Steve Bruce - A man with much to consider.
On a blisteringly hot day at the Stadium of Light, 47000 people walked out feeling cold, as the latest Wear-Tyne derby had a familiar feel about it.
There was much cause for optimism pre-game - the encouraging second half at Liverpool, our neighbours and today's visitors supposedly under-strength whilst we had added exciting young talent... talent and feelings count for little come derby day, when ultimately Newcastle's will to win saw them over the line, and retain bragging rights in the North East for a few more months...
Steve Bruce chose to start with the same XI which started against Liverpool, and in the main had done well down at Anfield. Simon Mignolet continued in goal, a defence of Phil Bardsley, Anton Ferdinand, Wes Brown & Kieran Richardson with Sebastian Larsson, Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback and Ahmed Elmohamady across the middle. Stephane Sessegnon supported Asamoah Gyan in attack.
Although it seems a long time ago, we started off fairly decent I thought. Stephane Sessegnon the main tormentor of the Newcastle back line, with no less than four decent chances in the opening ten minutes. However, rarely did they test Tim Krul who was between the sticks for the visitors. This was to become a theme.
We'd dominated the opening twenty or so minutes. Plenty of tenacity up front, hassling and closing down quickly. I was impressed with all involved for those few moments.
Other impressive moments included the massive amount of crosses put into the box. Crosses from Colback, Elmohamady, Sessegnon... all of which were over hit, under hit or not gambled upon by whoever found themselves in the middle. Certainly one of those where you feel if they were still playing now we wouldn't have scored.
Between all this Newcastle could, and should, have had a penalty. Barton firing towards goal, and Sebastian Larsson handling on the line. The incensed Newcastle players bombarded Howard Webb, but he wasn't for turning. A let off.
So we headed into half time. The better team for sure, but as I speculated with the fella next to me "I hope that's not us wasting all our chances"...
After an impressive opening 45 minutes, the second half started with a whimper. Neither team seemed to have a huge degree of tenacity as the game took on a much more 'normal match' feel, and this is where Newcastle did a job on us. They rose above things and seemed to be able to do much more with the ball as we became exasperated at not scoring, and began to run out of ideas. We began to lump the ball forward more often, which was all too easy for Collocini and Taylor against Gyan, who might be good at some things, but he's never been great in the air. Stephane Sessegnon continued to probe, but the inferiority of those around him came to the fore.
Then things became even worse. 1-0 Newcastle. A freekick from Ryan Taylor curled into the top corner past a flapping and out of position Simon Mignolet. Was it deserved? I'd say so yes. We'd squandered so many half chances in the first half, and came out looking weak in the second.
From then on there was only one team in it, and sadly it wasn't us. Gabriel Obertan and Joey Barton threatened to add to our misery as Steve Bruce threw on Craig Gardner, Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham, all of which failed to have much of an impact on things.
The best we could do was revert to hoofball towards, well, anyone in the area. Nobody was obliging. There was just enough time for Phil Bardsley to get himself sent off. Having already been booked he went in hard on Collocini, and received a second yellow. There was no malice in the challenge, no intent to injure... I don't think anyway... but it was high, wild and ugly - deservedly he trudged off, perhaps lucky it wasn't a straight red.
In the five minutes added on, we continued to offer little. The crowds wandered off, the Newcastle fans gloated, and rightly so.
Teams (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (5), Bardsley (6), Brown (6), Ferdinand (6), Richardson (6), Larsson (6), Cattermole (7), Colback (7), Elmohamady (6), Sessegnon (9), Gyan (5)
Subs Used: Gardner (6), Dong-Won (5), Wickham (5)
Man Of The Match: Stephane Sessegnon - Only really one contender from our side of things as only one player threatened to do anything or hurt Newcastle. Anything good we did came via Sess.
And another North East derby is in the books, and for all our early gusto, it will read that Newcastle won, and they deservedly did so. The big question for us, is where do we go from here?
Brighton away on Tuesday represents a chance to make changes, changes which many people want to see. However for the sheer lacklustre nature of the game, I'd be forcing the same XI (barring Cattermole, Colback and Sessegnon) out again on Tuesday night to try and prove to the fans that they aren't complete spanners.
There's questions to be asked, and I'm sure the one's we're posing of Bruce he's also posing to the players and to himself - where was the first half guile in the second period? How come Asamoah Gyan looks so disinterested? Where was plan B? When will we sign a left-winger, and a physical presence up front?
Bruce will be just as disappointed as you and me. Lets give him the chance to rectify it before we crucify him
This defeat hurts, and it will do in the morning too. No doubt several mornings to follow that, but at some point you have to look towards the future. Today's game was so horrible, I'm doing that sooner rather than later.
Keep The Faith.