Monday Verdict: OT thoughts; Spurs third in two-horse race

Date published: Monday 16th May 2016 9:56

Old Trafford: Bomb scare

The handling of the abandonment at Old Trafford comes in for praise, while Spurs’ sloppiness and why Newcastle must pull out all the stops to keep Rafael Benitez are also discussed.


Questions raised, but authorities praised after abandonment

I think the police, stewards, and all associated with Manchester United deserve a lot of credit for the way Sunday’s abandonment was handled following the bomb scare ahead of kick-off against Bournemouth.

Yes, the package was proven to be nothing more than a “left behind device from a training exercise” (more on that later) but after the events at Hillsborough, whereby the actions of South Yorkshire Police were accountable (eventually) for the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, there was certainly a need to opt for the authorities to opt for ‘safety first’.

As events at Old Trafford unfolded before our eyes, I’d seen the abandonment questioned by some observers and commentators on social media; tweets which, by the way, which were very quickly deleted once the realization of what could have happened sank it.

Certainly the sway of criticism being aimed at the abandonment – and the implications it could have on the FA Cup final, United’s final placing in the table, Bournemouth’s finishing position, their travelling fans, England’s Euro 2016 squad, the race for fourth, blah blah, blah – were all of limited importance to the real issue at the time.

Gary Neville captured that feeling of just how wrong people had read the abandonment with this tweet:


Yes, there’s the “logistical nightmare” of the match having to be replayed on Tuesday evening – an unwanted distraction as far as Man Utd are concerned ahead of the FA Cup final. But on the surface of it, does it really matter?

Instead, let’s praise the decision made by the authorities and the way it was handled, because believe me, this would have been a far bigger story had nothing been done and the incident been genuine. It could also have been made far worse had a panic been caused. Instead, what we witnessed was a calm and serene mass exodus of the ground. Yes, some fans were confused by the lack of a match being played. But better that was their biggest emotion on the day, rather than one of panic, fear, or indeed something far worse.

As it went, it turns out the bomb scare was caused by nothing more than a fake device from a training exercise used for the training of sniffer dogs.  You honestly could not make it up, and some serious answers will need to be forthcoming from whichever company, or individual, was responsible.


Spurs go all ‘Spursy’ and finish third in a two-horse race

Tottenham: Lame performance at Newcastle

I’m sure there’ll be a bookie out there who’ll find you a mad punter who staked a tenner on already-relegated Newcastle to beat one of the stories of the season, Spurs, 5-1, in the final Premier League game (for now) at St James’ Park. If not, it’s a PR opportunity missed!

Either way, in this crazy of crazy seasons, I do wonder how many out there predicted that one?

It could only happen to Spurs, couldn’t it? Going into the game, Mauricio Pochettino had reminded his players of the importance of finishing second and how, regardless of their title-miss misery, this would still go down as a triumphant season for the club.

Finishing above Arsenal is about as rare as a month of Sundays for Tottenham, but surely this would be their year and nothing could prevent them from at least finishing the season as Premier League runners-up. Think again.

Going into the game, Spurs had been above Arsenal for the past 103 days (since 2nd February). But all that was to change as the 10-man Toon stuck five past them, completed a league double over one of the teams of the season, made light of their place in the bottom three, and simultaneously given Pochettino his “worst ever day in management”.

Just under three weeks ago, some of TEAMtalk’s journalists (myself being one) tipped Tottenham to beat Leicester to the title. But yet in a two-horse title race, Spurs somehow self imploded and managed to finish third.

Football fans labelled it ‘Spursy’; for Pochettino it reminded him how he will need reinforcements this summer, none more so than in the centre of the park where a midfield suddenly shorn of Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele just did not look up to the task.

The small silver lining was that Harry Kane, who was chasing shadows at St James’, won the golden boot with 25 goals. He is the first Englishman to do so since Kevin Phillips in 2000.


Newcastle must keep Benitez at all costs

Rafael Benitez: May not wave goodbye to Newcastle

Newcastle United ended a wretched season in bizarre fashion with their 5-1 hammering of Spurs at St James’ Park.

The frustration for Newcastle fans, management and players must be doubly compounded by the display, which proved, beyond any measure of doubt, that when motivated, this Newcastle side CAN play.

Despite already being relegated the same Toon team that have failed to beat a clutch of relegation-threatened sides pulled a Champions League-bound Spurs team to pieces.

Unfortunately though performances like this have been few and far between for United.

Now the club’s top brass have just one job – to tie Rafa Benitez down at any cost.

With that in mind, I’ll leave the final word to the Newcastle Chronicle, who said of the need to tie Benitez down:

‘It is the obvious thing to do and it should be staring a football board who have made a catalogue of errors firmly in the face.

‘Failure to do so would result in Newcastle stumbling down a corridor of uncertainty and leaving the club’s future up in the air, not to mention putting Mike Ashley’s profit-making machine at serious risk.

‘Already the club’s finances have suffered a major dent in missing out on a £100million TV jackpot and failure to win promotion at the first attempt would see Newcastle fall even further behind English football’s elite clubs.

‘Ashley was here to witness just what type of an impact it would have bringing in Benitez on a full-time basis.

‘His name was belted out by fans around the stadium from start to finish with fans singing: “Rafa Benitez – we want you to stay.”

‘Benitez set his team up to look the part at St James’ Park.

‘At times it was hard to believe that Championship football lies just around the corner as they dismantled one of this season’s Premier League title contenders.

‘Newcastle’s problems this season haven’t just been down to their ability and that much was clearly evident against Tottenham.

‘The wider issue has been a lack of good attitude and application for the majority of the season meaning their relegation is deserved.

‘If only they’d served up more performance like this one.’

With Benitez admitting after the game that his “heart is telling him to stay”, Newcastle fans will be praying the popular Spaniard stays on Tyneside, gets the club promoted, and get their bungling big-wigs out of jail and back into the promised land.

James Marshment

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