Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 0: Steve Brown's match verdict

It's one of the most boring games I've ever seen, e-mailed the brother, 11.23pm Hong Kong-time

Vurnon Anita in action for Newcastle against West Ham
Vurnon Anita in action for Newcastle against West Ham

It's one of the most boring games I've ever seen, e-mailed the brother, 11.23pm Hong Kong-time.

Twenty-odd minutes into the second half of Newcastle’s thriller against West Ham – last up on MOTD, natch – he added: “If either team wins it will be a travesty for football.”

Around 25 minutes later we almost had one. Perversely, however, it might yet better serve United, and Alan Pardew, that we didn’t.

Two minutes into added time, Sammy Ameobi roused St James’ Park from an hour-and-a-half’s slumber by curling a shot on to the inside of Jussi Albert Jaaskelainen post.

The ball darted back at Yoan Gouffran high and quickly, but a professional footballer ought to have reacted better than to have got underneath the ball, and lifted it over the bar.

After last Monday, after last season and after this summer, a late, if snappy 1-0 home win would have been a godsend. A vital three points, a platform, confidence boosted.

But it would have simultaneously applied a vastly misleading gloss to the matt finish of the preceding 91 minutes and, more pertinently, the Magpies’ current predicament. That is not to say that win, lose or draw, Mike Ashley won’t still splash the cash before the transfer window closes. That Joe Kinnear won’t pull a rabbit from his glittering and exhaustive list of contacts.

But having overseen – from wheresoever – Monday’s catastrophe and Saturday’s drudgery, and in the overwhelming likelihood of Yohan Cabaye’s imminent departure, the pair must, surely, now act.

Poor lamb, Cabaye. His head’s not right. Well how could it be, poised as he is to better his life? Yeah, I’d find that unsettling too.

That would be why Wayne Rooney refused to come on for Manchester United last weekend. Why Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini chose against playing West Brom on Saturday. Oh, they didn’t.

Tough life, that of the millionaire sportsman about to enhance his bank balance, and his chances of silverware.

Yet if and when Cab shifts off the rank, the next ones appear, on the evidence of Saturday, to be bereft of routes to destination: goal. To be seriously short of ideas. Witness events of the 31st minute. A mini-spell of pressure by West Ham, then a Newcastle counter-attack. Shola Ameobi ambles out of the right, two o’clock corner of the centre circle.

Ten yards – I originally mis-typed ‘years’ - ahead, Papiss Cisse arcs from middle ground, diagonally left, the first, perhaps only time all day he escaped a James Collins/Winston Reid-shaped shadow and saw clear space ahead.

Of course, the pass never came. Its sort went AWOL all afternoon.

Maybe Shola didn’t spot it. Perhaps he doesn’t have that pass in his locker. Perhaps none of them do.

To be fair, under the SJP microscope, that scrutiny which can erupt into audible anger when something, audacious or not, fails to come off, when the ball and the moment are lost, can probably be debilitating.

But Newcastle’s is also a fanbase nourished on patience, and if you lose possession trying something different, something imaginative, try again and keep trying, so long as it’s not a blatant and persistent waste of energy and territory (Hatem Ben Arfa, anyone?), it will get off your back and behind it.

Too often, conversely, United’s tempo slowed from a canter to a trundle.

So Sam Allardyce needn’t have studied rocket science to establish how best to quell his old club’s stunted forward momentum. Just keep your shape – in fairness, United kept theirs – and get bodies behind the ball and, ultimately, any spell of home possession will disintegrate when, losing their nerve to force the issue, to prise an opening and infiltrate it, a Newcastle player will, instead, give up the ghost of adventure in favour of the comfort of a pass backwards. It happened time and again.

So neither wonder a half-time, onfield zorbing race had more punters off their seats than the action (though, admittedly, most were merely observing interval convention).

And little surprise that one national newspaper big-hitter, yawning, was asked if that was his intro, before receiving consolation that, box ticked, he needn’t fret about returning so far north for a good few months to come.

At least, to Ashley’s credit, he has spent a few quid upgrading the press room catering; the pre-match mince and dumplings, my long-since deceased Granny Mac would’ve been happy to call her own, and a half-time brownie was devoured by its namesake.

It is only to be hoped, then, that United’s owner chucks a couple bucks at his team too.

Just after the half-hour mark, the Toon Army sang ‘Where’s the signing, Joe Kinnear?’ (a better question might have been ‘Where are you Joe Kinnear?’; nowhere to be seen at SJP on Saturday, is the answer, and a major scouting or transfer mission can be the director of football’s only excuse for that) before a flag was unfurled in the Leazes End that, at a split-second’s glance before it was re-furled - de-furled? Furled? - appeared to read: “Joe Kinnear The Clown.”

At the very end there were boos.

In his 100th game as a Premier League manager, they were not for Pardew, nor his team. They must find their boldness. First though, Ashley and Kinnear must show us theirs.

Premier League News


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer