Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Win or Bust for Under-Achievers

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Win or Bust for Under-Achievers

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Gibson

Newcastle United are supposed to be in the top four but instead are 12th in a league which tells no lies.

Those of a supposedly lesser stature like Middlesbrough, Charlton, Manchester City, Everton, Bolton and, yes, tomorrow's opponents Portsmouth lie within vision only when United look upwards.

Figures don't make good reading ( United have lost three and drawn one of their last four matches at St James' Park. They have won only one game out of their last six in the Premiership and have leaked an incredible 31 goals across 16 league matches.

United are supposed to be in the top four by right, presumably because they can pull in 50,000 Geordie fanatics any time they wish. But now reality has truly set in ( Premiership teams are no respecter of reputations.

United are where they are because they cannot defend as a team (not just the back four), don't score enough goals from midfield, and are heavily lopsided.

All is not well and all cannot be laid at the doorstep of Graeme Souness. He must, for the moment, work with the tools he has at his disposal until the relief of a transfer window blows fresh air through his dressing-room.

United have players with good engines, men like Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer, Lee Bowyer and Jermaine Jenas who can all hound the ball out of possession and attack when they have it. However, the three who begin their runs in the midfield area need to score more regularly.

The barren centre of the park have contributed thus in the Premiership: Butt 1, Robert 1, Jenas 1, Bowyer 0, Dyer 0.

Jenas, it must be said nevertheless, is a breath of fragrant air wafting through sterile failure, a young man who has gained great maturity in the last year to ride in tandem with his God-given ability. A Will Smith lookalike who is his own man.

United need to show frenzied endeavour, especially Patrick Kluivert who has unmistakable skills but whose languid style makes him appear indifferent to the cause while others are battling with sleeves rolled up beyond the armpit.

We had that for an hour at Chelsea when the midfield runners worked relentlessly to protect their back four before they were engulfed by an irresistible force allied to the weak defending of the likes of Titus Bramble, tossed aside like a rag doll in a bullring. …

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