A bit like my cocker spaniel Jake, it’s hard not to love these Wolves.
Everything they do is with the best intentions, but you never feel you can relax when you’re watching for fear that they’ll do something unfathomably stupid.
This was a spectacle that induced plenty of smiles, mingled with a similar amount of head shaking as we threatened to curl out a turd on our own doorstep.
Like the dog, we’re eager to please and show boundless levels of enthusiasm, but it’s all a bit madcap at times and unnecessarily naive.
A win is a win though, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable one for prolonged passages of play. Being transfixed on the action from start-to-finish certainly makes a welcome change from the dying embers of Nuno’s reign, which rivalled the gundog class at Crufts in terms of sporting spectacle.
It was Hwang who was the most obedient of all, scoring two fine goals via Raul, who is looking much more like his old self. The South Korean was our coolest operator on the day, typified by his sumptuous finishes on both left and right feet.
After his opener – and our first home league goal of the season – we looked fluid, able and deft, refusing to sit back like the days of old and sticking it to the Magpies in the hope of scoring again. We deserved a second when Trincao missed a glorious chance from Hwang’s cross, smacking the ball against the bar when it looked easier to score.
Within a few minutes, Trincao lost the ball needlessly (from memory) and we go all cocker spaniel again and insist on being stupid. Sa made a block, the ball was half cleared to Neves and Moutinho, but instead of clearing our lines, they bone-headedly gave it back to Newcastle and Hendrick hammered home from distance. Sa’s perplexing game of playing dead in goal – only to jump back across to try and save before then feigning injury once conceding – was a moment to sum up the game. It’s hard to know what goes on in their heads sometimes.
Thankfully, Hwang was brilliantly behaved again to score a splendid second to consign the obligatory 1-1 to the dustbin, from some sensational Jimenez interplay. Hwang’s sharp movement, direct approach and turn of pace evoked memories of Jota, which will continue to fade with more of this.
It should really have been plain sailing from there, owing to the fact that Newcastle looked so toothless and we’re a team full of international players who should be better equipped to deal with such scenarios.
But it was a dog’s dinner.
Compounded by a genuinely terrible refereeing performance, we kept reverting to spaniel.
Both full backs typified this observation with lots of good intentions, but much madness in between. Joao Moutinho was arguably a bigger culprit, hacking down a Newcastle player on the edge of the box the one minute, and passing the ball backwards 50yds the next, when we’re trying to get up the pitch. For a player of his ability and experience, his decision making is regularly poor. Trincao was another, selling players short with basic passes and inviting pressure through craziness.
By the end, it was one of the doziest attempts to close out a game of football that I have ever seen.
But see it out we did and as we clapped them off the pitch, it was impossible not to smile, shake your head and give them a proverbial pat on the back.