Guthrie reflects on day to forget
IT is the memory of his last visit to Villa Park that still makes Danny Guthrie feel sick when he thinks about the events on that sunny afternoon in May 2009. The sight of 4,000 Newcastle United supporters going through varied emotions at the final whistle. Some were angry, others deflated and many heartbroken. Guthrie returns to the scene of that unforgettable Sunday afternoon tomorrow, relieved the majority of that ill-fated squad of two seasons ago has successfully gone about reviving a crisis-torn club. Nine of the players in the match-day squad that succumbed to relegation after that 1-0 defeat to Villa are in line to start tomorrow - and Guthrie is one of those. "I just remember the final whistle blowing. When you would normally go over to your fans to give them a clap, it all felt embarrassing," said Guthrie. "We had let them down, we knew that. That really sticks in my mind. "I wanted to go over but did not really dare go over because we all knew we had let the club down. It was a sickly feeling inside, really emotional, I had a knot in my stomach, it was horrible. I could not wait just to get away and go on holiday and try to forget about it all." It was after that defeat, courtesy of Damien Duff's own goal, that Newcastle regrouped for pre-season, with key men in the dressing room demanding to know which of the squad wanted out. Duff, Habib Beye, Obafemi Martins and Sebastien Bassong were among those sold, while Mark Viduka and Michael Owen departed at the end of their contracts. Last season's Championship title success helped reunite a club still scarred from life outside the Premier League, Guthrie thinks there are signs coming out of Aston Villa that horrible times could be suffered down there this summer. Villa have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone ahead of tomorrow's fixture, despite Gerard Houllier's big spending in January on Darren Bent and Jean Makoun. "Maybe Villa are now on the same page that we were two years ago," said Guthrie. "On paper, you watch England and (Stewart) Downing and (Ashley) Young were the best players against Ghana. You have got to think maybe something is not right at Villa. "Personally, that is what springs to mind when I see them and where they are. They are all top players. They have spent money. It just looks as if something is not right." Guthrie was with Liverpool's Academy as a teenager when Houllier was in charge at Anfield and was just leaving school when the Frenchman left the club. The Newcastle midfielder, intent on making the most of the suspensions of Kevin Nolan and Cheik Tiote, thinks Villa should not be taking staying up for granted. "They should look at what happened to us and realise you cannot be too good to go down," he said. "If the team is not pulling in the same direction, then it does not matter who is in the team, you will lose games. "We are an example of what can happen. At this stage of the season a good team spirit is more important than quality. "Of course individuals can still produce a little bit of magic but if team spirit is not right at this stage you could find yourself in trouble." Newcastle might not be safe yet, but last weekend's victory over Wolves has given them some more breathing space ahead of the final seven matches of the season. And Guthrie, not part of the team that hammered Villa 6-0 in August, said: "The team spirit now is definitely better than it was when we travelled down to Villa two years ago. "I do not know if we are better individually, if we have a more talented squad, but it is not always best to have better individuals and a worse team spirit."
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