St James’ sharks circle Allardyce

IT was never like this at Bolton for Sam Allardyce. For one thing, they used to beat Liverpool with a regularity that upset the Anfield manager Rafael Benitez.

And, if Bolton did lose games, it was no more than their supporters expected; life at Newcastle is rather different, because of fans whose patience is exhausted after years of failure.

The impatient Toon Army demand to see their loyal support rewarded with a more genuine challenge to the likes of Liverpool, but they witnessed even more proof that the gap between the two teams is widening.

Benitez’s team barely moved out of second gear, as they extinguished Newcastle’s feeble challenge with goals from Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt and substitute Ryan Babel.

So there was a totally predictable post-match analysis that featured a manager at loggerheads with his bosses and pleading for their backing. The only surprise was that the manager involved was Benitez, not Newcastle’s Sam Allardyce.

Benitez’s dispute with Liverpool’s owners could mean he departs the Premier League far earlier than Allardyce, whose chairman Mike Ashley made it known after this humiliation that the manager’s future is not under immediate scrutiny,

However, such an assurance won’t prevent speculation surrounding the former Bolton manager, who was taunted by Liverpool’s followers.

You should have stayed at the Reebok...Big Sam has got a big fat head...Big Sam for England...it was a reasonably inventive tirade from the Reds fans. But, significantly, Newcastle supporters applauded when they sang “You’re getting sacked in the morning”.

Allardyce insists he can handle the flak. “You’re not popular when you’re not doing well. If people don’t like me, it’s up to them. But it doesn’t bother me,” he said.

“It’s a fact of life here. I’ve come here to live with that pressure. I could have sat comfortably where I was, picked up my money and stayed at Bolton.

“I didn’t want to do that. I wanted a bigger challenge and this is one. I’m good enough and big enough for it. What we’ve got to do is dig in, carry on and move forward.

“Some people are coming up with disruptive rumours as always, Chinese whispers, and that’s bound to be the case.”

The Toon Army clearly remain unconvinced about Allardyce, although his goalkeeper Shay Given insists that the players must share the blame for four games that have produced just one point.

The Republic of Ireland international said: “When the fans are booing the manager, in essence they are booing the team. We are out there. If we play well, they cheer the manager’s name, so it’s down to us as players to go out there and do the business on the pitch.

“The fans are entitled to their opinion and we were not good enough here. I am not going to stand here and say they were wrong to boo us because this was not good enough for Newcastle.

“I have been here 10 years, but for some of the new players that was a lesson about the expectation levels here. By the reaction of the crowd they will know what to expect when you pull on a Newcastle jersey.

“Some of the new lads have come in and not played in the Premier League before and will take time to settle into the hustle, bustle and pace of it. They have to speed things up and do things quicker.”

Only then will they be able to compete with the likes of Gerrard, who was magnificent in midfield and powered in a goal that was the perfect response to Newcastle fans who jeered him because of his England link.

Team-mate Kuyt said: “It is disappointing that he gets booed because he is such an important player for Liverpool and England. I can understand people are upset at the result but Steven always gives everything.

“It is sad England are not going to the finals but you have to respect players. He will be important for England’s future after this.

“Steven and Peter Crouch were really down after Wednesday’s game, but that is when you have to be a team and help each other through times like this. Today we saw the qualities of SG. His game shone through, even after that disappointment.”

NEWCASTLE (3-5-2): Given 6, Beye 5, Rozehnal 6, Enrique 5 (Carr 78, 5), Geremi 5, Butt 6, Emre 5 (Barton 51,5), Smith 5, N’Zogbia 5 (Milner 59, 5), Martins 4, Viduka 4.

Subs Not Used: Harper, Edgar.

LIVERPOOL (4-5-1): Reina 6, Finnan 6, Carragher 6, Hyypia 6, Arbeola 7, Kuyt 7 (Riise 76, 5), Sissoko 6, Leiva 7, Gerrard 9 (Crouch 80,5), Kewell 6 (Babel 58,6), Torres 8.

Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.

REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Burntwood) 7: A handful of yellow cards were justifiably produced in the second-half, but Mr Wiley enjoyed a largely trouble-free 90 minutes.

MATCH RATING: *** All three stars belong to Liverpool, who were composed, intelligent and far, far too good for Newcastle.

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