It’s not quite Lennon and McCartney, but it’s a Liverpudlian double act that’s music to the ears of Tyneside.
Forget Newcastle’s so-called Cockney Mafia, it was their Mersey Massive who helped Alan Pardew off to the kind of start usually confined to wildest dreams.
For a change Liverpool were more shell-shocked than shell-suit, fatally wounded by two of their own, who combined with a Scouse sucker-punch, a match-winning one-two which John Conteh would have been rightly proud, to leave Roy Hodgson’s side sprawled on the ropes.
In the Premier League’s evening kick-off, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton gave those ragged Reds something of a hard day’s night. Their next return home could be interesting. Nolan hails from the tough streets of Toxteth, and Barton down the road in Huyton. They combined to ease a modicum of the pressure off Pardew and his ‘Cockney’ mate Mike Ashley, although in truth the owner and manager are more Home Counties than jellied eels, but that’s not stopped the mud sticking.
Chris Hughton, the Irishman brought up in London’s East End and, more tellingly, a closet fan of Chas and Dave, is probably more of a Cockney than either of them, but it didn’t stop fans in a 50,000 St James’ Park crowd chanting the name of the sacked former manager as Ashley unsurprisingly came in for some fearful stick from all the stands.
Many more stunning wins like this and as popular as he is now, Hughton’s name will soon be a thing of the past — though in a nice touch the players dedicated victory to the popular Irishman, who is already being linked with the Sheffield United manager’s job, if Gary Speed leaves to take charge of Wales.
Nolan defied an ankle injury to poke home his eighth goal of the season from an early Barton free-kick, before the midfielder’s late close-range strike and a 25-yard Andy Carroll thunderbolt which took the England forward into double figures and saw the hosts leapfrog their vanquished visitors on goal difference.
Of equal importance for Newcastle, it halted a damaging five-game winless streak to launch Pardew’s reign in style. Tee-total Barton will need a hand with his man-of-the-match bottle of bubbly, and he said: “A lot of us questioned Alan’s appointment and there were stories going round about a players’ backlash, but we care too much about each other as team-mates to act in anything other than a professional way.
“We had a meeting with managing director Derek Llambias and we said our piece. It was important to us for our opinions to be heard, but ultimately the running of the club isn’t down to us. We know we’re disappointed about Chris going. We had to put that behind us and concentrate on getting a win.”
After teaming up with Barton to do for their hometown club, Nolan, who earned brownie points with his Evertonian mother-in-law, said: “It’s been nine years since I scored against Liverpool. It was brilliant. Any talk of any revolt towards Alan is nonsense. He’s our gaffer and we have to work under him.
“He’s been impressive and I’ve already enjoyed working with him. He can take credit for his result. The show must go on. We all have our own opinions on what’s gone on with Chris but the owners have the final say and we have to respect that and get over this quickly.”
Pardew singled out Nolan for his role in helping ensure he met no dressing room backlash from a squad still loyal to Hughton, and he said: “It’s fair to say that my meeting with the players on Friday went far better than I could have dared to imagine.
“A big part of that was down to Kevin. He’s a great captain. I’ve admired his play from afar, both at Bolton and here and I can understand why managers rate his so highly.”
Dirk Kuyt levelled with a deflected effort, his fourth goal in six starts against Newcastle, in Liverpool’s best spell immediately after the interval, but Fernando Torres spurned a clear opening to put them ahead as their unwanted run on the road continued.
Steve Gerrard can’t return quick enough for the Reds, who’ve taken just five from a possible 27 points on their travels this term. Jamie Carragher is a long-term casualty, but Gerrard should face Hodgson’s old club Fulham at the weekend.
The manager admits Liverpool’s away form is giving him sleepless nights, and he said: “Of course you miss Jamie and Steve, but we didn’t miss them in terms of the result. If we continue to concede goals like the first two then it doesn’t matter whether they play or not. That’s what’s going to haunt me when I wake up in the middle of the night.”