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Paul Scholes: Waves of emotion sweeping club is drowning Newcastle

By Paul Scholes

St James' Park was always, in the course of my career, a great place to play football, for the wildness of the crowd and the no-holds-barred football that both my team, Manchester United, and Newcastle would play.

We had some wonderful games against them - crazy games, really - like the two in the 2002-03 title-winning season when we won 5-3 at Old Trafford and 6-2 at their place.

And, yes, there were times when they beat us as well, including the 5-0 at St James' Park in October 1996, the season after we had caught them to win the first Premier League title of my career.

Looking back at the results, I have to say overall we came off the best. I scored seven goals in all at St James' Park, including a hat-trick in the 6-2 game in April 2003 that I treasure as one of my happiest football memories.

Whenever we played Newcastle, even the Kevin Keegan teams of the mid-1990s, I sensed something different about the club.

At United we had been honed into a ruthless team who played great football but, ultimately, were there to win football matches and league titles.

At Newcastle they could certainly play on their day and the crowd was formidable, but there was a weakness - a vulnerability that you could seek out.

As a club, there was never any middle ground with Newcastle. They were as high as the sky or in a pit of despair.

Even the results bore it out. Four months before we lost 5-0 at St James' Park in 1996 we beat Newcastle 4-0 in the Charity Shield at Wembley in August.

I have checked the Newcastle line-ups for those two games. It was an identical XI on both occasions.

Newcastle could be an emotional wreckage. I don't mean that disparagingly, it just felt that with them you could come up against a brilliant team, or a side waiting to be beaten.

The culture of the club seems to have stayed the same and now they find themselves dropping down the table like a stone and in danger of relegation unless they can turn one of their last three games into a win.

And the emotion of the place, well, it must be at fever pitch now.

I recognise the qualities that make Newcastle such a great place to play football in their current manager, John Carver.

He is passionate. He loves the club.

Former team-mates tell me he is a great coach, but I can't see him winning a game out of his last three.

It is hard for assistants to step up. I worked with many great assistants to Sir Alex Ferguson over the years. Yet sometimes a manager's second-in-command is more suited to that role than any other.

You confide in them, you tell them things that you would not tell the manager and they are that bridge between the boss and the players.

When the transition to manager occurs, I can see how it is hard for people to adjust their relationships.

I thought Carver got it wrong on Mike Williamson and the accusation that he intentionally got himself sent off against Leicester.

I don't think any player does that, however badly it is going on the pitch.

Either way, things like that have to stay private.

Sir Alex would tear strips off us behind closed doors, but he never repeated them outside the room. It meant he could say the harshest things to his players and the relationship survived.

In some ways, Carver, a Geordie to his boots, gave the typical Geordie response. Emotional, heartfelt, but I'm not sure it will do him or his team any good.

I know that when we played Newcastle, their fans yearned for the kind of success we had.

They wanted to be the serial winners that we were at Manchester United, but for whatever reason it seemed out of their reach and that frustration was raw.

It would either sweep the team on, or tie them up in knots.

I enjoyed every game I played up there, and not just because of the goals.

I don't often say this about a team other than the one I played for, but I wish them all the best.

Source Independent

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