MAGPIES MUST TOUGH IT OUT – OR ELSE!
HAVING spent so much of the season soaring serenely at the summit of the Championship, nobody at Newcastle will be panicking yet.
Nevertheless, last weekend’s defeat to Blackburn – their seventh of the campaign – is a statistical alarm bell.
Of the last ten sides to win automatic promotion to the Premier League, only one – Brian McDermott’s Reading in 2011-12 – had lost more matches at this stage.
Bear in mind, too, that the Royals required a run of 16 wins from 19 games to seal the deal.
Newcastle do boast the class to emulate Reading’s run, especially when Jonjo Shelvey returns from suspension. And with a window to strengthen and funds on tap, it remains difficult to see two teams powerful enough to stop them.
The title, however, is no foregone conclusion. Leaders Brighton have won ten points from losing positions this season, yet the Mags have come from behind just once – in that crazy 4-3 victory over Norwich in September.
Where the Seagulls have resilience – that ability to slog out points and grind down stubborn opponents – the Toon are like a playground bully, wilting when the little kid fights back.
Too many players – Ayoze Perez, Mo Diame – vanish when the game becomes difficult. Others, like Jack Colback, have proved they aren’t good enough for the top flight.
Of course, Newcastle will still mete out a few hidings. They’ll still go up. But unless they toughen up and learn to win ugly, they won’t even win the title, let alone thrive with the big boys next year.
MISSED: Jonjo Shelvey