The first in a series of guest posts for Touchline Views, Newcastle fan, Ryan Davison, writes about the Magpies first home game back in the Premier League, where they trashed Aston Villa 6-0 on Sunday afternoon.
After a ‘disappointing World Cup©’ (sorry) and a summer of trying to find something to do on weekends to fill the football-ing void – I went for D.I.Y, gardening and staycations (sorry again) if you’re interested… the football season has returned. And with that, the first home game for Newcastle United and a welcome return to the usual pre-match routine – sleep withdrawal, bacon sandwich, a look at the football odds then off to the pub for pre-match drinks and discussion of recent footballing going-ons.
After 15 months out of the Premier League and after a successful and enjoyable season in the Championship, we returned to face the team that relegated us 15 months previous – Aston Villa. Those that were also at Villa Park on that day, would have witnessed the ‘hilarious’ bedsheet messages ‘Sob on the Tyne’, ‘Who’s your next messiah – Ant or Dec’ and the general enjoyment that the Villains seemed to get from our demise.
So when the fixture computer selected Aston Villa for our first home game, there was an added spice to the match, a chance to put sore memories behind. The last time the clubs met at St James’ Park, we were manager-less after then manager Kevin Keegan had resigned after players were being signed and sold without his permission by owner Mike Ashley, the Aston Villa fans sang, ‘there’s only one Mike Ashley’ on that day. In a reverse of fortunes, Aston Villa found themselves manager-less for this fixture, Martin O’Neill resigning allegedly after players were being sold by chairman, Randy Lerner without his say-so.
Interesting to see if Newcastle fans would scrawl messages on bedsheets directed at the Aston Villa fans…’who’s your next messiah – Prince William or Tom Hanks’ or if they would sing any pro-Randy Lerner chants. They didn’t, it was simply a case of turn up and support your team.
The talk pre-match in the pub was about the 3-0 defeat suffered at Old Trafford to Manchester United the previous Monday night. A game in which the majority of our supporters were expecting a defeat but were hoping with a little bit of luck we could nick something. This wasn’t to be as Manchester United were just too good and we came up short, but the feeling in the pub was that the Newcastle players didn’t show themselves up and continued to display a fighting spirit that served them so well in the Championship even when 3-0 down. This was typified by Andy Carroll’s desire and determination as the lone striker to win the ball in the air and chase his own flick-ons.
The hope was that we could take this fighting spirit into the game against Aston Villa, a team who has finished in the top 7 in the past few seasons and who have showed themselves to be a handy outfit away from home with their pacey counter-attacking style. On the back of a convincing win against West Ham, a draw in Europe and with the players and ex-players backing caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald, the outside view was that they wouldn’t miss Martin O’Neill as much as first thought. Taking this into account, we expected a tough game but hoped that we could continue our strong home form and could just nick a close 1-0 or 2-1 win. 2-1 also seemed to be the score of choice with the local bookies.
The warm sunshine was reminiscent of the last time we played Aston Villa in the Premier League and as we got to our seats and the ground started to fill up, the atmosphere in the ground was one of nerves and excitement. The Aston Villa fans were in good voice before the game as they sang their rendition of Kumbaya, ‘sh*t support my Lord, sh*t support’ and turned up in stronger numbers than they have done in previous years at St James’ Park.
As the game began, the home support were slightly subdued as they waited to see how the first 10 minutes would unfold – after 9 minutes there was a harsh welcome back to the Premier League as Aston Villa were correctly awarded a penalty which ‘Big’ John Carew (anyone over 6”4 now has their name preceded with ‘Big’ as default) proceeded to blast high over the bar and into the Gallowgate End. This seemed to give the Newcastle players and fans a lift and made a few of us wonder whether luck was on our side.
As it turned out we didn’t need luck. 3 minutes later we were in front through a stunning strike from Joey Barton (It was tempting, but I have refrained from using the word ‘mustachioed’). The home support were in good voice, whereas the Villa supporters seemed to give up on their team and after 20 minutes they had stopped singing all together, it was 1-0 at this point, ‘sh*t support my Lord’?
At half time we were 3-0 up thanks to goals from Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll. The texts were flying back and forth to fellow match-goers, ‘unbelievable’, ‘amazing’, and ‘am I dreaming?’ It was at this point that I also realized that jumping around celebrating in the stands and with the sun beating down, that wearing a grey t-shirt was not a good choice.
More of the same followed in the second half. The Villa players and fans offered little and as the game went on, the home team players grew in confidence and continued the scoring to the delight and astonishment of the Geordie public. In the 72nd minute, shortly after Andy Carroll scored his 2nd and our 4th,, the Aston Villa fans piped up with an ironic chant of ‘they’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, and it’s Aston Villa’. The loudest they had been since the 9th minute. ‘sh*t support my Lord’?
We went on to get our 5th and 6th in the final minutes, Kevin Nolan grabbing his second and Andy Carroll completing his hat-trick. By this point the majority of Villa fans had long departed. The Newcastle fans left the ground (take your pick of) happy/shocked/elated/jubilated/astonished. Not even the most optimistic Newcastle supporter could have predicted a 6-0 victory, the bookies certainly didn’t expect it, and 3-0 was their best offering.
Watching the goals on television after the match, it started to sink in that we had just pulled off a fantastic and wholly unexpected but deserved result. There was praise for Andy Carroll and the way he led the line, for how well the midfield had linked the play, as well as praise for the defence who managed to keep the Villa forwards quiet.
It was also satisfying watching Robbie Savage on MOTD2 later that evening having to backtrack on his prediction that we would need 12 new players following the defeat against Manchester United. Nothing like a knee-jerk reaction eh? This new approach of making headlines on the pitch and not off it isn’t something that we are used to from Newcastle United but it’s a refreshing change, long may it continue and we keep proving pundits like Robbie Savage, and those who write us off after one game, wrong.
We aren’t getting carried away, we know that a difficult season lies ahead but for now……..It’s good to be back.
You can also follow Ryan on twitter @R11dav , hopefully he will back writing for us again soon.