Hey, Newcastle: It matters whether or not you try

Richard Heathcote

The Newcastle United players appear to have given up. Is there any chance they can rebound at all this season?

I don't typically receive a lot of feedback on our articles via email, but occasionally I'll write something that will apparently set multiple people off. Earlier this week, I made the case that Newcastle's bad spring was everybody's fault, from owner to manager to players. I received 5 emails in response. Two basically said that I was too easy on Mike Ashley, and two more said the same thing about Alan Pardew. Another asked me to sign an "Ashley Out" petition (because he's totally going to sell if 10,000 people sign). The funny part about all of this is that I thought I was being too easy on the players - you know, the ones standing on the pitch during the games.

I do mean standing:

Defensive_fail_medium

(Sorry for the framerate at the end. Blame that on my old computer. I tried recording this 6 times before giving up.)

That's both fullbacks jogging at walking pace on the way back toward goal while the play unfolded in front of them. Mike Williamson, as you can see for a split second, was too busy doing the linesman's job to focus on his own. Coloccini hustled back, but it was too late. Southampton caught the back line napping, and most of them didn't bother to wake up.

In a sense, it's a microcosm of Newcastle's second half. They can't realistically catch any of the teams in the European qualification places - so why bother trying?

So yes, I blame the players. I can't buy into arguments that rely on grown men having to be coddled by the manager in order to perform their job responsibilities to the fullest. I'm not 100% sure I know what the solution is - the only defender expected to leave this summer is also the only one in the GIF above not guilty of loafing. A new defender or two in the summer would be nice, but the front office is not going to replace everybody, and that doesn't really help now. Besides, there are problems all over the pitch.

The players that talk to the media say all the right things about putting in an effort and respecting the fans, but the evidence suggests that they don't, at least not all of the time. The more I think about this, the more responsibility I lay at the feet of the men wearing the black and white shirts. It's probably not very fun when the guy in charge of player acquisition mispronounces your name, and I doubt very much that the guys enjoyed taking questions about their manager headbutting a player on the pitch, but for 90 minutes every week, all of that disappears. For those moments, all of the off-field stuff disappears, or it should.

Just go play football. The match that was played last weekend was not football. There are six games left in the season. None of them will matter in terms of the table, but it would be nice if they mattered to the people playing them. Then they might just start to matter again to the people watching them.

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