They may not have the individual talent the 'top six' possess, but the Tynesiders have shown the power of the collective and a team mentality
The late Bill Shankly was, without question, as much as a legend as he was a committed socialism, as these clips from Youtube accurately illustrate…
On the great Celtic side composed by the late Jock Stein, all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park, the first British winners of the European Cup…
On life in general…
The man who once said, as quoted on the Liverpool football club website, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”, believed in winning as much as achieving it by everyone working together to the best of their ability, thus demonstrating the power of the collective over the individual. However, the team in the Premier League that best epitomises this attitude is not Shankly’s former club Liverpool, but a club over 175 miles away in the North-East, at a club where the Scot would immediately identify with the passion and seriousness with which football is taken in this part of the world.
Newcastle United are, at present, seventh in the Premier League, just a point behind Shankly’s old club, Liverpool, and competing for a spot in the Europa League or, for those bold enough to dream, the Champions League. This from a club that was embarrassingly relegated to the Football League in 2009 and only returned to the Premier League last year. Not only this, but the sale of egotistical and disruptive players such as Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, and Andy Carroll brought in much needed funds for the club and their replacements such as Cheike Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, and the quite brilliant Demba Ba. Ba, have been revelations. Ba is second only to the outstanding Robin Van Persie so far this term in the goal scoring charts, ahead of the likes of Rooney, Aguero and Torres. Not that being ahead of the latter is much of an achievement nowadays.
The Senegalese is set to briefly depart the North-East for the African Cup of Nations in January and, with 21 goals scored in the Premier League this calendar year, it is almost inevitable that he will be missed by those at St James Park. Up until the game against Chelsea at the beginning of December, a point which was rightly highlighted on Match of the Day, Newcastle have started the same eight players in almost all of their fixtures up until that point – Tim Krul, a crucially unbroken back-four of Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, and Ryan Taylor, the ever-present midfielders Jonas Guitierrez and Johan Cabaye coupled with the firepower of the mercurial Ba - thus meaning that the spine of the team was intact and unbroken up until the unfortunate injury to Steven Taylor.
With Ba soon to depart for several weeks for international duty, the strength of the St James Park side will indeed be tested, certainly in the goalscoring department, but Newcastle have demonstrated in the opening four months of this captivating season that they have the solidarity and collective team spirit to match the best in the business. The final fifteen minutes of their game against Manchester United at Old Trafford in November typified their spirit and determination, bluntly refusing to be defeated in the face as United laid siege to Tim Krul’s goal. Player against player, Newcastle are perhaps not a match for either the Manchester clubs or the London contingent that currently occupy the top five.
Whilst the Toon possesses players that others may look covetously at, such as Ba, Tiote and Krul amongst others, the true strength of Newcastle is the power of the collective over individuals. To put that into perspective, few would swap, say, Nani, Gareth Bale or Daniel Sturridge for the likes of Guitierrez or Gabriel Obertan, an Old Trafford reject. Similarly, both Steven Taylor and Coloccini are fine centre-halves, but few would argue that they are better than John Terry, Vincent Kompany or Nemanja Vidic. As good a buy as Johan Cabaye has been, he is plainly not the calibre of either Luka Modric, David Silva, or Juan Mata. Ryan Taylor is a solid left-back, but he is not on par with either Ashley Cole or Patrice Evra. This is not demean or devalue these players, but simply to highlight the achievement that Newcastle United Football Club currently finds itself in with being so far up the Premier League table.
Newcastle are currently demonstrating the power of the collective over the individual which, strictly speaking in a footballing sense, is working wonders for them and enabling them to mix it up with the big boys of English football. How long they remain in this position is very much open to debate, but the Toon look to have a solid team that firmly has their gaze fixed ahead, rather than looking over their shoulder.