team? Or would they prefer the so-so crowds they got a few divisions ago now they are in the premiership top team club?

    This is another of my gripes about the concept of plastic fans, they’re only plastic if they disappear again when things aren’t so rosy. That when they should whinge, cry, bitch, whimper, rhyme on and moan about them.

  • Jib

    May 3, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    Comment #36

    Some folk will not like this!

    Former Newcastle United forward Faustino Asprilla has told Eurosport that the players are the ones who should be blamed for the club’s struggles this season, not controversial owner Mike Ashley.
    The Colombian said: “I know him [Ashley], I spoke to him and I met him. I always thought the problem is not the chairman or the owner. The problem, in my opinion, are always the players. He is doing everything he can to help the team, but they should be playing with more effort. I don’t think Newcastle’s problem is the owner.”

    “I think there are players who love this team. But I would like all the players play at a top level like I did. They should love that shirt and make sacrifices for the importance of that team.
    There are players that are not showing these feelings. Newcastle should be fighting for the title, not in relegation zone. I hope that next year they will find players who will fight.”

  • Tsunki

    May 3, 2016 at 10:54 AM

    Comment #37

    I don’t want to predict a win as I’m sure it will place a spell of doom on us, but we could do with handing villa one of the worst beatings in living memory. The coup de grace to despatch them to the dungeon after their antics in our relegation year. I hope our supporters are in full and fitting song 🙂

  • Charlie in the Gallowgate

    May 3, 2016 at 10:54 AM

    Comment #38

    Crowd were brilliant – Pardew most likely more miffed that he got no/little abuse and the adulation Rafa got.

    Very emotional the minutes clapping for the Hillsbrough 96 when the crowd broke into song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ must admit – shed a few tears.

  • Tsunki

    May 3, 2016 at 10:56 AM

    Comment #39

    Tino is probably after a job at the Toon some time 🙂 when Bobby gets wheeled out he could slide right in. He could do corporate days and entertain the executive boxes with his handgun skills.

  • bettyswallocks

    May 3, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    Comment #40

    These plastic fans tend to melt away when the heat is turned up.


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