CALLUM WILSON proved at least some traditions can be maintained in the Covid era.
Newcastle’s new £20 million striker scored and sank West Ham – his ninth goal in eight games against his favourite opposition.
8 – Callum Wilson has scored eight goals in nine league games against West Ham, more than he has netted against any other side in his league career. Expected. pic.twitter.com/1u3PUcCphk
It was hardly a dream debut because Wilson should have had even more. It was a surprise it took him 56 minutes to get his eye in against the Hammers.
Twice earlier he had gone close to giving his new team the lead in a game that Newcastle dominated with equally unexpected ease apart from a few flurries from the feeble Hammers.
Wilson’s opener was a poacher’s strike – a toe poke home from a couple of yards out after Newcastle had carved open yet another opportunity that exposed the weaknesses of the home side.
Playing alongside former West Ham striker Andy Carroll, Wilson had fired warning shots with his head and his feet before finally hitting the target and getting off to a great start following his move from Bournemouth.
It got even better when fellow debutant Jeff Hendrick sealed it with three minutes to go.
This was a domineering display from start to finish.
West Ham complained bitterly in the second half that they should have had a penalty when sub Sebastien Haller’s shot smashed into Hendrick’s shoulder.
There were furious remonstrations when ref Stuart Attwell and VAR waved it away. Hammers boss David Moyes even took the fight to the officials.
But West Ham’s much publicised pedestrian activity in the transfer market and the rift between the fans and owners means they are starting this season as they finished the last – with no new players and the same old arguments.
Newcastle, despite the failure of a £300million takeover in the summer, had enough money in the bank to splash out on starters Jamal Lewis and Wilson.
And the former Bournemouth forward’s first touch in anger for Newcastle came in the fifth minute when he positioned himself well to flick a pacey header just wide of the left hand post and into the side netting.
West Ham’s nemesis went close again on 21 minutes, turning a low cross from Lewis wide of the same left hand upright.
There was yet more frustration for Wilson and another let off for West Ham five minutes from time as again Newcastle’s arch predator zoned in on goal from the left hand edge of the box.
This time he flicked the ball onto his right foot while drifting across the 18 yard line before curling a shot that had West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski clutching at space, only to see his classy, curling strike arc just wide of the right post.
Newcastle were light on their foot and looking fresh. West Ham had lead in their boots.
Although David Moyes’ team did hit the woodwork twice and were potent when they did break free, they spent the vast majority of the first halfon the back foot.
Boss Moyes wants a centre back urgently and now Hammers fans can see why.
Frenchman Issa Diop is not quite as reliable as the hype around him would suggest. All too often it is left to his athletic defensive partner Angelo Ogbonna to provide the last ditch stretch or superbly-timed tackle to clear the danger.
Never more so than on 32 minutes when Carroll – for most of his six years at the club considered an injury prone liability – came agonisingly close to scoring against his old team in spectacular style.
After Jonjo Shelvey probed the wobbly West Ham defence with a high ball into the box, Diop missed his clearance header completely.
Carroll, now 31, kept the ball in the air in impressive style while switching feet from left to right before hammering a volley just over the bar from 20 yards.
Moyes needs to inject some urgency into his team before they slip slide into their traditional relegation battle.
West Ham also require a striker to put a rocket up the backside of £45 million underachiever Sebastien Haller, who was on the bench again.
There were glimpses at goal for the home side but not nearly enough in a home game under the lights, which this club is supposed to revel in.
Ogbonna rattled the woodwork with a header from captain Mark Noble’s free kick and Pablo Fornals’s rising shot ricocheted off the face of the bar 11 minutes before the break.
But they failed to build any momentum from that then failed to heed the warning signs from Wilson and now enter a run of games against Arsenal, Leicester, Wolves, Tottenham and Manchester City already up against it – another tradition.