Newcastle United 3 Liverpool 1
EXPERIENCE was apparently what attracted Mike Ashley to his latest partner, but it was the nous of the terrace veterans which allowed Alan Pardew a honeymoon of sorts as Newcastle United manager.
Pardew keeps insisting he cannot win the PR battle, then triumphing in another skirmish. So the cynics might have rolled their eyes when the latest occupant of what is less a hot seat, more an electric chair, praised the fans for their part in his first victory. Actually, they were crucial to it.
At clubs like Liverpool, sackings are special events. At St James’ Park, they are pretty run of the mill. So too is disillusionment with Ashley, the club’s owner.
A season in the Championship taught Newcastle plenty but a key lesson for its supporters was in striking the balance between revolt and support. Ashley may be no nearer the exit than he was last week, but the team are three points higher up the Premier League.
With mutterings of revolution, the danger was the Gallowgate might play into Liverpool’s hands. When Kevin Keegan last flounced out of the club the matchday atmosphere more or less gift-wrapped three points, put them on a silver platter and handed them to a grateful Hull City. Without them, the Tigers would have been relegated, not the Magpies.
The angry mob who gathered pre-match to protest against the “Cockney Mafia” turned out to be little more than sopranos, the high pitch of the chants betraying the fact that the adults were holding fire until kick-off. Local Hero had not finished playing before the first anti-Ashley song but it did not distract the supporters from getting behind their team. So keen were they to push the players to victory, they almost forgot Ashley was in the stands in the second half, only properly resuming hostilities once the full-time whistle blew.