Football: Sterile can be sexy is the new Gullit message NEWC19

Newcastle United 2 Derby County 1
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The Independent Online
ACCORDING TO Ruud Gullit, you can have too much of a good thing, even sexy football, so perhaps not all the sterile stuff went out of the Newcastle United drawer with Kenny Dalglish.

The Scotsman's successor at St James' s Park, perceived high priest of the erotic game, implores the faithful to accept a modicum of pragmatism along the road to deliverance. He might also tell them to look at Derby County.

The trials and anguish of Newcastle's supporters have been well chronicled beyond Tyneside, but the scarcely documented frustrations of Derby's followers should serve as a sobering reminder that only the chosen few reached the promised land.

Jim Smith, in every physical sense the antithesis of Gullit, yet in terms of footballing psychology a kindred spirit, has reshaped Derby into a side which, on their day, are capable of eclipsing the best. Even on that day, however, they can be mind-numbingly ordinary, as they were for much of Saturday.

Newcastle fans may counter that theirs is a bigger club and expectations are accordingly, and justifiably, higher. Lest they should forget, Derby did win the championship a generation ago. You have to go back several generations to unearth Newcastle's last title.

They had their chance again under Kevin Keegan's stewardship. It may prove the only chance for this generation. If Gullit is to present them with another, then they may have to embrace a style of football pitched between the doctrines of Keegan and Dalglish.

Newcastle, two up in 17 minutes, wasteful with half a dozen subsequent chances, became distinctly cautious after Derby's substitute, Deon Burton, claimed the goal that halved their advantage, 17 minutes from the end. Inevitable anxiety poured down from the gallery. "You could hear the crowd wanting us to go forward all the time, but sometimes you can't do that," Gullit reasoned. "Sometimes you have to go back and find a different way.

"You can't be on top, going forward all the time for 90 minutes. What happened here was normal. I realised what the crowd was like when I was with Chelsea. But you have to play for the result. That's something they have got to get used to. Certain things have to change."

Gullit has already announced his intention to change a great deal at Newcastle, and the team responded in a manner that demanded reconsideration. The Peruvian Nolberto Solano was a revelation in the first half, setting up the two goals and an opportunity from which Paul Dalglish headed against a post. He also dumped an opponent with a deft feint and drag inside.

Solano was equally responsible for the nervy finish, squandering three chances, but one player who ought to have convinced Gullit of his worth is Robert Lee. His tackling, drive, perception and application make him as complete a midfield player as England have at their disposal.

Derby, for one, must yearn for such a player to complement and galvanise the undoubted and disparate talents in the team. The mercurial Paolo Wanchope and the pacey, if recently less than potent, Dean Sturridge would surely benefit from such backing.

Smith bemoaned the "joke" goals his side conceded after a bright opening burst, yet admitted Solano should have finished them off.

Goals: Dabizas (13), 1-0; Glass (17) 2-0, Burton (73) 2-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Griffin, Charvet, Dabizas, Pearce; Solano (Speed, 87), Lee, Batty, Glass; Shearer, Dalglish (Ketsbaia, 89). Substitutes not used: Perez (gk), Albert, Barton.

Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hoult; Prior, Carbonari, Laursen; Delap, Eranio (Schnoor, 45), Carsley, Powell; Baiano (Burton, 65), Sturridge, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Launders, Elliott.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Bookings: Newcastle: Dabizas. Derby: Schnoor.

Man of the match: Lee.

Attendance: 36,750.