Criticism is no black and white matter for injury-hit Newcastle United
A conversation between Kieran Trippier and a supporter has provided a talking point after Newcastle United's defeat at Bournemouth.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Newcastle United supporters are quite rightly proud of their team after a remarkable two years that has taken them from Championship probables to Champions League possibles.
The St James Park faithful have gone from contemplating trips to Preston and Millwall and to taking in the delights of Paris and Milan as Eddie Howe has overseen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes on Tyneside. Yet United’s most recent result has provided a hint of criticism as the Magpies boss suffered a defeat against former club, Bournemouth.
There can be no question Howe’s men failed to reach their usual levels of intensity and quality throughout what can only be described as a well below-par performance against a Cherries side that had only won one Premier League game so far this season.
Frustration was visible on the faces of the Magpies players as their lengthy list of absentees and a hectic fixture schedule finally took their toll and meant stretching their unbeaten run to an eighth league games remained just a step too far.
That frustration was replicated in the away end at the Vitality Stadium, where the vast majority of the travelling faithful showed their support right up to the final whistle and beyond. It was an incredible effort from Newcastle fans, many of whom travelled to Dortmund in midweek before heading to Bournemouth on Saturday at significant cost.
A minority, and it was a minority despite what others would have you say, voiced their disapproval as those frustrations got the better of them. That led to an exchanging of views between Magpies full-back Kieran Trippier and a supporter - and both parties have since given their take on social media and, in Trippier’s case, to various media outlets. The supporter has apologised and expressed his regret at ‘having a go, and in the challenging environment provided by the world of social media, he deserves credit for doing that, rather than just fading into the background.
In reality, both parties were probably right in some aspects of their comments. Trippier quite correctly explained the Magpies players were ‘giving everything’ but also conceded the lengthy list of absentees that robbed Howe over almost £300m worth of players can be used as a mitigating factor for one of his side’s worst performances of the season.
The comment regarding ‘giving everything’ feels a poignant one and should not be lost on Newcastle fans, who in the not-too-distant past brandished a banner stating ‘We don't demand a team that wins, we demand a club that tries’ as their side laboured under one of Howe’s predecessors.
There may well be many arguments that could be thrown at the Magpies players after Saturday’s defeat - but a lack of trying is not one of them. This is a team that lives by the mantra ‘intensity is our identity’ and one that has gone a long way to repairing the bond between club and supporters that was almost broken beyond repair during Mike Ashley’s ownership at St James Park.
And just as Trippier hit the target with his remarks, a supporter has the right to give his take on the performance - but that must be done with a measured and balanced approach, such as the one shown by Howe, who continues to enhance his reputation with a dignified response to the issues he has encountered in recent weeks.
Speaking to the media in the aftermath of the game, the Magpies boss said: "It was just a game too far and we couldn't respond. Bournemouth played well but we were well below par. It was a tough afternoon.
“We weren't ourselves in possession or out of possession. If you can't do that at this level, it will be a difficult day. When we are under fatigue and stretched, we usually respond better. We need to dust ourselves down and come back in strong.”
Some would argue this is the price of progress, the cost of ambition and the result of an premature leap towards European football’s top table. Put bluntly, these are the issues that clubs challenging for top honours encounter on a yearly basis and one that Newcastle will relish as Howe and his players look to make themselves regular contenders for silverware.
Yet it would be disingenuous not to forgive the Magpies for one below-par performance given they went into the game without key players such as Sven Botman, Bruno Guimaraes, Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson. And one could forgive Howe for bemoaning his misfortune when Miguel Almiron hobbled out of the action against Bournemouth with a suspected hamstring injury that will lead to his withdrawal from international action with Paraguay.
The international break has come at the right time for Howe and his squad as Guimaraes, Wilson, and Isak could all return when they resume their Premier League season with a home game against Chelsea on the final Saturday of November.
The conversation between Trippier and a supporter will be long forgotten by the time 52,000 supporters roar their side out of the tunnel at St James Park - but it has shown criticism and debate are rarely black and white matters when it comes to football.