With Perez hinting at a move away and Rondon’s future still uncertain, Newcastle could be back to square one next season

With Perez hinting at a move away and Rondon’s future still uncertain, Newcastle could be back to square one next season

Since the signing of Miguel Almiron, Newcastle have improved massively on what has been their biggest glaring issue in the past few seasons; attack. Together with Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, they’ve brought life back to the black and white attack – but that may not be the case for much longer.

Rondon joined Newcastle as a loan signing from West Brom and, after a shaky first few games, has become the physical, out-and-out number nine that the Magpies have been crying out for in recent times.

He’s become a fan favourite, and is firing home the goals to justify it.

So, understandably, almost everyone in St. James’ Park is keen to see the Venezuelan international signed on a permanent basis. The player is said to be keen too, enjoying some of his best form of recent seasons while wearing the black and white stripes.

However, no significant progress appears to have been made towards this deal becoming permanent yet. As is so often the case at Newcastle, it’s simply being left up in the air until likely too late.

Come the end of the season, there’s a real chance that West Brom may get promoted themselves and want to either hold on to Rondon, or demand a significantly higher price – which in the usual tight-fisted Newcastle terms, would mean being immediately priced out.

Even if the Baggies don’t come up, they may well demand a higher fee given Rondon’s stellar form on Tyneside this season. It’s a difficult situation that is only getting more and more precarious as the days go past.

But, now, it seems that the status of Rondon’s move to Newcastle isn’t the only potential catastrophe emerging in the Newcastle front three.

Spanish stalwart Ayoze Perez dropped hints of potentially exiting the club this summer too during the international break – a move that (even though some fans inexplicably dislike the hard-working forward) would severely and negatively impact Newcastle’s attacking outlets.

Speaking with Spanish station El Chiringuito TV, Perez was asked about his future and said: “I believe in the cycles. I think there is a moment where you plan things, to undergo a change and I think after five years, I think it’s the moment.

“To go back to your country and play for a big team and enjoy La Liga, would be something great for my career.”

While it should be made clear Perez didn’t categorically state he was leaving, and admitted times were good on Tyneside at the moment, it’s a very strange comment to have made if you’re not at least keeping one eye open for a possibility of a move away.

There is interest over in Spain in Perez too, with Newcastle even revealing recently that they have turned down bids for the Spaniard in recent windows.

While the player has received criticism, sometimes unjustly, from sections of the Newcastle support, there is no denying he is an important cog in the team. Both Rafa Benitez and his teammates value the Spaniard, and his workhorse attitude has seen him chip in with a good return of goals and assists in each of the past few seasons.

Losing him would be akin to a catastrophe for Newcastle’s attacking play, therefore.

Not least because the club would be unlikely to replace him with someone of equal calibre and work rate. When Perez was signed from Tenerife, he was a young, unproven player and therefore cost an equally small fee – especially considering the returns the club have since gotten out of him. To sign a Premier League-ready replacement of an equal standing would not come anywhere as cheap.

For a traditionally money-tight side like Newcastle are, that spells a real problem. There is little chance of the upper hierarchy at St. James’ Park signing off on an expensive out-and-out replacement, which would mean one of two other classic Newcastle options; either signing nobody, or picking up whatever is available at a cut-price rate in the bargain basement of the transfer market.

Either one puts Newcastle right back to square one in terms of attacking frailty. If we lose Perez, and we don’t keep Rondon permanently, then Newcastle could very well once again find themselves in real dire straights going forwards.

Just as there looked to be real hope and excitement for Newcastle’s attack, it seems as if there is just as easy a chance that the wheels are going to come crashing off.

Fabian Schar’s head injury v Georgia demonstrates football’s glaring issues regarding injury protocols

Fabian Schar’s head injury v Georgia demonstrates football’s glaring issues regarding injury protocols

It doesn’t take a medical expert to understand that there should be little messing around when it comes to serious head injuries in football. For example, should a player be knocked unconscious after a clash of heads, it’s probably not best he continues playing.

Yet, for Newcastle’s Swiss international Fabian Schar, that very situation did happen over the weekend.

The central defender suffered a nasty clash of heads with Georgian defender Jemal Tabidze as both players challenged for the ball early in the first half, and the Premier League centre back was left visibly unconscious.

Thankfully, the players around Schar – from both teams, it should be added – were quick to rush to his aid. Opposition midfielder Jano Ananidze even went as far as to reach into Schar’s mouth to ensure the 27-year-old did not choke on his own tongue.

Luckily for the Newcastle defender, after some treatment from the Swiss medical team, he had regained consciousness and was looking in better shape.

However, he still admitted after the match that he couldn’t remember anything from the incident and was still feeling some residual effects of it.

“It looks awful, I can’t remember anything,” Schar told Swiss newspaper Blick.

“I was to for a few seconds. My skull is still humming. And I’ve got a neck ache and a bruise on my forehead.”

Despite all this, Schar was incredibly given the all clear by the Swiss medical staff and allowed to return to the field of play, finishing the entire match for his side – who won 2-0 in the end.

In a modern sporting world where people are all too aware of the serious dangers head injuries can cause, particularly concussion injuries and those from a loss of consciousness, it was frankly reckless to allow Schar back onto the field of play.

Unsurprisingly, the decision has led to a lot of criticism, with brain injury charity Headway even calling for a UEFA investigation into the matter.

However, the issue is endemic of a problem with modern football, that just simply seems to be behind the times in terms of combating head injuries and the associated risks and problems.

Rugby, a much more physical contact sport, has concussion substitutions and significant and thorough protocols that must be adhered to in regards to even a suspected concussion. Yet, football does not.

There are FIFA guidelines, but it appears as if these are mere suggestions rather than strictly enforced and adhered-to principles.

Schar’s injury is not the first case of football’s lax rules surrounding head injuries rearing its head at a top level either; and more scarily, likely won’t be the last.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia had its own head injury controversy when Moroccan international Nordin Amrabat suffered what appeared clearly to be a concussion after a very heavy collision between his head and the turf. Visibly dazed and unaware of what was going on around him, he was substituted in the match thankfully – but then returned to the field of play five days later, sporting nothing more than a rugby scrum cap (which, incidentally, he then removed during the game in frustration).

Football seems to have an endemic problem with combating serious head injuries and working out appropriate ways to ensure player safety is the upmost priority.

I don’t necessarily think it’s intentional negligence from the football governing bodies, but rather a lack of needed consideration on the matter. Fixing football head injury protocol is hardly a glamorous, headline-grabbing action – despite how important it actually is – and therefore FIFA and its executives are much more focused on commercially-driven, flashy issues such as expanding World Cups and reworking major tournaments.

Hopefully the level of outcry and attention the Schar incident has received will force through necessary change to protect the safety of players involved in football. However, if it doesn’t, then it’s a real worry what would actually need to happen for change to come about.

In Schar’s case, some crucial fast-thinking from his fellow players on the pitch and good luck meant he came out the other side of the nasty collision relatively unscathed, but that may not necessarily be the outcome next time round.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to something like that to see football fix its currently woeful head injury protocols.

Newcastle’s Three Amigos; How the form of Rondon, Perez and Almiron have revived Newcastle’s faltering attack

Newcastle’s Three Amigos; How the form of Rondon, Perez and Almiron have revived Newcastle’s faltering attack

From the minute Miguel Almiron was confirmed as a Newcastle United player there was considerable hype around Tyneside for the Paraguayan. Six games into his Magpies career, and having formed a partnership up top with Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, Newcastle look like a side capable of attacking once again.

Expectations can sometimes get the better of a new signing, especially when they come into a club for a record fee. Add in coming from a league with a lower standard of football in the MLS and there was the real potential for Almiron to falter at the first hurdle.

However, Newcastle’s Asuncion-born starlet did no such thing. Instead, he rose to the challenge of the Premier League and excelled.

It’s not just in regards to his own personal form, either.

Yes, his direct running with the ball and unorthodox style have made him a handful for almost all opposition defenders he has come up against so far. He has an incredible ability to almost gallop and hurdle his way past tackles and challenges when he’s in full flow with the ball, and its not something seen very often in the quite technical, passing-focused Premier League.

Yet, arguably even more key since his arrival, he has combined perfectly with his two fellow Spanish-speaking forwards in the Newcastle line-up. Both Perez and Rondon have hit a rich vein of form following Almiron’s arrival, and that is no coincidence.

The Paraguayan’s direct running presents a real problem for defenders, who are having to pre-empt where the Newcastle man is going to end up and often commit multiple players to challenging him.

That creates space in and around the rest of the pitch, allowing Perez to drift into and cause problems. While he may not have world class technical abilities, Perez is gifted with two crucial skills – work rate and a poacher’s instinct.

The Spaniard is one of Newcastle’s top goalscorers in the modern Premier League era, and a lot of those goals have come down to being in the right place at the right time. His efforts against Everton the other week were prime examples of that, latching onto the end of efforts from Almiron and Rondon to fire into the back of the net.

He knows instinctively where to be in the box to get a chance, and can finish them. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a spectacular goal in his locker, but his bread and butter is notably less spectacular.

Not that any Newcastle fan will complain, so long as he puts it into the back of the net.

Rondon, meanwhile, has been an absolute revelation this season.

There were real doubts from the fans when his name kept being suggested as a top target by Rafa Benitez, but what an inspired move that has proved to be.

Having arrived looking somewhat dubious – and as it transpired, lacking any real match fitness – the Venezuelan got to work on the training ground and, after a run of matches under his belt, hit the form that he has delighted the Magpies faithful with all season since.

He’s an absolute monster up front; a defender’s worst nightmare. He’s a big, unmovable object, who I swear seems to have velcro for a chest the way he brings the ball down dead each time, but unlike a lot of the traditional big men in football, he has some real technique as well.

In Mitrovic fans had a passionate big centre forward who could bully his way around a defence. As such the fans loved him, but he had discipline issues initially and even after he didn’t do much beyond his strength. On reflection, he was very one dimensional.

Rondon is like the upgraded version of that. He is equally as strong, though he isn’t going to go flying in for a rash challenge. As a player, the Venezuelan is massively the opposite – once needing consoled when at West Brom after accidentally causing injury to another player.

Instead, he has the ability to bring the ball down in an aerial challenge, but then accurately and sensibly distribute it. And for a big man, he’s surprisingly agile. His strike against Everton showed some real athleticism to hook the ball out of the sky and into Jordan Pickford’s net.

The player is said to be loving his time of Tyneside, and his manager and teammates are to. The one downside is that he is only on loan at St. James’ Park, and with the rich vein of form he’s found, West Brom aren’t going to let him go for anything shy of a fortune. Yet, Newcastle need to accept that, and shill it out if they have any hope of success going into next season.

Yes, he’s a bit older than you’d like to pay for a big-money striker at 29, and there are arguments that he could just be a one season wonder, but I’d rather not be left with just Joselu to replicate Rondon’s impact next season. It’d also go a long way to appeasing Benitez ahead of required contract talks, and truthfully is a deal that should have been completed as a permanent deal last summer, rather than this one.

Either way though, and no matter what the summer does hold for Newcastle, here in the present Newcastle have some real positivity up front. Goals are starting to go in at a good rate, and results are coming along with them.

Newcastle’s ‘Three Amigos’ are firing at the moment, and that’s a real positive for fans of those in black and white. Keep it up, and secure Rondon permanently in the summer, and there could be some real positive things brewing on Tyneside.

Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff: Swiss star Schar steals the show in commanding win

Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff: Swiss star Schar steals the show in commanding win

It took some time, but finally a performance clicked for Newcastle at home. In football, the saying goes that your home ground should be a fortress – well it’s been anything but at St. James’ Park this season.

However, against Cardiff, all that changed, largely through the actions of a particular Swiss centre back.

Fabian Schar has looked like a pretty inspired bit of business already in his time donning the black and white – having cost the Magpies just £3m thanks to a release clause. The centre back is comfortable on the ball, confident and boasts an impressive passing range and accuracy.

He’s also offered fans a slight hope in the misery that is Newcastle’s ongoing injury crisis, having displayed proficiency playing further forward in midfield.

That versatility will serve him well under Rafa Benitez, who is known to respect players who offer him flexible. It’s the reason Vurnon Anita became such a key part of Benitez’s Championship squad.

In this match, Schar stepped up even further to the mantle. Newcastle have been crying out for a leader on the pitch in recent games. They’ve needed somebody to put their teammates on their back and lead by example.

When he collected the ball not far from the halfway line, I don’t think anyone in St. James’ Park thought Schar was about to be that man. Here and there, a fan or two may have secretly hoped their man would drive at Cardiff, but even the most optimistic were likely stunned by the outcome.

It was a brilliant run, reminiscent of one Hatem Ben Arfa, and a cultured finish considering it was on his weaker left foot.

Even if Cardiff did very little to defend against the chance, it still relied exceptional belief and composure from Schar to finish it off.

You could see the joy in the Swiss international’s face too, as he sprinted to the corner flag to celebrate, roaring towards the Gallowgate End – who responded equally. It was the sort of thing that within an instant got the belief and the positivity pumping around St. James’ Park again.

Clear as day too was the confidence it gave Schar. Grabbing your first goal for your club can be an enormous boost for a player, and for the Magpies’ summer signing it turned an already brilliant performance into the game of his life.

He seemed to be just about everywhere.

No more so than in the second half when he cropped up in the exact right place at the right time to direct the ball into the back of the net once again.

It may have lacked quite the same grace as his first goal, but it required just as much footballing intelligence. There was no accident that Schar got on the end of the ball, because he was alert in the box and quickest to react when a chance fell his way.

He could have gotten a third too, later in the match, but his powerful header glanced wide of the upright.

Yet, as ridiculous as it sounds, Schar goals weren’t the thing that stood out to me most in the match. His performance was much more than just one of attacking brilliance, but instead an all round display.

Having already scored twice as a central defender, you’d forgive him if some defensive complacency slipped into the Swiss star’s game, but he remained sharp throughout.

As Cardiff broke on a rare dangerous attack, they got in behind the Newcastle defence and looked certain to score – with an unmarked blue shirt waiting in the middle of the box for the cut back.

Almost everyone watching the attack unfold resigned themselves to losing the clean sheet – except Schar – who came sliding in with an inch-perfect interception. It denied a certain goal, and in my opinion, was just as impressive as one.

As the game neared its end Salomon Rondon, who was immense up front again, set up Ayoze Perez to wrap up the game.

After a series of less-than-desirable results and growing dissent and frustration among fans, this was exactly the result that we needed. It lifted some of the dark cloud that had been hanging over Tyneside after the woeful home form.

It also offers an interesting dilemma for Benitez in the coming weeks at centre back.

Schar, if he keeps playing at even a fraction of this performance, looks untouchable in the side. Florian Lejeune, meanwhile, has recovered remarkably from his pre-season cruciate injury and is once again showing why Newcastle spent an entire summer transfer window pursuing him.

It’s for that reason that, once Federico Fernandez come back into fitness, it may well be captain Jamaal Lascelles who’s place in the side is in danger. Last season, that’d have been unthinkable, but now it’s a real possibility.

Either way, the 3-0 win over Cardiff has brought back some belief in this Newcastle squad and highlighted a few positives in this Magpies squad that fans had perhaps overlooked in recent weeks.

Blackburn 2-4 Newcastle: Magpies progress after a hard-fought FA Cup replay

Blackburn 2-4 Newcastle: Magpies progress after a hard-fought FA Cup replay

Newcastle are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, but we certainly didn’t make it easy going against Blackburn. Dragged to a replay, it took extra time to secure the win, but it was a result and a performance that those in black and white can be proud of.

Rafa Benitez was bold in his selection choices – giving youth a chance – and he was duly rewarded. Within a minute, Sean Longstaff found the net courtesy of a wicked deflection. Cal Roberts added a second – his first senior goal for Newcastle – much to the delight of the travelling Toon support.

Chaos ensued in defence towards the end of the half, and it certainly hurt as a Newcastle fan to watch Adam Armstrong net against us. It was a cracking pass from Danny Graham and an assured finish from Armstrong, though I do immensely respect him for not celebrating. Playing against the club he supports and gave him his start, it was a respectable touch that the fans appreciate.

Some bewilderingly poor defending from a set piece gifted Blackburn an equaliser before the half, as Darragh Lenihan somehow magnetised the two Newcastle defenders to the floor it seemed and out leapt the pair.

An absolutely cracking first half of football that oozed the magic of the FA Cup and was as far from a Tuesday night replay as possible. The way both teams were going for the game seemed more akin to the cup final than a cold mid-January night in the North West.

Naturally, therefore, the second half offered no goals, but that didn’t mean the football was poor. The same intensity that defined the first half was on display from both sides, and particularly the home side as Blackburn smelt blood.

There was a fair number of heart-in-mouth moments as I watched them press our defence, I will freely admit.

The second half also demonstrated the dangers of the FA Cup as a number of physical tackles went flying in, mainly from the Championship side, and plenty of knocks and niggles were collected.

In possibly the most comically unfortunate situation, the second half also saw Jamaal Lascelles come on as a half time substitute for Ciaran Clark, only to suffer a hamstring issue and need to be replaced by Isaac Hayden. However, then later in the half Hayden went down and needed significant treatment, looking destined to need to come off.

The midfielder managed to struggle on, and shake off his affliction, but Newcastle fans very nearly witnessed the substitute for the half time substitute needing substituted. If that isn’t the start of a bad football joke, I don’t know what is.

Extra time rolled around after some more nervy moments, and a few more of the big guns were readied – including Ayoze Perez.

At that stage Benitez and the travelling fans could sense they were starting to have the legs of their opponents, and that proved as Joselu pounced on a stinging shot that Blackburn goalkeeper David Raya could only spill in front of him.

It was unfortunate for Raya, and even more so when the replays showed Joselu to clearly be half a man offside when the initial shot was struck. The goal shouldn’t have counted, but fortune for once favoured those from Tyneside, and it did.

However, for all the luck involved in Joselu’s strike, there was none in Perez’s that ensured the win for those in black and white. A great run from deep, he shrugged off his lack of support to fire expertly into the far corner with enough power that even the glove Raya got on the ball couldn’t keep it out.

As the full-time whistle rang out at Ewood Park, it was a great win for Newcastle and a brilliant game of football to watch. The Magpies had done the unexpected and actually progressed in the cup, and perhaps more encouraging than anything else, had been assisted enormously by their young stars.

Much has been made of Newcastle’s woefully underfunded academy, and the lack of depth or strength the Magpies have in their second string. That fact remains very much true, and while Longstaff is starting to show glimmers, he is the best of a bunch that still aren’t Premier League ready.

Yet, with that said, they do have one incredibly important thing in their favour. Determination. Each one of those young Newcastle stars on the pitch against Blackburn bled black and white. They fought for every ball and ran themselves into the ground, and that offers some real hope to supporters.

It’s not a new thing for Newcastle to be lacking the talent it needs on the pitch, but one criticism of recent seasons that certainly can’t be levelled at many in that team is a lack of desire or fight for this club. The young prospects perhaps the best example of that commitment and passion to right by the name of the club, and that’s a real positive in what is a pretty depressing time surrounding the club.

Was there any logic to be found in Rio Ferdinand’s bizarre pro-Mike Ashley rant?

Was there any logic to be found in Rio Ferdinand’s bizarre pro-Mike Ashley rant?

No. That would be the initial answer, for certain. It just struck me as one of those comments ex-footballer pundits throw out there from time to time, despite not knowing the ins and outs of what they’re talking about, purely intent on stirring up some reaction and a spot in the headlines the next day.

Well, if that was his intention, then Rio Ferdinand certainly succeeded. He got a clear rise of out Newcastle supporters – understandably wound-up by a frankly ridiculous and misinformed statement – and he firmly planted his face in the sports headlines of the following day.

But, now some of the initial dust and fury has settled, let’s have a look at whether there was any tiny glimmer of logic to be found in what he said.

No matter if there was, there is no debate that what Ferdinand said – or more aptly, how he phrased it – was absolutely ridiculous.

Nobody on Tyneside should be thanking Mike Ashley for how he’s ran our club to date. The ‘positive moments’ he hinted towards, frankly those are just the base expectation you should have of how a professional football club is ran in the modern day.

But, in regards to his comments about how Ashley would be unwilling to spend money given his desire to sell the club, I do – and it pains me to say it, believe me – understand where the ex-England defender is coming from. I understand what he means by this comment.

As an owner looking to cash in significantly on selling the club, Ashley is going to be hesitant to invest money in transfers. Every penny he spends in the months before a sale simply reduce the profits he gets from it.

That would be fair enough, and most fans would accept that practice, had he demonstrated throughout the rest of his ownership period a consistent willingness to support and back the team. But Ashley hasn’t. He’s been about as far from that concept as physically possible.

Ferdinand, as many critics of Newcastle fans’ displeasure with their owner do, pointed to the Championship season as evidence Ashley spent big money.

And yes, that season he did spend millions of pounds on players – a stat that pundits can very easily find with little effort. However, in a clear display of how little extra digging they do before making the point, it should also be remembered that despite the significant outlay that summer before the Championship season, Newcastle still actually made a significant net profit.

Yes, Mike Ashley spent £50-odd million, but let’s not forget we also made over £90 million in sales. Through selling the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko we earned almost twice as much as we spent.

Therefore Ashley didn’t actually spend any money that summer, he in fact earned nearly double. We also aren’t debt-free as suggested, since we owe nearly £100m in loans to the Sports Direct magnate.

But, let us remember that we should thank Ashley for his running of this club, according to Ferdinand.

I get Ferdinand’s comments about why an owner looking to sell wouldn’t want to spend, but at the end of the day Ashley hasn’t wanted to spend from the very first minute of his reign in charge of Newcastle.

And we’re not even touching on the Rafa Benitez comment, because that was purely provocational. There was absolutely no basis for that suggestion, and I sincerely hope Ferdinand made that comment purely to get a reaction from the fans and doesn’t honestly believe it.

If he was truly to thank for getting Benitez through the door, then he would understand the importance of keeping him and wouldn’t treat him the way he does. No, in that case, Ashley did little more than sign off on the deal once Benitez was already lined up ready.

In general, I think we can all safely agree that Ferdinand’s comments were both ill-advised and misinformed. They were a pundit taking the cheap, easy shot at Newcastle fans knowing he’d get some attention and reaction from it.

There may be some comments that, if our owner acted differently when he wasn’t looking to sell the club, then I could maybe understand, but the sad truth is that Ashley’s current attitude is no different to how it has always been.

No, instead, Ferdinand I think falls under the umbrella of an ex-footballer who needs to do a lot more research before he makes inflammatory comments like he did. As far as those on Tyneside are concerned, he can take his place among the likes of Richard Keys as pundits who have lost the respect of those who support black and white.

Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle: A resilient performance but an inevitable result

Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle: A resilient performance but an inevitable result

On a day where other results went against the Magpies too, Newcastle United fell to a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. The result was of little surprise, in all honesty, given the gulf in class between the two respective lineups, but those in black and white did give a resilient and valiant performance.

A lack of depth and quality in the Newcastle team has led to some real problems, particularly in central midfield, in recent matches and the trip to Stamford Bridge drove that home perhaps clearer than any other.

Rafa Benitez is without the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng and Mohamed Diame, and as such was forced to field a midfield of Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff against one of the Premier League’s best and most creative, attacking sides.

Playing such an inexperienced midfield against a side like Chelsea is asking for problems, but such is the squad strength and depth issues on Tyneside that it was quite literally the best available selection for Benitez.

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea capitalised on the weakened midfield and unpicked it numerous times with their talented stars. Within eight minutes they were ahead courtesy of a long ball over the top for Pedro and the match looked destined to be a write-off.

The players should be applauded for their spirit and resilience though, and got just rewards when Ciaran Clark slammed home an equaliser from a corner just before half time. It was unexpected, given Chelsea’s superiority, but it gave those in black and white some sort of borderline hope.

It wasn’t meant to be, with Chelsea’s winner coming through a moment of brilliance from Willian – and therefore there is little that can be said against that goal. Sometimes, at the top levels, you do just concede to moments of individual magic like that. Sadly, Newcastle seem to be lacking any of them at this moment in time.

In terms of individual performances, I was impressed by Rondon once again, whose physicality and strength genuinely terrify me. He’s a perfect hold-up players and is showing he can do real damage to teams now he’s fit. Hopefully more goals will come from his game, but I’d certainly like to see Newcastle make his loan deal permanent at some stage.

Longstaff also deserves some real praise too for his game. He was pulled from pillar to post throughout the game by Chelsea’s players and by full time looked genuinely dead on his feet – a late tackle of Jorginho proving as much – but he gave 110% to the team cause certainly.

I still don’t believe he is of Premier League quality, but if we are going to be forced to have to throw him into the deep end like today, there’s little more we could ask from his performance than what he gave. He ran himself into the ground for the cause, and fans respect that sort of attitude.

At the end of today, it looks like a quite dire situation with results elsewhere seeing Newcastle slip into the relegation zone, but today’s match was kind of always a write-off, and so the defeat shouldn’t be the end of the world.

We definitely need to end our torrid run of form – six points from nine Premier League games is the sort of thing that sends you down – but matches against Chelsea with a less-than-full-strength side (which already isn’t the strongest) isn’t the moments you’re gonna put that sort of thing right.