This season has already had its fair share of talking points and as a neutral, watching Newcastle and Tottenham struggling so badly is one of the most surprising developments so far.
One thing the sides have in common is that both sets of players are so completely lacking in confidence. Newcastle started the season well and someone witnessing their battling draw at Old Trafford on the first day of the new campaign would not believe they were watching the same players crumbling against Hull, West Ham and Blackburn, and most significantly perhaps, against Spurs in the League Cup.
These players are professional athletes getting paid an awful lot of money and yet, a lack of confidence due to managerial turbulence has completely sabotaged their performances. Michael Owen admitted after the Blackburn defeat: “Once confidence goes it’s hard to get out of that rut. We need some confidence – it is lower than a snake’s belly at the moment.”
If confidence is the only thing standing between Newcastle going down without a struggle and staying in the Premier League, then Kevin Keegan must be rushed back and would be worth every penny of the wages paid to him. Never mind the structure of the club, who’s handling the transfers — Keegan is a proven motivator and has a track record of instilling confidence in players. It’s a shame the players aren’t capable of motivating themselves and that there’s no outstanding leader in the dressing room to shake the team out of their apathy.
Similarly, Spurs seem to have no leader on the pitch and a manager who can barely speak English. They played at Portsmouth last weekend, against a team which had shipped 10 goals in their last two matches, and played one up front. Any confidence gained from their cup win at St James’ Park seemed to evaporate as soon as Pompey’s first goal went in. Roman Pavlyuchenko was unable to add to his solitary goal and was substituted, doing his confidence no good, and so the pattern continues.
The Carling Cup win over Newcastle should have been a turning point for Spurs in terms of a lift to their confidence. However, with both teams so lacking in self-belief and seemingly no end in sight, we might see them meeting in the Championship next season.