Opinion: Nuno’s Newcastle party poopers

Heung-min Son
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

First of all, life and death trumps sports any day of the week—and particularly Sunday—but we can say with confidence that Spurs succeeded on both fronts today. Perhaps two Newcastle players—or Arsenal’s—would have done the exact same thing in our stadium that Sergio Reguilon and Eric Dier did in theirs. Hopefully, we’ll never know. But in an ironic and, once again, near-tragic repeat of last summer, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw a crisis happen suddenly in the same part of a stadium—this time in the stands and not on the pitch. And once again his teammates were a huge part of a life-saving operation that took precedence over everything else for more than twenty minutes and, we hope, saved a life. 

The medical professionals moved with consummate speed after being alerted by our two players, Andre Marriner made a series of correct decisions and, on this day of all days, fans of this sport were reminded that it is not simply about money or power or which billionaire or repressive regime can get the upper hand over the other.

As for the game, in some ways, it worked out perfectly. Let Amanda Staveley and the MBS lackey sitting by her side bring a starved fan base to a frenzy—replete with beads, Arab headdresses and all those so American black and white towels in separate sections—over the exit of Mike Ashley and the entrance of…. To be determined. Give them a ridiculously early goal as Emerson Royal attempted some sort of flick to nowhere, lost possession and then Callum Wilson beat Cristian Romero to the spot for a deserved tap-in. Make them think for another quarter-hour that this was really going to be the return to glory they have been waiting a generation for. And then have our team—our often frustrating collection of talent—take their heart and soul and stuff it in some Northeastern rubbish bin as for more than an hour, up until Jonjo Shelvey got himself sent off in desperation trying to stop yet another Spurs attack, we lorded over the new Magpie lords, by the end Yasir Al-Rumayyan was downcast, his cute date/partner had stopped smiling and Staveley looked just short of Cruella De Ville as the reality of a relegation fight grew more apparent. It may be that Middlesbrough may be on the way to Mecca for this particular regime—time will tell.

On the pitch, it begins and ends with only one man—Tanguy Ndombele. Even in that first lacklustre fifteen minutes, his ability to shed defenders, look for a teammate in space and turn the field was about the only positive. And then it became so much more—a brilliant strike for the first goal, some superb pressing, a contribution on the combination ending with Kane’s cross for the final goal, dribbles and passes and runs that simply outclassed anything Newcastle could throw at him. His engine combined with Kane, Son and whichever between Bergwijn, Lucas and Gil Nuno chooses to put in front makes us a dangerous team once again. And with Hojbjerg and Skipp providing the cover behind him—both were superb today, particularly the youngster despite the Dane’s nice over the top ball to Kane–All of a sudden, for perhaps the first time since vintage Dembele in 2016-17, we might just have the making of a superb middle three. Kane is still not at his best, but two exquisite plays on the second and third goals shows his class—the ease of that chip of the outside of his boot when the world, including him, incorrectly thought him offside was laudable, as was the precision of his cross to Son for the next. Son is also not yet at his peak—still a few wasted opportunities and runs that dried up too quickly—but better days will come. Lucas had a mare of a first half-hour, then atoned with first a brilliant header off the bar, and then the pass to Kane setting up the final goal. Reguilon was solid aside from his instant move to Marriner to stop the game because of the medical crisis, Dier’s comical own goal will be long forgotten against a generally solid game and his rush to the sideline to get the medical personnel over to the opposite side of the ground as quickly as possible. Emerson recovered from his early mistake to put in a pretty good ninety minutes. 

It was just Newcastle—a side in deep trouble. Much tougher tests await. But it was also a blow—if temporary—against a certain standard of propriety and decency that the Premier League has allowed to slip. We aren’t saints—and neither are Norwich or Brighton or Burnley. But neither are we a regime whose outlook and behaviour should be called out for what it really is.

Just because a billionaire with alleged Putin ties and another sheikdom has already set up shop in the Club of Twenty does not mean we should simply shut up and look the other way. Newcastle United have, in one fell swoop, become a stain on the league, the sport, and the city and region they inhabit. Tottenham Hotspur stood up in its own way and said “You Shall Not Pass” today and also helped saved a life. COYS. Never been prouder to wear this shirt.

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