Newcastle United 6 Aston Villa 0
IT was back to the good old days for Newcastle United yesterday.
The proliferation of moustaches might have been more reminiscent of the 1980s, but hearing the Gallowgate sing “He gets the ball, he scores a goal” about a striker called Andy while another opponent was blown away was pure Keegan-era stuff.
After a year without, Newcastle at last have a player wearing the number nine shirt, and a “throwback” at that, in the words of Chris Hughton. Andy Carroll is the sort of target man once commonplace in English football. The match ball tucked under his arm as he walked off was a reminder that there is more than just outstanding aerial ability to his game.
Hughton (pictured right) spent all summer desperately trying to inject some realism into supporters whose enthusiasm has in the past got the better of some. Yesterday his players undid all the good work with a romp of a 6-0 win.
It is tempting to say you could never have dreamt it but judging by Alan Shearer’s reaction to Carroll’s hat-trick, seemingly clutching a betting slip after his successor in the number nine shirt coolly claimed the matchball in the third added minute, maybe someone did.
There were certainly no signs in the opening stages. Perhaps with 1974 World Cup final referee Jack Taylor on hand to present Hughton with the Football League’s champions flag we should have expected an early penalty, but it fell to Aston Villa.
Although Steve Harper pulled his hands away as Ashley Young bore down on goal, he caught the striker as he slid in. Fortunately for Newcastle, John Carew’s penalty was dreadful – not just over the bar but miles over.
The pass which led to it was badly exposing Newcastle’s Achilles heel. Whenever the ball was fed down the middle to Young – normally, as then, by Stilyan Petrov – their square back four was horribly exposed. On a couple of occasions the linesman’s flag saved them and only excellent sweeping up by Fabricio Coloccini spared James Perch’s blushes after playing Carew onside from Marc Albrighton’s pass.
Villa’s hapless defending soon changed the mood, however. When Wayne Routledge chipped a cross in, Kevin Nolan’s header was off target.