Watson 30, 37, Cole 40, 70, Lee 85
MANAGERS are fond of saying that the Premiership is a marathon and not a sprint. The sprinters now must be caught. Newcastle have scored 12 goals in three games and if they are to be stopped, someone soon had better devise a system of defending against them.
This was far beyond Southampton's capabilities yesterday, but the lamentable defensive errors which led to three of the five goals may have been caused by the sheer pressure of wave after wave of black-and- white shirts - supported by a similar blanket in all four corners of the ground.
If passionate vocal and local support could win trophies, the rest may as well pack up and go home now, but as Newcastle were last champions in 1927 it suggests something else may be needed. They could now possess it - Alan Ball, Southampton's manager, was in no doubt. After appropriately castigating his defenders and explaining his embarrassment at being their manager, he said of his conquerors: 'This will be their strength, this stadium. The intimidation is there and they set about their job. They were at our throat from the first minute to the last. The fortress has been built.'
Newcastle have a collective self-belief which is enshrined in a determination to attack. Kevin Keegan, the manager, said: 'My teams look like they're enjoying their football. But you always feel that we have got three or four players who can break a deadlock.'
It was impossible to disagree. Steve Watson epitomised the team's versatility. He began in midfield where he was effective and moved to the front after 30 minutes where he was devastating. This tactical manoeuvre - elementary according to Keegan - caused Southampton's wall to come tumbling down. Philippe Albert, a central defender who looks dangerously comfortable on the ball, made the initial strike, Bruce Grobbelaar made a reflex save and Watson drove in the rebound.
That done, Newcastle scored twice more before half- time. Watson got the second too, when Fox had cruised neatly through the right of midfield to the byline. He crossed accurately along the face of the goal and Watson nudged it home. Fox made the third as well when he delivered sweetly to Andy Cole inside the box. The prolific striker was allowed to turn and scored clinically.
By now it was possible to wonder who Terry Venables, the watching England coach, might be adding to his list of prospective internationals. It was probably not Matthew Le Tissier who never received the ball often enough to perform any of his tricks.
Even when Nicky Banger pulled a goal back after a desperate clearance in the 53rd minute, Newcastle's response was to go forward some more. From left and right and through the centre they went. It was only inevitable when Francis Benali gave the ball away just on the edge of his own area. Cole then accepted the gift, looking up and firing past the hapless Grobbelaar, before providing the fifth for Robert Lee, four minutes from time.
Keegan was low-key in his approach afterwards. 'It might seem daft but if Peter Beardsley was fit he would definitely be in the team,' he said. 'I've got four players and I don't know where to put them.' He sounded like a man ready to sprint a marathon.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content