Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

They've Shown They're Up for the Battle

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

They've Shown They're Up for the Battle

Article excerpt

The feeble surrender at Wigan had most of us wondering if, as well as a missing touch of class, the team had also lost its collective heart.

The happier news since then is that against both Arsenal and West Ham, plus to an extent when Villa visited, nobody could accuse our representatives on the pitch of lacking determination and team spirit.

If you're a realist, though, then you accept as well that these qualities can only take you so far ( class will always tell in the end.

So is there the class in our squad to put an extra edge on that grit and determination shown in recent matches? I suppose the answer from inside the club would be having to wait until the Souness first XI are all available, but we should have a fair idea once most are available, if not all.

What we don't know yet is how much better the team can be once they return.

At the time of writing the statistics show that with Michael Owen, the team have won six and only lost one of the eight played with him on the pitch. So that's 19 points from eight Owen matches and six points from the nine when he didn't feature.

Obviously it takes a team to win matches but I don't think those statistics lie. I'm not suggesting any one of the current casualties could have as much impact on results as Michael Owen, but it is not unrealistic to think that improving a number of positions could collectively have a similar impact. Whether it's players rising from their sick beds or more wheeling and dealing in the transfer window.

A few seasons ago I believed we had four real class players in Given, Woodgate, Shearer and Bellamy. Players who would walk into any other team in this country, or at worst were at least as good as the players in their relative positions.

I would say we have two now ( step forward Shay Given and Michael Owen. What of the rest? If Scott Parker keeps his form up for the rest of the season then I think he could be added, then in Steven Taylor we have a great prospect who could be right up there in a season or two.

Then in Shearer, Carr, Solano, Bramble, Boumsong, and possibly Babayaro, we have Premiership players. …

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