What Graeme Jones said about Newcastle United a year ago underlines pace of change
Football can change quickly – just ask Chelsea fans.
A lot has changed at St James’s Park and Stamford Bridge since then.
At the time, Newcastle, with Graeme Jones in temporary charge following Steve Bruce’s departure, were 19th in the Premier League and fighting to stay in the Premier League.
Chelsea were competing at the other end of the table. United held out for just over an hour, but once Reece James broke the deadlock there was only going to be one winner, such was the visitors’ dominance. And Jones was blunt when asked about the winless team’s predicament.
“We’re in a relegation battle,” said Jones. “There's no question about that. We need to face it like men, stick together and believe we'll come through.
"For 65 minutes we were competitive. That was the game plan. We ended up conceding when I was ready to make a couple of positive subs.”One notable statistic was Chelsea’s possession figure for the game. Thomas Tuchel’s side had 79% of the ball.
It was a very different story yesterday, which possession was split evenly. The days of Chelsea coming to St James’s Park and dominating possession are seemingly over.
When the team, now managed by Graham Potter did get the ball, they didn’t have it for long, such was the intensity and organisation of the home side’s press.
Newcastle were relentless. From the first whistle, they were positive with the ball – and aggressive without it.
In contrast to last season, Chelsea were defending and trying to slow the game down. For United, they couldn’t get the ball – and get at their visitors – quick enough. A second-half goal from Joe Willock gave them a deserved 1-0 win.
“I thought it was a very, very good performance from us,” said Howe. “Really high-level game between two very good teams.
“I think night games here are always very special occasions. Tonight didn’t disappoint. Tactically, very interesting whenever you come up against Graham’s teams.
“They were so well set up. I thought we performed a very good physical effort, incredible intensity in both phases of the game, and we were delighted to win.”
Newcastle ended the weekend in third place, and they will stay there at least until the Premier League resumes after Christmas following the World Cup break. Chelsea, meanwhile, are outside the top seven.
Howe, again, wouldn’t talk about a challenge for a Champions League place.
“We just want to get as many points as quickly as we can,” said United’s head coach. “We’re enjoying the moment we’re in. Everyone’s together, everyone’s united. We’re all fighting for the same cause. The players deserve huge credit. I thought it was up there with our best displays.”
Fans, however, are talking about Europe, and today marked the 20th anniversary of one of the club’s greatest European nights.
Newcastle beat Feyenoord 3-2 at De Kuip thanks to an injury-time goal from Craig Bellamy to qualify for the second Champions League stage.
Just imagine what this club, with this kind of unity, could do on the European stage.