Newcastle falter at critical juncture
Ruud Gullit is most remembered for dropping Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson in the Tyne-Wear derby back in 1999 when a 2-1 defeat sealed his fate as Newcastle United boss.
That was the night which left him with little option to resign as Toon boss. The outlines of the writing on the wall had come a couple of weeks earlier in a 3-3 draw with Wimbledon on a day when the Dutchman's bad game plan, and some inept defending from his players, cost him what would have been a vital victory as Gareth Ainsworth struck in stoppage time.
United's 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace brought memories of that day flooding back for me on Saturday at St James' Park.
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Like Gullit, current Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is a man who needs a Premier League win. With no injury worries and having been backed by his owner Mike Ashley -- who watched on from the stands against the Eagles -- he no longer has any excuses in making a decent fist of the job at St James'.
So far this season the party line has been that new signings like Remy Cabella, Manu Riviere, Siem de Jong and Daryl Janmaat will take the club forward. However, Pardew feels that they will need time to bed in on Tyneside -- and a 10-game safety barrier has been rolled out by the manager.
Whether he makes it that long depends on a few things, including whether Ashley agrees, or can be persuaded, that Pardew deserves the time to get a run of results which give Newcastle that solid platform to build in before and after Christmas.
There were glimpses of good things against Palace but Pardew's copy book was blotted by bad defending, failure to see the game out and bad match management in my opinion.
Conceding after 29 seconds to Dwight Gayle's opening strike meant that the crowd were quickly feeling more pain after a run of just one win in 10 matches in the Premier League before the game kicked off, although Janmaat's equaliser gave the crowd some hope before the break.
The halftime talk on the concourses was all about whether Newcastle could come out fired up in the second half. Yet it was Palace who came out of the blocks quickest again as Jason Puncheon rattled home a second for the visitors from Croydon.
In fairness to Pardew, he did act on this by bringing on young Rolando Aarons who responded by heading home to make it 2-2, then doing the work which eventually set up Mike Williamson for his first ever Toon goal.
Only Newcastle couldn't hold on. Just like that August day at St James' Park against Palace's old Selhurst Park tenants, a last gasp equaliser made this a bitter pill to swallow. A point is better than nothing of course, but when you need wins as bad as Pardew does, it is of little consolation.
After the game he suggested that his players had been sucked in by the crowd's supposed willingness to get a fourth goal to seal the match. The reality, though, was that most fans were praying for the final whistle and to see Newcastle cling on to their first win since May in the top flight.
But Wilfried Zaha's late equaliser inflicted more pain on the home fans on a day when axed midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa watched on from the stands. Pardew's team now have a fortnight to stew in their own juices, but it won't get much easier against Southampton in a couple of weeks.
Pardew may even been able to get away with taking a hit on the south coast had he netted three points at Palace. Now he goes their knowing a defeat would set up a tense atmosphere in the next home game against Hull City.
Lose both and the crowd will make their feelings known. Just like they did to Gullit all those years ago.