Graeme Souness didn’t get much right during his time in these parts and yet he came up with one gem of a quote.
The memorable and much-repeated line of Newcastle United being only “two games away from crisis” is, it must be said, an exaggeration. Just.
There have been plenty of good times and periods of relative calm. It’s just the potty moments always seem to feel far more important. It also feels as if they last longer.
Also, these crises would not exist if the club’s history, both recent and long gone, was not littered with such disasters.
It’s not that the fans want these bad days. It’s that they expect them.
Putting hyperbole to one side, however, Alan Pardew is two games away from a crisis.
If, over the next seven days, he goes out of the Capital One Cup to Gillingham and doesn’t beat a rudderless Crystal Palace at home then he’s in trouble.
If the month ends with no more business being done and the manager left to come up with sound bites which suggest he happy with what he has (when everyone knows he is at least one striker down) then life is going to get uncomfortable for the Newcastle manager.
Yet let’s stay positive.
One point from two games and no goals scored is not a brilliant start to the season.
However, Newcastle played well enough against Manchester City and should have won on Saturday at Villa Park.
They defended stoutly and the midfield was okay if not firing on all cylinders – but the problem lay in front of Aston Villa’s goal.
Yoan Gouffran, Remy Cabella, Mike Williamson, Ayoze Perez and Siem de Jong all missed chances which ranged from easy to relatively straightforward.
Both performances were reasonable. There is something about that word when used to describe a football team which makes it difficult to get away from thinking they were boring.
Yet that’s not quite true. While Saturday had ‘last game on Match of the Day’ written all over it, Newcastle showed glimpses of what they can be.
They passed the ball well enough, and while Cabella didn’t have his best day, once or twice he showed the quality we know him to have – but he needs to do more.
He also has to accept he’s going to be kicked. Cabella isn’t the biggest and there are many giant defenders in the Premier League.
Villa had four of them, who won’t think twice about taking a booking in an effort to put the winger out the game. It’s not a great state of affairs, but that’s how it is.
In fact, they all need to do more. Gouffran and Vurnon Anita didn’t contribute much, while just about everyone else was okay.
Nothing more. Which brings us back to these next two games.
Being okay and nothing more gets you into trouble at places such as Gillingham. You just know a few of those players at the League One club are going to have their best game of the season on Tuesday night.
They don’t care that this new Newcastle team is bedding in. All they are interested in is showing up a Premier League side and taking a win bonus.
It was heartening to hear Pardew say he was going to send a strong squad to Kent because if his team win, which they should, and manage to score a few goals into the bargain then that’s a pretty big monkey off their backs. Yet if it all goes wrong – and Newcastle’s record in the cups in recent times is abysmal – then all of a sudden there is so much extra pressure going into the match with Crystal Palace, who may have a new manager by then.
Pardew was in an incredibly relaxed mood after the match at Villa Park.
He seemed genuinely content with what he has (and perhaps so should we be) and I suspect he believes this is his strongest group of players during his time at St James’ Park.
He may well be right, although nobody possesses the quality of Yohan Cabaye.
Yet he needs to get a win. Two wins, in fact, so everyone can take a deep breath and look forward to the rest of the season.
Newcastle looked better when De Jong got on and, while the Dutchman missed a late chance when he was right through on Brad Guzan, the fact he read a high ball, was able to touch it to Cabella and then run on to the Frenchman’s clever pass, was the sign of a good player.
Daryl Janmaat saw a second-half header well saved by Guzan and a left-foot effort fly just past and survived a torrid first-half when Villa seemed to attack down his line all the time, to recover and show himself to be an attacking full-back of some skill. He will do.
Cheick Tiote was missed. Even if a club comes in with a non-derisory bid, they should be told where to go.
Newcastle need to strengthen, not weaken. Anita can’t play that role.
I like him, but he wasn’t involved in too much of Newcastle’s play.
A 0-0 draw against a poor Aston Villa side is nothing to write home about, but then it’s also not worth penning any suicide note for.
Win these two next games before the international break and four points from the first three and a cup win isn’t a bad start. Then Pardew will have the relative comfort of being, oh, five games from a crisis.