Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Consistency So Cruel to Souness

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Consistency So Cruel to Souness

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Every manager craves consistency ( and at least Graeme Souness has that. But, after a week which saw his first season as Newcastle's manager implode in embarrassing fashion, the disconsolate Scot has nothing else to show for four days of sickening failure.

If a second successive 4-1 defeat was tragically consistent, then two dire performances represent a pathetic return for those devoted Magpies supporters who trekked from Portugal to Wales in painful pilgrimage.

A Shola Ameobi strike, when Manchester United's footballing exhibition was in full swing, is scant reward for fans facing a disheartening return to the days when Kenny Dalglish's soulless grip on St James's Park strangled the life out of a club blighted by poor leadership and even poorer recruitment.

Mid-table mediocrity and an Intertoto Cup campaign is not what Newcastle's magnificent support deserves, but Souness and his disparate squad warrant no more after a week of woe. On a day when Manchester United boasted match-winners in abundance, Souness at least swallowed his pride to restore the outspoken Laurent Robert to his starting line-up.

And before the awful truth of this terrible mismatch became clear, those Magpies fans present doubtless breathed a collective, almighty sigh of relief.

The Toon Army would forgive their enigmatic winger 1,000 words for one wondrous touch, and that it never came did not detract from the fact that his selection was vitally valid.

Surrounding Robert were four Cup winners and a former England captain with the experience and desire to outfight and outfox Sir Alex Ferguson's hot favourites. Nicky Butt, Celestine Babayaro, Amdy Faye and Jean-Alain Boumsong have medals to prove their big-game pedigree, and if Shearer went into yesterday's semi-final with nothing but his burning desire, then that should have been enough.

This was an occasion which called for passion, pride and strength of character. Shearer had demanded as much from his downcast colleagues in the wake of Thursday's limp display in Lisbon and nothing less would be required against a Red Devils side with 11 wins from their previous 11 FA Cup semi-final ties.

Robert, more than most, needed to rediscover the form which had underpinned Newcastle's 12-game unbeaten run earlier this year, but the delivery from his first corner was depressingly inevitable as it ricocheted off the first red-shirted defender. Hands on hips, the Reunion Islander was still contemplating his feeble set-piece when Manchester United advanced towards Shay Given's goal en masse.

Cristiano Ronaldo stole a march on Babayaro, but his outrageous dive, at the feet of the covering Steven Taylor, was justifiably penalised by reserve referee Mike Riley, standing in for the hamstrung Graham Poll. …

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