Newcastle United 0 Liverpool 3: Newcastle dismantled by skills of irrepressible Gerrard

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The Independent Online

If Rafael Benitez won more than a game here, by scoring points against the Liverpool boardroom, then Sam Allardyce lost more than one. As sustained abuse and damaging mockery echoed all around St. James' Park, it became clear that Allardyce has lost the crowd.

It could argued that the former Bolton man never really had widespread acceptance, but any general willingness to give Allardyce the benefit of the doubt, which did exist on his appointment in May, evaporated on a day when the Geordie mood swung from embarrassment to anger to irony.

A bit like Mark Viduka on Saturday, that left Allardyce looking pitifully isolated, far from the "Big Sam" persona he revels in. His belief is that a lot can be read into a person's body language and if so then he is "Small Sam" just now, a diminished force at a club of peculiar character.

More worryingly for Allardyce, and those who employ him, to call Newcastle United a team feels like overstatement. This is a bunch of individuals, some of whom, such as James Milner, are understood to be alienated by Allardyce's methods, attitude and tactics. Player grievances occur at all clubs, of course, but once that changes from gripes about not being in the team to broader dismay, then that is dangerous. That is happening within the Newcastle squad.

Milner has become the disenchanted fans' rebellious cause. Milner represents width, energy and skill, three attributes any supporter wishes to see. Here, Allardyce left him on the bench.

An indication of how unbalanced that left Newcastle in terms of attack and shape was that one minute after Steven Gerrard had rifled Liverpool in front, Nicky Butt was waving Geremi, his captain, up the right wing.

Butt's gesture was one of exasperation, at Geremi, and again when he turned to the bench. Michael Owen made a similar arms-out what's-happening action during the game against Tottenham. If body language is to be believed then both players are struggling to comprehend how Newcastle are playing.

Beside Butt, once again Alan Smith was played in midfield, this despite offering little there bar conspicuous, always conspicuous, commitment. But it does not camouflage the fact that Smith is a centre-forward. His versatility is an allegation just now and Allardyce should see that. The failure to do so seems obtuse, which adds to the impression that the new manager does not consider winning hearts and minds as his responsibility. That is as foolish as it is arrogant.

Newcastle continue to matter in English football because of their remarkable number of fans. Since Newcastle last lifted a domestic trophy, in 1955, Liverpool have won 13 League titles, 7 FA Cups and 7 League Cups. They have also done quite well in Europe. That is why Liverpool matter.

So when Allardyce says of the fans' disapproval: "If people don't like me, it's up to them, but it doesn't bother me," he is guilty of a misjudgement.

Being liked is not a worthwhile aim in itself, but generating goodwill is vital for a manager during difficult times. Allardyce arrived with some because of what he achieved at Bolton but it has dwindled on Tyneside, partly because of his brusque personality, partly because of tactics, which are primarily about stopping the opposition. But there is also the factor that Newcastle fans have been here before and all too recently . They never believed in Graeme Souness and this feels similar.

"What are we trying to do?" said Allardyce, repeating a reporter's blunt question. "We're trying to play football.

"We didn't do it very well. But we weren't playing it long like we supposedly used to do at Bolton. There is no pattern just yet because there has been too much disruption."

Indeed, Newcastle did have three defenders injured, but that neither explained nor excused the sheer lack of effort. What little sense of a contest there was before Gerrard's opener vanished after it and Fernando Torres could have scored four on his own.

Instead, it was Dirk Kuyt who bundled in the second immediately after Allardyce's half-time team-talk and Ryan Babel belted in a third following yet more slick work from the irrepressible Gerrard.

When the jeered England captain was substituted in the 80th minute, a lone figure rose in the directors' box to give Gerrard a standing ovation. It was David Moores, Liverpool's former owner. Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, stared across the box at Moores for a few seconds, the look on his face saying: "I wish I could do that."

Goals: Gerrard (28) 0-1; Kuyt (46); Babel (66).

Newcastle United (3-5-2) Given; Beye, Rozehnal, Enrique (Carr, 78); Geremi, Butt, Emre (Barton, 51) Smith, N'Zogbia (Milner, 59); Martins, Viduka. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar

Liverpool (4-4-2) Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa; Sissoko, Lucas, Gerrard (Crouch, 80) Kewell (Babel, 58); Kuyt (Riise, 76), Torres. Substitutes not used: Itandje (gk), Mascherano

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Newcastle Butt, Beye, Smith; Liverpool Sissoko.

Man of the match: Gerrard.

Attendance: 52,307.

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James Milner (Newcastle United)

The left-sided midfielder, 21, came on after 59 minutes with his side two goals down. He was energetic enough, but the game was lost and the U-21 international had little effect.

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