By @geordiedentist
Saturday 17 Dec 2011 07:53:00
Browse all Playing In The Hole articles

Well it’s been a busy few weeks since I last had a chance to download my thoughts to the keyboard and as ever there’s plenty to talk about.  This is, of course, after the time we were told, by sage voices as Mark Lawrenson, paid to proffer opinion on such matters, that the “wheels would come off.”  Come off what exactly? Let’s look at this objectively.  The last four games have seen us face in quick succession 3 sides whose benches can often cost more that our entire team and a tricky away fixture against a newly promoted side who are playing well and adapting quickly to the rigours of the Premiership, a lot like Blackpool did in the first few months of last season.  My personal feeling was that if we came out of that group of four games with 2 points I’d be happy, with 4 if I was greedy.  So in some respects we are only 1 point off that and 3 away from a “best case” scenario.  Wheels coming off? Do me a favour! 


I was expecting the one point out of the first three games to come against Chelsea at St James’s Park but in the end a point at Old Trafford was what we had to show and the events that unfolded against Chelsea made the task at Norwich more difficult than it had been.  Against Man City we were outclassed but not disgraced.  This side has blown most sides away this year, including demolishing Man U at Old Trafford so making a good account of ourselves was vital.  Yes against Man U we were perhaps a shade lucky with the penalty but a draw was, in my opinion, a fair reflection of the game and in some ways an example of how in football you make your own luck sometimes.  Chelsea though was a different matter and had Luiz been sent off the whole game would have unfolded very differently.  We didn’t deserve to lose by three but the most awful losses were those of Steven Taylor and Fabricio Collocini to injury.


A blow in no uncertain terms and one that most certainly would have been avoided had Mike Dean actually done his job instead of bottling it.  I have no doubt had that been the 30th or the 60th minutes Sideshow Bob would have walked, we would have been bossing the game and Taylor and Collocini would have remained injury free.  This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last a referee gets it wrong.  We benefited at Old Trafford but boy have we subsequently suffered for it.  But there is a much bigger picture to see here across the whole Premiership.  Every week there seems to be something controversial happening from a refereeing point of view.  Nearly every team has had reason to protest at a duff decision so far this season alone.  Bolton, Tottenham, Man U and ourselves are only really the most recent victims of what seems to be a growing problem.  Henry Winter has recently written very fairly about it (though I note the media are only getting on it since The Saggy Faced Old C**t has been bleating) on his weekly blog (  There are no easy solutions but we need consistency and accuracy and officials who are prepared to man up when they make a mistake.  Personally I think accountability by having to come out and explain decisions post match would be a start.  Though I wonder if some would then let it go to their heads.  Imagine Jeff Winter of Graham Poll post match telling the press how great they were. Hmmm.  Indeed no easy solutions but then again that’s what those in charge of the game are paid handsomely to provide.


So as it was we were faced with a dilemma of who to play in the centre of defence against Norwich.  We knew what they would do, smelling the blood of a wounded animal; Morrison and Holt to try and bully the makeshift defence.  To give Norwich their due they pulled it off.  But it wasn’t for the lack of trying and at 3-2 even down to 10 men we were in there swinging and are due credit for that.  I have to say I think Pardew went with the back four I would have, the only question remains is that of Tamas Kadar’s future if he couldn’t even make the bench.  He is obviously well down the pecking order which is a shame as I have liked what I did see of him over the last few years coming through the ranks.  There was also further evidence of Pardew not being afraid to try something different and try to come up with a plan to combat the inevitable aerial onslaught.  In the end, I presume to try and take some pressure off Perch and Simpson; he went with what looked like a zonal marking system.  Zonal marking is something I understand well having played American Football for years and I can see the benefits of it but I just don’t see how it works in football.  Rafa Benitez loved it and was often criticised for conceding poor goals at set pieces.  It seems too easy for people to devolve their responsibility for a man and let someone saunter into the box unchecked, indeed as happened for 2 of Norwich’s goals.  I just don’t know why managers persist with it; I’ve never seen it work properly in football.  Leave it to the linebackers and defensive backs of the NFL where it does serve a purpose coping with complex offensive formations and plays involvingmany dummy runs and cross field options for quarterbacks to throw to rather than a corner or free kick where the mantra “stay with your man” seems a much more straightforward way to deal with a cross.  Then again perhaps you could always do better at stopping the cross in the first place which we were also very guilty of IMHO.


And so onto Swansea where we hope we have a few more bodies available (Gosling did himself and us no favours at Norwich either it has to be said) and a chance to get back to winning ways and build some more momentum.  As if we didn’t need any more motivation the presence of Louise Speed in the ground will hopefully spur the players on on a day when we will officially remember a great and loyal servant to the club taken from the world far too soon while his star was still on the rise in managerial terms.  Whatever tragic circumstances led to the events that unfolded a few weeks ago we can not imagine but we will remember him with fondness and pride.  Some players waste their chances and if anyone ever was to want to know how to behave and to play like a true professional they should look no further than Gary Speed’s playing career.  Let’s give him a good send off.


Follow me on twitter @geordiedentist or you can email me at . Follow the campaign for open communication with NUFC on twitter @NUFC FansUtd.

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