The storm of St Jude is due to descend on the North East today, but it will be the winds of change that are exercising the minds of Wear-Tyne football fans this morning.
A fixture that has the power to bend seasons went the way of Gus Poyet and Sunderland, who can draw on the transformative power of this result to re-energise a campaign that was in danger of curdling into a corrosive conclusion.
For Alan Pardew and Newcastle, a fierce reckoning awaits. They may no longer welcome questions from the local press thanks to a ban imposed last week, but the inquest will be long and hard for a manager who has now presided over the first back-to-back derby defeats since 1967.
This is an unhappy club that needs results to prevent rebellion, and Wear-Tyne woe plants them right on to the back foot.
The Newcastle boss contended that his team were “robbed” but that was not an accurate summary of the contest. His squad might have been shorn of three first-choice centre-backs but he still arrived on Wearside armed with enough attacking options to give the visitors the justified status of favourites. But they failed to show and Pardew had failed to arrange them into a system that replicated the fine display of last week’s energetic draw with Liverpool: that is a damning indictment of both the squad and the manager.
Quite what Mike Ashley’s next move is we just don’t know. The squad that has been assembled on his watch continues to be perilously inconsistent under this manager, but such is his unpredictability and petulance, presuming a rational response would be giving him too much credit.
The results of a summer transfer strategy which was always insufficient were there in the back four, where poor Paul Dummett was asked to make his Premier League debut at the centre of defence.
By contrast, Poyet’s strategy played off to perfection and the consequences could be momentous. Sunderland were fired up from the off, sensing an opportunity to impose themselves on the game and taking it within five minutes when Adam Johnson’s chipped cross was nodded home by Steven Fletcher.
It was the
perfect start for Poyet, who had taken definitive action following their South Wales slump. Carlos Cuellar and Jack Colback were recalled to give Sunderland a robust air of experience, while Andrea Dossena and Jozy Altidore were picked to give them the incessant industry that had been missing in last week’s second half. They proved inspired calls from
the Uruguayan. Sunderland pressed relentlessly
from the off, unsettling Newcastle’s marquee men and allowing
Lee Cattermole the run of the midfield.
Colback was what he always is: neat, tidy and a picture of industry and invention. Quite why anyone would ever consider dropping one of the most consistent Black Cats is beyond this correspondent. Sunderland’s tempo decreased steadily but Newcastle could not gain a foothold on the game.
Hatem Ben Arfa was wasteful and woeful moving forward, while
Yohan Cabaye was off the pace. He whacked Colback and picked
up a yellow card just before the break.
The real question was how Sunderland would respond in adversity, and when Mathieu Debuchy stabbed home from close range the fear was they would collapse. Instead Poyet brought Ki on and Fabio Borini scored a wonderful goal to hand Sunderland the derby honours.
Pardew, this was a desperate, desperate afternoon. Having summoned a fine response to the shambolic first half at Everton, he has now seen all of the momentum gathered over the last fortnight dissolve over another woeful
hour and a half of derby-day competition.
Pardew claimed afterwards that his team were “robbed”, but if there was any banditry going on at the Stadium of Light it was hard to discern.
It was correct that Newcastle enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second half, but Poyet was the smarter manager, sending on Ki to replace Lee Cattermole to slow Sunderland’s furious pace and alter the momentum of the game.
The Newcastle manager and his players had no answer to that, just as Pardew did not offer a response to questions from The Journal and the Chronicle in the post-match press conference.
club has decided to ban ncjMedia newspapers “indefinitely” after taking
issue with the Chronicle’s coverage of the Time4Change
march before the Liverpool game, and a club official jumped in
before the manager could respond to this correspondent’s question
about the manner of Newcastle’s display.
If only it were so easy to control the narrative.
The questions will come loud and clear for United in the next seven days, whether Pardew and the club like it or not.