25 mins Lee Bowyer nutmegged Didi Hamann near the
centre circle and surged forward towards the Liverpool goal. His pass out to the
left forced Ameobi a little wider than he might have liked, but Shola managed
a decent left-footed cross -shot that bounced past Dudek and went in via the far
post at the Kop end. 1-0
Half time: Liverpool 0 Newcastle 1
67 mins Simple enough but classic in its
delivery and execution. Steven Gerrard curled a magnificent ball over the top of
Bramble and Owen was able to steer the ball past Given on the volley. 1-1
Full time: Liverpool 1 Newcastle 1
Sir Bobby commented:
"We knew we had to
get something from this match to do the job ourselves, even if we are thankful
for some help from Manchester United, who won at Aston Villa.
"We have had to play
four games in 10 days - nobody else has had to do that - and we were on our
knees at the end. I do not think we could have played much longer.
"We had weary legs.
It has been a tough time and we're bushed, for sure. And we have done it despite
losing so many players lately through injury.
"In the end it was a
dramatic day and we were able to give something back to our wonderful support.
We are grateful to them because those travelling fans have only seen us win
twice away this season. That is inexplicable. It has been painful to watch."
"If we had picked up
a few more wins away we would have had this place, and probably fourth spot,
tied up a long time ago. But we have drawn our last two away games at
Southampton and here, and in the end those two points have got us into this
position and back into Europe."
"I wish Gerrard had
gone off at half-time - he was really trying to kill us. It was his wonderful
pass that set up Michael Owen's goal. I hope he scores a few like that for
England this summer and that he plays like he did today for his country in
Gerrard Houllier said
about Steven Gerrard:
"He was awesome. He
did everything out there. We put him out on the right in the second half and
he turned in a fantastic display.
"He has upped his
level of performance this season and is now approaching world class. He is
the captain and leads by example.
"As for the match,
it was a funny game. We did not really know what to do in the first half, we
played ok and they took their chance. But in the second period we were much
better, more creative and our movement was better."
"I felt a bit sorry
for Bobby. He has lost so many players all at once and it has been difficult
for him. I recall something similar happening to us during the season and we
also struggled for results with so many out. I know how it feels and have
sympathy for him."
The draw was our 12th
away from home - a new club record - and we equaled the 17 draws in
total which was set in 1990-91 when we played 46 games, rather than
Surprisingly, though, we
finishing the season with just eight defeats equaling the club's
best since 1898 (when we lost six times in a 30 game season). The
other times we've lost eight games; 1992-93 (46 games), 1995-95
and 1996-97 (both 38 games).
And of those eight
defeats in the league only the nightmare at Chelsea was by more than one
goal. In fact, the only teams to beat us and score more than a goal were the
sides that finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd:
Birmingham (h) 0-1
Blackburn (h) 0-1
Man United (h) 1-2
Arsenal (a) 2-3
Bolton (a) 0-1
Chelsea (a) 0-5
Man City (a) 0-1
Spurs (a) 0-1
The other game we lost by
more than one goal was, of course, the 0-2 defeat in Marseille, with the two
other cup defeats both being 1-2 (Carling Cup - WBA, FA Cup - Liverpool) and
not forgetting the 0-1 Partisan home leg defeat.
No team managed to
the double over us while we were able to turn our two away wins
against Middlesbrough and Fulham into doubles.
Shola Ameobi managed double figures in the goalscoring stakes for the
first time as a first team player - this was his 10th in 40 games (26
All told, 24 players represented us in the Premiership this
A note about the home side - unused goalkeeping substitute Paul Harrison
was named in the senior squad for the first time. The 19 year-old lost both
his father and uncle in the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster.
First of all, an unpleasant but necessary duty
that must be performed: thanking the players and manager of Manchester United
for their sterling efforts in securing the place for us in Europe that we were
unable to grab for ourselves. And the reds finished with only nine men. That's
almost as many as we started with...
Some folks would doubtless prefer to believe it
was because their 62 year-old boss has a sneaking admiration and/or respect for
his fellow knight, our 71 year-old gaffer. But here in the kingdom of bigotry
(part of the land of cynicism) that we inhabit, we would much rather cling to
the notion that, like us, Fergie just cannot abide the mock humbleness and twee
simperings of David O'Bleary.
The 2001 winner of the most odious man in Leeds award (beating off stiff
competition in the process) was in such full gush after his final match of the
season that several journalists at Villa Park had to be soaped down by the team that
usually clean oily seabirds after tanker crashes.
The boy David now tells that the romance has gone out of football due to all
that terrible money floating around - this from a man who acknowledged what a
colossal hard-on spending sackfuls of someone else's money at Elland Road was.
If he went on a diet he'd only be two-faced.
On behalf of all right-minded people can we once again implore O'Bleary to go
back to the land of blarney and play his Daniel O'Donnell records to himself,
saving us from seeing his twisting face on the telly with monotonous regularity.
Come on deadly Doug, get that dagger out from under your tartan blanket just one
Right, enough waffling. Let's rip into our lot for their underachieving season
and general lack of oomph when things came to a head. Actually no, let's not
We've done the bugger to death, as has everyone from punters panelists to
Chronicle texters to the gentleman on the Whickham omnibus. Glad it's all over.
So much of this season has been spent on inquests and inquisitions about just
how we get back to where we thought we were in August 2003 - at the gates of the
Champions League, ready for more big nights of European football (although not
front of sold-out home crowds of course) and with only some Serbian no-marks to
We've tried to get excited about this fourth place thing, but in reality it's as false as the
when 20,000 fans who don't normally even log onto teletext to find out how their
alleged favourite team are getting on suddenly sprout wigs, foam hands and
jesters hats before piling into people carriers to sit in traffic jams on the
And then never go again the next season, leaving the same 6,000 diehards to
wave collection buckets at each other and be nervously interviewed on Skysports
about setting up fan trusts.
For us, are we to go through all that grief just to f*** it all up again in the
qualifier? Luck of the draw? possibly. Further
proof that we are indeed fated to foul up? almost certainly. Or as good a
microcosm of the problems that beset us as we got all season? We'll take C
please Chris and that's my final answer.
The failure to beat Partizan was an early indication of the fact the team isn't
a team. Big names, big wages, big egos. A belief that it's all there for us just
by turning up with our socks rolled over our knees a la Henry, with our
fresh-out-of-the-box blades on.
It cost us millions against Partizan and it cost us millions in the Premiership
games afterwards, because the players collectively still didn't learn, they knew
better. Better than a man with decades of experience in winning trophies. The
price of failure is disappointment in the stands, but not in the bank accounts
of the underachievers.
Football legend that he is, Robson was incapable of galvanising those around
him. His scouts let him down season after season in bringing chancers to
Tyneside, while the players he wanted to replace had to stay, because they
themselves had failed to climb the ladder to where the swag is stored. The
coaching staff may have coached, but was anyone listening?
An injury list as long as your arm, poor old Bobby, poor old Geordies, unlucky
again. Except that proved more and more difficult to believe as the months went
on - too injured to train and play but not injured enough to appear in
nightclubs at the opposite end of the country. Swinging the lead, or as we would
call it, extracting the urine.
Someone needs to get a hold of a sizeable proportion of the people with squad
numbers at this club and disconnect their DVD players, turn off their phones and
turn on hoses connected to cold water taps. And had they done it at Anfield they
could have gone and sorted out half of the home dressing room, who seem
similarly vacant and clueless.
Robson has shown he can't do this. Shepherd
talks a good fight and was credited with winning the FA Cup tie at Southampton
after his "Rolls Royce" address to he Geordie nation, but the effects
were remarkably short-lived. Maybe it's a generation thing, maybe we need to
start kicking people out. Or just kicking them.
And as for today, it was part two of the Hawthorns love-in last season. Again
the sun shone, the beer flowed and we strode hand in hand to the stadium with
our opposite number. Our final game last season ended in stalemate and so did
this one - there was absolutely nothing at stake for either side in that one,
while today we still needed to do something.
So that's what we did - something. Better than the nothing we've often offered
up, but a long way short of something meaningful, something impressive,
something to be proud of.
They tried a bit, Gerrard got himself warmed up
in the second half and for a while it looked as if we'd screw up again, but as
masters of the away draw we did what was required and the job was completed in
unspectacular fashion. Yes we cheered, chanted and clapped the players and
manager, but the Intertoto Cup got the pulses racing more than this, man.
With a UEFA Cup place claimed, we got away with the bare minimum required this
season to keep the grumblers from raising their voices. Bobby keeps his job
because he wants to - we can't afford to pay him off, we can't afford to
crow-bar someone else out of their job.
By my reckoning that leaves us with a choice of George Graham, Ron Atkinson or
the drummer from the Stereophonics, so we'll continue with the Knight for one
more campaign eh? Unless it all goes wrong again "early doors" and he
becomes the third consecutive Newcastle boss to leave in August - which would
surely be some sort of record.
We were going to rattle through the team at Anfield player by player, but it
seems hardly worth the bother. Some are leaving, some want to leave, some should
leave, some just look like they want to go home to bed. They should all go away
and think about what they get paid for and whether in 10 months they have been
worthy of all the adulation, praise.....and money.
There you have it then, a disjointed final
match report of the season. Acceptable in parts, awful in others, drifting
towards the end but not a total debacle. Certainly the product of some muddled
thinking and in need of rest, relaxation and a change of direction.
While some would argue that we've just described Tony Blair's administration, in
our mind at least the parallels with his alleged favourite football team are
clearly evident. New Labour - Old Newcastle. Another year older and nothing
Go back to your barstools and prepare for the fixture list. You have not been
charged for this call.