WITH Newcastle United and Liverpool both in a state of flux, Stuart Rayner speaks to a man fast becoming a Magpies constant.
FOOTBALL managers love a “transition”. One of the game’s latest buzzwords has become an excuse to hide a multitude of sins. That not everything is set in stone – when is it at a football club? – is used to plead for that rarest of commodities in the game, patience.
In their own ways, Liverpool and Newcastle United are going through transitions. For both, 2012-13 will go down as a learning experience.
While the Reds get their heads around a new way of playing, the Magpies are adjusting to European football.
According to the Premier League table, Newcastle are doing it better.
Their customary home win over the Magpies tomorrow will edge Liverpool above in the standings, but the bar is set higher on Merseyside.
Jonás Gutiérrez knows the weight of expectation at each club.
The versatile Newcastle player has never played for or supported the Reds but close friend José Enrique has kept him up to speed with developments since switching sides the summer before last. He said: “They are a big club with big support so it’s always difficult, not many teams win there, but we believe in ourselves and the football we are playing.
“They (Liverpool) still reached two cup finals last year.
“They expected more than where they finished in the league last season (eighth), but that’s football.”
As well as getting his head around that, Enrique has also had to get used to Brendan Rogers’ ways.
At first it seemed Rogers had a problem with any player – Luis Suarez apart – signed by his predecessor Kenny Dalglish.
The left-back found himself behind Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom, barely household names in their own household.
The Merseyside derby seemed to be a breakthrough for Enrique.
Perhaps by shaving his head he fooled Rogers into picking him.
“He is beginning to find his form again,” says Gutiérrez, half of a formidable partnership with Enrique as Newcastle rebuilt after relegation in 2009.