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  1. Saturday lunchtime in the North East against a team who clearly used the loopholes around Covid postponements to get their fixtures played once they’d jibbed off their old and stale manager, got a new one in and spent the first tranche of their blood money on reinforcements. It’s pretty obvious what their new owners were hoping to do, and the Premier League and the FA allowed it. Of course they did. We as a country are governed by the sort of people who would sell their arse (and anyone else’s) if it made them a quick buck. It’s not an ideal time for this fixture but seeing as we travel to Spain for a game on Tuesday night, to play Newcastle any later would have posed a real problem when it comes to preparation and especially recovery. Still, we go into the game with a chance to go top of the league again, and at least ask the question of City. So what is required at St James’ Park? Audacity. Urgency. Fire. Work-rate. Intelligence. Electricity. Determination. Effervescence. Relentlessness. Speed. Energy. Heart. Energy x2. Nerve. Productivity. Energy x3. Tactical nous. I don’t ask for much. Last season’s correspondence fixture was out first post-Christmas fixture in 2020, and it was effectively the start of us relinquishing our title as we dropped 2 points and embarked on a run of dreadful form that last the better part of 3 months. The game finished 0-0 and we just could not get going. The only real positive was that it marked the return of Thiago after his enforced lay-off following the derby at Goodison a few months earlier. It was a shit-fest all round. We’ve had some incredible results at Newcastle during the Premier League era, dishing out a hiding on more than a few occasions, but as these match thread pieces veer towards an older era, I’m going back to a game in mid-November 1975. Sir Bob Paisley was beginning to find his feet after a tricky first season in charge following the resignation of a club legend. The players would spark this season and match the stars of the 1972/73 campaign, pipping QPR to the league title and winning a second UEFA Cup by defeating Club Brugge. The game against the Geordies was somewhat routine, with the Reds coming from 1-0 down to win it 2-1 late on. Geoff Nulty opened the scoring for the hosts. Brian Hall grabbed the equaliser shortly before half time, and North East native Ray Kennedy grabbed the winner 2 minutes from the end. It was exactly the sort of game where you aren’t quite at your best but you keep going and grinding your opponents down. That’s what ultimately wins league titles. I couldn’t find any footage so here’s a match report from The Guardian. Al Pacino was on a roll in the mid-70s, and the film topping the box office in November 1975 is one of his best. Directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starring John Cazale, Dog Day Afternoon is an absolute triumph of casting, acting and storytelling. It’s basically about a bank heist gone wrong, and the situation only gets worse as the would-be bank robbers are effectively cornered in the bank and reduced to taking people hostage and making increasingly desperate demands. It’s also a perfect example of how a media frenzy can feed events and contribute to them spiralling out of control. Lumet visited this theme again the following year when he directed Network. Dog Day Afternoon also includes a memorable moment when Cazale ad-libs a reply to try and make the notoriously intense Pacino break character and start laughing. He almost gets there! Newcastle away is not an easy game to call, as Eddie Howe has brought about an upturn in fortunes and seen the Geordies sit comfortably in mid-table whereas upon his arrival they were one of the favourites for the drop. As a boyhood blooshite fan, maybe they ought to have gone for him instead after sacking Rafa! Anyway, I’d expect Klopp to ensure that his players are fully focused on the immediate job at hand, so motivation, preparation and application should not be an issue. As is the general theme of our season, we have the tools to go out there and get the job done. No repeat of the late-2020 tail-off. Go out there, put a shift in and grab the 3 points.
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