Souness sees summer signings
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Newcastle's 2-1 defeat to Man Utd was a better performance, if not result.Although Newcastle extended their losing run to five games on Sunday, the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United represented a much better performance for Graeme Souness's side.
Just over a month ago, on March 16, The Magpies recorded an emphatic 4-0 win over Olympiakos to complete a sensational run of eight victories in a row - now they find themselves dumped out of both the FA and Uefa Cups and a lowly 14th in the league.
Such a dramatic change of fortunes cannot be reduced to one event of course, but it is surely no coincidence that the side have won just once since the unseemly punch-up between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer at Aston Villa.
Newcastle remain a club liable to self-destruct, although with both pugilistic protagonists and fellow mischief maker Craig Bellamy (who was scoring for Celtic in the Old Firm derby) absent at Old Trafford, Souness saw his side put in a battling display in which they were unlucky to grab a share of the spoils.
The Scot has already promised a summer clear-out at St James' Park, with a major squad overhaul seeming likely, and Sunday's game provided some indication that the current doom and gloom could be lifted on Tyneside.
Darren Ambrose, so often a peripheral figure this season, put in the kind of display that showed why Sir Bobby Robson shelled out a seven figure sum to recruit him from Ipswich.
When the line-ups were announced, it seemed as though the Toon Army were in for a miserable afternoon as they were severely hit by injury, although Ambrose took charge and opened the scoring for the visitors as he latched onto Tim Howard's poor clearance and dispatched with glee after a one-two with Shola Ameobi.
The midfielder looked bright throughout and could have added to his tally but could only slice a volley when well placed and saw another effort deflected just wide.
Whilst the afternoon match was one of rejuvenation for Ambrose, Jean Alain-Boumsong continued to perform consistently well after his January move from Scottish outfit Rangers.
The French international stopper has settled in well on Tyneside to become something of a fans' favourite, and it was a measure of his growing stature at the club that Alan Shearer handed him the captain's armband when he made way on 66 minutes.
Youngster Peter Ramage also did enough to suggest that he has a promising future, as the 21-year-old managed not to capitulate under a formidable United attacking front.
However it was his header that Wayne Rooney latched onto, as he smashed home an unstoppable volley from 25 yards to spark the United fightback that saw Wes Brown seal matters with a header quarter of an hour from time.
Although Souness will have clearly identified positive aspects of the defeat as he praised his side for their efforts, the need for wholesale change in the summer remains evident.
Shearer, who announced his decision to stay on for another year amongst a string of platitudes, failed to find the net as he found Old Trafford to be a frustrating host yet again.
The Magpies legend has not scored since early February in the league and the fanfare surrounding the prolonging of his career has died down to reveal a genuine need for more firepower with both Ameobi and Patrick Kluivert failing to impress.
Souness needs to take Newcastle onto another level next season if he is to win over the ambitious Geordie support, although the performance on Sunday was evidence that perhaps things are not as bad as their form suggests.