Archive for August, 2009

Leicester City Preview

August 30, 2009

Defeats for Middlesbrough and Cardiff City and a draw for West Brom mean that Newcastle can go two points clear at the top of the Championship with a win on Monday night, but that may be easier said than done. Ameobi, Carroll and Xisco (who cares) are out, meaning that Nile Ranger is likely to lead the line with perhaps Danny Guthrie or Kevin Nolan supporting him – not ideal.

Leicester City are the visitors on Monday, managed by former Newcastle United caretaker manager Nigel Pearson (lets face it, who hasn’t been a Newcastle caretaker manager at one point?!). Promoted as League One champions, Leicester have had a pretty good start to Championship life, gaining eight points from four games. With a full strength side, Newcastle would probably enter this game as big favourites but without Shola, Carroll or Gutierrez…? Childhood Newcastle fan Steve Howard is expected to return to the Leicester side – what odds on Howard first goal? Typical.

Newcastle are playing two days later than everyone else in the division, and one might think that they would have used that to their advantage by signing a player or two in those two days of ‘rest’ – but no, this is Newcastle United. According to Ashley we don’t even need a manager, so we sure as hell don’t need any new players! James Vaughan is the latest player linked with a loan move, and it makes sense in every way for both parties – which means it probably isn’t going to happen. Transfer windows with Mike Ashley at the helm have traditionally depressing times for Newcastle fans, but this one takes the piss.

Any good news? The above mentioned defeats for Cardiff and ‘Boro. Funnily enough, the sales of Huth and Tuncay could be as good for our promotion hopes as any signing we could have made (clutching at straws here)… Although you would expect that, unlike our ‘manager’, Southgate will be permitted to replace his two star players.

Likely line-up for tomorrow night? I’m going with…

Harper

R Taylor   S Taylor   Coloccini   Enrique

Guthrie   Butt    Smith    Barton

Nolan

Ranger

Would that be the team that I would pick? No. Five central midfielders on the pitch at once is a recipe for disaster, but its what I can see Hughton going with. He seems reluctant to leave any ‘big’ names on the bench and equally reluctant to put faith in his youth players (although not unjustifiably after the narrow escape against Huddersfield).

Reasons to be optimistic? The partnership of S Taylor and Coloccini have still only conceded one goal in the league all season. I don’t see why we can’t keep yet another clean sheet.

Prediction? 1-0 (Nolan), top of the league and even more papering over the cracks

Newcastle United Injury Crisis – Who Would Have Guessed It?

August 28, 2009

So Shola and Jonas came off the bench and helped us through to the next round of the Carling Cup, but at a cost. Shola may have broken his foot and Jonas tore a muscle. Most squads can cope with two injuries but at this club, two injuries sadly means that we are in the midst of a crisis!

Add in Andy Carroll’s injury, and we are faced with the prospect of Nile Ranger leading the line on his own (in his first football league start) on Monday night. Now, whilst I have been all for giving Ranger a proper chance in the team, these circumstances are far from ideal. Hopefully he won’t be judged too prematurely if he struggles.

In a way, the outcome of Wednesday night was perfect (aside from the injuries obviously). We can be pleased with the win, but the 3-1 head start we awarded Huddersfield could well be a blessing. Only a moron could not see that we are desperate – Desperately in need of some new faces and desperate to keep hold of our best players. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our chairman is – a moron – but even so, let’s hope that Hughton manages to get through to him. The most important lesson learned from Wednesday night? Danny Simpson and Tamas Kadar as a centre back pairing would probably see us relegated from the Championship. Not that revelatory – Kadar has only played one first team game and Simpson is a right back.

It is safe to say that Hughton will be given no transfer funds, instead having to rely on freebies and loans. You know what? Fine. Plenty of clubs in the country are struggling for money this summer so we are not alone in that. There are still bargains to be had. Lovenkrands is the name that is repeatedly being mentioned – somehow he is still available and seemingly willing to play for us again. He was one of our better players last year in the Premier League and I’m convinced that he would do brilliantly in the Championship. Gareth Bale has been mentioned on loan – I just can’t see this one happening. There’s lots of talk that when we sold Bassong to Spurs it was agreed that we would take two players on loan in return, but surely Bale is too good for this division? As a left winger (not a replacement for Jose), it could be a cracking signing.

Let’s hope for some good news at the end of this bastarding transfer window…

Potential Transfer Window Departures

August 25, 2009

There is now only one week remaining until the transfer window closes and the question that all Newcastle fans are asking themselves is who is going to still be here by next Tuesday? 

So I think now is as good a time as any to look at the individuals who may be leaving the club in the next seven days… 

Steven Taylor – The big one. Many Newcastle fans are of the opinion that if Taylor goes, so does any slim chance we may have of automatic promotion. It’s hard to disagree with that school of thought. In the four league games so far, Taylor has looked supremely comfortable. The one goal conceded in four games is certainly not thanks to Coloccini. All summer he has talked of his love for Newcastle United and how he wants to help us achieve promotion – now is the time to prove it. The News of the World (I know) reported on Sunday that Taylor feels he is being forced out. A ‘source’ close to the player was quoted as saying: 

He feels he is being forced out. They are trying to get rid of the kid because they can’t get rid of other players. They want to discredit him. 

I’m sorry, but no one can force the man to do anything. Does anyone expect us to believe that? If Taylor goes, it will be because he wanted to. Everton and Villa are both in need of a centre back. Both seem to be fighting over Sylvian Distin at the moment, and it seems likely that the loser of that battle will switch their attention to one of Steven Taylor, David Wheater or Robert Huth. Boro’s apparent reluctance to let players leave is far superior to ours’, so I imagine that a move for Taylor would be the cheaper option of the three. 

F*** knows what we are going to do if he does leave. 

Fabio Coloccini – Apparently wanted by a couple of teams in Spain but they are (justifiably) being put off by his wage demands. Time for Newcastle United to strap on a pair here I feel. Get rid, asap, and tell him in no uncertain terms that he needs to go and accept whatever wages are offered to him in la Liga. We will not be subsidising his move, and we will not be selecting him in the first team if he opts to stay. Bit of a gamble, but being in a World Cup year, there is absolutely no way that Coloccini would jeopardise his international future like that. He’ll go, if made to. Allegedly on something like £70k a week, we simply cannot afford him. And to think about offloading Taylor ahead of the Argentine is a disgrace. Get rid of on a free or loan out (so long as we don’t have to contribute to his wages) if absolutely necessary. 

Jonas Gutierrez – Like Coloccini, harbours ambitions of being in Argentina’s World Cup squad next summer and we need to use this to our advantage. Nowhere near value for money, and he should be forced out. Whilst there has been no explicit so far, as the transfer deadline nears there would surely be a couple of clubs that would take him for a couple of million. If not, he at least looks semi-useful in the Championship (unlike some). I reckon he’s off. 

Geremi – Criminal waste of space, and sadly absolutely no chance of anyone coming in for him. He’s a stayer. Even if we threaten to condemn him to the reserves, he’d still walk into the Cameroon squad next summer. One of the worst bits of business of all time by Sam Allardyce. 

Alan Smith – Arguably our best performer so far this season, all it could take is one more impressive showing for a Premiership club to consider taking him on the cheap. Without a proper position during the last four years, he now seems to have settled in the centre of midfield and has at times looked dominant (albeit against Championship opposition). Although we can’t afford his £60k wages, he’s certainly one of the players that is at least ‘earning’ his salary at the moment. I’ve got a sneaky feeling he could be gone next week in a last minute deal. 

Joey Barton – Clearly, and predictably, no one wants to take a gamble on the man. We’re stuck with him, his wages, his attitude and his dodgy metatarsal. 

Xisco If he were to go, it would presumably be on a free, as he has done bugger all to convince anyone that he is anything but a non-league player. But even then, no one is going to stump up even half of what we’re paying him. He’s a stayer. 

Andy Carroll – Funnily enough, Carroll’s injury may just have come at the right time. Otherwise, there may have been a couple of Premiership clubs sniffing around Carroll as a back up striker. He should, and probably will stay. 

Nicky Butt – A couple of the newly promoted Premier League clubs have been linked with him. Let’s hope the rumours are true. One would assume that he could go on a free due to his age. I think he’ll be off. 

Jose Enrique – Far too good for the Championship and plenty of teams could do worse than signing the Spanish left back. I would like to see him stay but, again, we can’t afford him. I could see a La Liga team coming in with a last ditch bid. 

I wouldn’t have thought any other players would be leaving. The likes of Harper, Nolan, Guthrie, Ryan Taylor and Ameobi all look pretty settled. Ranger, LuaLua, Kadar and Tozer will no doubt be called upon a lot more regularly as the season progresses. And we’ll need at least a couple more players to replace those that leave… 

Sol Campbell has just inexplicably signed for Notts County. This is a former England international, one of the best defenders of his generation, who publicly said that he wanted to play for Newcastle United and we still f***ed it up? Absolutely shocking. A partnership of Taylor and Campbell would virtually have sealed our promotion, and due to Ashley’s negligence we let him go to a League Two side!! However, after extremely lucrative deals first at Portsmouth and now at Notts County, maybe he isn’t the sort of character we want after all… 

Predicted first XI for two weeks time: 

Harper 

R Taylor    Simpson     Kadar    Tozer 

Guthrie    Nolan    Barton   LuaLua 

Ameobi    Carroll

Mike Ashley Takeover Deadline no. 32

August 24, 2009

Quick blog on the big ‘announcement’ today. That annoucement of course being that there is no news. Fucking pathetic. Is there anything in this world that is less convincing than a Mike Ashley set deadline? A haphazard guess at the number of takeover ‘deadlines’ set by Mike Ashley this summer leaves me with a figure of seven. What a joke.

And another point, I thought that the reason Ashley opted against appointing Alan Shearer was because not all the prospective new owners wanted him. Well now there is only one potential buyer – Barry Moat – and he wants Shearer. And unless Ashley was lying at the end of last saeson – perish the thought – then he considered Shearer to be the best decision he has made in the last two years. So why has he still not been offered the job? Because Ashley is full of sh**, that’s why. And he never had any intention of giving Shearer the job full time. One post-relegation meeting with Shearer was enough to convince Ashley that he wasn’t the right man for him. Shearer wanted some assurances, he wanted some money and he wanted some power at the club – three things that Ashley was unwilling to give him. Why go through the hassle of having to deal with a proper manager when you can pay an empty track suit to eat up your sh** and ‘manage’ the team on a care-taker basis.

Speaking of Chris Hughton, yes – he’s done a good job in the circumstances. How many of these results are down to him is questionable. It’s been quite clear in our four games so far that the players that remain are simply much, much better than their Championship opposition. His substitutions have been dodgy, as has his reluctance to give youth a chance. He doesn’t like dropping big names. As a result, it is likely that in the next few weeks we will line up with a 5 man midfield of Gutierrez, Smith, Nolan, Butt, Barton and Ameobi upfront on his own. Not exactly what I’d call balanced. He’s now come out and said that he’d take the job if offered it full time. Dear God no. I think someone should explain to Hughton the phenomenon of the caretaker manager. It happens every time. Caretaker (usually a former no2) takes over and does a decent job. Caretaker is offered the job full time and fails spectacularly. Glenn Roeder and Joe Kinnear are two recent examples at Newcastle alone. Ricky Sbragia last season was a hilarious example at Sunderland and it almost cost them their place in the Premier League. He had the awareness to step down at the end of the season, realising how out of his depth he was – something that Hughton could do well to take note of. Paul Hart is another current example in the Premiership. He may as well have Dead Man Walking stamped on his forehead.

Back to the takeover… why Ashley can’t simply appoint a manager and give that manager the authority to bring in some cheap/free/loan signings is beyond me. This ‘deadline’ nonsense is f***ing ridiculous. I realise that the man knows f*** all about football, but these sorts of decisions require only a modicum of business sense. I just can’’t get my head around it.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Newcastle United

August 24, 2009

NUFC: Harper, Simpson, Enrique, Smith, Coloccini, S.Taylor, Nolan, Guthrie (Ranger 66), Ameobi, R.Taylor (Butt 66), Gutierrez (Geremi 89).

Crystal Palace were completely outclassed by this fragile looking Newcastle United team in a game that many – myself included – thought would see us finally come unstuck.

 

£30 and a steel post blocks the view of the opposition area

£30 and a steel post blocks the view of the opposition area

 

From the moment that Kevin Nolan put away Gutierrez’s lofted through ball in the third minute, the result never really looked in any doubt. The gulf in class was evident, even when Palace took control of possession for large spells of the second half.

With Palace – like us – seemingly unable to bring in any new signings, they looked horrendously ineffective upfront and even Coloccini looked impressive. There was a collective gasp of dread from the away end every time Coloccini decided to take more than one touch, but this blog is all about fairness, and more often than not on Saturday Coloccini pulled it off. He still has a tendency to get turned far too easily – when you’re that slow, it is not a good idea to stay touch tight on your man – but Saturday was by far his best game of the season.

After the rotund Nolan’s opener, and Coloccini’s solidity, it was the turn of another much maligned Newcastle player to impress when Ryan Taylor scored a fabulous curling effort on his left foot after 21 minutes. Like so much of this team it seems, Ryan Taylor really seems to have found his level in this division. After his cross for Ameobi’s second against Reading, Beye’s departure and Danny Simpson’s arrival, Ryan Taylor looks set to be our first choice right midfielder this year. Am I delighted with that? No, obviously. But he has already demonstrated in the last few games that he has a lot more final product to his game than Jonas on the opposite flank (despite his rather fortunate assist for Nolan on Saturday).

Guthrie made his return to the side and I was very impressed, as I was all of last season. Whilst I would like to see us keep him – especially as he is probably on relatively modest wages – there are plenty of teams in the Premiership who could do worse than put in a cheeky bid for the young midfielder. He was presumably taken off because he lacked match fitness, but I do worry about how the hell we are going to be accommodate five big name central midfielders in Nolan, Smith, Butt, Barton and Guthrie. I’d like Butt and Barton sold, but whilst the former has been linked with a move to a couple of the newly promoted Premiership sides, sadly no one is going to go anywhere near Barton. Although I personally rate Guthrie over both Nolan and Smith, the pair of them have looked good in recent weeks and I don’t like to change a winning side. Nolan is improving and Smith has well and truly made me eat my words. He has not only kept up the promise he showed against West Brom, he’s getting better with each game.

The fans were magnificent on Saturday and the Palace fans that I spoke to after the game remarked on how impressive we were. Ashley songs were largely reserved for the final 10 minutes, enabling us to focus on the game for the previous 80.

 

Cheapskate

Cheapskate

 

Player Ratings:

Harper – 6: Whilst I’ve been vocal of my support for Tim Krul, Harper continues to give Hughton reason to stand by him. Three clean sheets in a row is outstanding, and he’s made a couple of important saves in both the Sheff Wed and Palace games now.

Simpson – 6: Pleasantly surprisingly, very solid defensively. Didn’t get forward quite as much as he could have done, considering our superiority, but its only his second game and he looks more than a capable player at this level.

S Taylor – 7: Former a rock solid partnership with Coloccini (never thought I’d say that) that coped comfortably with most of what Palace threw at them in the second half.

Coloccini – 7: First 7/10 I’ve given the Argentine. Took a few too many touches on occasion – as usual – but he got away with it and he even won a few headers! When the diminutive Freddie Sears is the main threat though, you would expect this level of performance from a £10m centre back.

Enrique – 7: Brilliant performance from the Spaniard. I lost count of the number of times he came away with the ball off the opposition winger. Like Simpson, probably didn’t get forward as much as he usually does but defensively he was spot on. Too good for this league and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if a La Liga team comes in for him this week… MOTM

R Taylor – 7: Took his goal superbly and worked hard. Didn’t get much of a chance to impress with his crosses as Ameobi was pretty isolated – he’ll fare better with both Ameobi and Carroll on the pitch.

Nolan – 7: First league goal in a Newcastle shirt, which should encourage him to get forward even more in the coming weeks.

Smith – 7: Won countless headers in the midfield area, which is something that I didn’t expect to see. No booking, for once. Passing was an improvement. I’d like to see him get a goal just to banish his goal demons.

Gutierrez – 6: Didn’t have as much joy with the opposing full back as usual, but at least this time one of his crosses came to something. The intended target was arguably Ameobi, but it was still an accurate, dangerous looking ball that Ameobi had the awareness to dummy and leave to Nolan at the far post. A bit less of the diving and rolling around as the season has progressed, which is good to see.

Guthrie – 7: Seemed to be the designated support for Ameobi, which isn’t really the best way to use him. Passing was effective and he did make one very good run that should have resulted in a goal but for Ameobi’s poor finish. It would be a shame to see him wasted on the bench once all our central midfielders are back and fit.

Ameobi – 6: Not one of his better games, but he did at least keep up his new and improved work rate of recent weeks. Isolated through no fault of his own, it wasn’t a surprise to see him looking more dangerous once Nile Ranger came on to partner him with half an hour to go.

SUBS:

Ranger – 6: Words cannot describe how delighted I was to see Ranger coming on instead of Xisco in the 66th minute. Xisco has no future at this club – Ranger does. Looked quick and strong. Hopefully will be given a full start against Huddersfield on Wednesday night so we can get a proper look at him.

Butt – 6: A generous six, as he didn’t do anything particularly wrong. Is he our new set piece taker then? After replacing Taylor, and before Geremi came on, Butt assumed that mantle. God knows why. I’m a huge critic of Butt. The mind is willing but his legs are gone. Maybe he could be useful as a 20 minute sub to help us see out games, but assuming he is on something like £50k a week, he represents awful value for money. Get rid to Burnley or Wolves, if possible.

Geremi – 5: Was only on for a few minutes and still did enough to convince me that he should never play for Newcastle United again. And people wonder whether we were right to sack Sam Allardyce…

Newcastle United 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday, and thoughts on Michael Owen’s miserable start

August 20, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, R Taylor (Guthrie 89), Nolan, Smith, Gutierrez, Ameobi (Ranger 87), Carroll (Xisco 58)  

Shola Ameobi came to Newcastle United’s rescue for the second time in five days as we continued our impressive start to the season with a decent win over an alright looking Sheffield Wednesday side. To be honest, anything less than three points would have been hugely disappointing as – despite our problems – I’m not sure we didn’t have one player in our first XI last night that wouldn’t walk into most Championship sides.

Goal Machine

Goal Machine

 

 

The shocking truth is that a midfield consisting of Ryan Taylor, Smith, Nolan and Gutierrez would be horrifically out of its depth in the Premiership, but they are somehow amongst the best – if not the best – in the division. Maybe I’m getting carried away with a couple of good wins, and writing off the Championship is a mistake that is bound to come back and bite me on the arse, but if we are able to keep the bulk of this squad together (but selling the likes of Coloccini, Geremi, Xisco and Gutierrez), and add a couple of new faces (Campbell, Lovenkrands?) and bring in a competent manager, then automatic promotion is more than possible. 

Just like the aftermath of the Reading game, our focus now switches to which of our players will be staying or going. It is safe to say that our hopes now hinge wholly on whether Barry Moat is able to complete a takeover deal before the transfer window closes. If Moat comes in (presumably with Shearer), we could be lining up with a central defensive partnership of Steven Taylor and Sol Campbell. If Ashley remains – Kadar and Coloccini. The two potential combinations are worlds apart in terms of quality. As predicted, Coloccini looks just as bad in the Championship as the Premiership. The quality of defending in La Liga must be truly disgraceful for this clown to have made a living there for so long.

Maybe I’m being harsh on the man after two clean sheets in the last two games, but I’m still not happy with Steve Harper as our no1. Whilst he made a couple of important saves on Wednesday night, by all accounts his kicking was woeful, and the saves were nowhere near as stunning as Krul’s against West Brom. I’m slightly worried by this. Plenty of Premiership clubs could do with a good, young backup goalkeeper. And if you were Krul, wouldn’t you rather be a backup in the Premiership than a backup in the Championship? Harper should not just be in the team as a reward for loyalty, and Hughton’s inability to drop a big name player might end up costing us one of the best young goalkeepers in the country.

Ameobi? Quality. Never doubted his ability for one second… Ahem. Seriously though, perhaps he has found his level in the Championship and I obviously hope that he keeps up this good run. But if we are to gain promotion, lets not fool ourselves into thinking that he has become a better player all of a sudden. Still, great finish last night.

The same goes for all (well, most) of this lot to be honest. Despite the promising start, and even if they are able to lead us back to the Premiership, lets not forget who it was that got us relegated in the first place eh?  

I’d briefly like to comment on Michael Owen. Scumbag of the highest order. The man that took the p*ss out of us for four years and thought he was too good for us. We were told by everyone that we were the reason that he wasn’t scoring goals. We were told that if you give him chances, he will score. We were told that in a team surrounded by good players, he would shine. F*** off. The man hasn’t scored regularly for six years and is a joke. I felt hugely justified when I saw the sitters that he missed last night against Burnley and at the weekend against Birmingham. I watched that first game with a couple of mates who supported Man Utd, and when he fluffed that 1 on 1 the look of confusion on their faces made me chuckle. A quick look at the Man Utd message boards after last night’s defeat against Burnley shows that their fans already think he’s useless! Yeah lads, no sh*t. 

Let’s hope for some promising news on the takeover before the Palace game on Saturday…

Newcastle United 3-0 Reading aka The Ameobi Show

August 17, 2009

NUFC: Harper, R.Taylor, Jose Enrique, Smith (Geremi 78), Coloccini, S.Taylor, Nolan, Barton (LuaLua 82), Ameobi (Xisco 77), Carroll, Gutierrez.

Are Reading really bad or were we just really good? Is Ameobi going to lead us to promotion with 30 league goals? Who knows. We did indeed look excellent though. After a nervy opening, we went on to completely dominate the game and could have easily had four or five. Everyone played well – even Coloccini and Gutierrez (although the winger plummeted to new depths of incompetence when in shooting range).

The crosses for both of Ameobi’s goals were world class. I’m not surprised by Enrique’s assist, but I must admit that I had to do a double take when I saw Ryan Taylor swing in the best cross you’ll see all weekend anywhere in the country (ok, maybe apart from Modric’s cross for Keane that was headed straight at Reina from 3 yards out). I’m not deliberately playing down Ameobi’s achievements here, but there wasn’t much he needed to do for either goal. Both deliveries were so inch perfect, that had he not scored, we would have been slating him. But fair play, he was expected to put them away, and he did so… although he did get a little lucky with his ‘scuffed’ first header that bounced over the line.

Like a Salmon

Like a Salmon

The second goal in particular was a thing of beauty. Newcastle were passing it around nicely, and the crowd started responding appropriately. When the ball fell loose down by the touchline, Kevin Nolan sprang into action (I know) and sprinted after it, pulling it back for Joey Barton. At this point, the crowd began to really roar, and I turned to my mate and said ‘f***ing hell listen to the crowd’. You could sense the goal coming. Reading looked all over the place. Barton laid the ball into Taylor’s path and Taylor’s inch perfect cross was met with that beautiful head of Ameobi. It was the best goal that I remember us scoring in quite a long time.

When Shane Long handled in the box soon after, Ameobi seized on the chance to earn his first ever hat-trick from the penalty spot. Ameobi, if you’ll remember, actually takes a pretty damn good penalty. Last season against Sunderland, he stepped up and put it away like a German.

I’ve been critical of Ameobi in the past, but I’m not going to slag him off in the wake of scoring three goals. His playing style has given many people (me included) the impression that he doesn’t give a toss. Well on Saturday he could not be accused of that. It seems ridiculous to talk of ‘potential’ with regards to a 27 year old man, but that is the main word that will inevitably be used when describing his career so far. As a 21/22 year old under Bobby Robson, he looked like a real talent, but if anything he has gone backwards in the past six years. I’m not going to say that this is a turning point, but it does mean that I am willing to wait and see how he does over the next few weeks – something I was not willing to do a week ago. I don’t think it is unreasonable at all that Newcastle fans lost patience with him. He’s been here a long time and for the last five seasons he has largely been diabolical. He also became associated, in many people’s minds, with the Joe Kinnear era – perhaps the least popular Newcastle United manager of all time.

People said it last week after the West Brom game; what’s the point in playing Ameobi and Carroll upfront if you’re not going to get any crosses in? With Duff on the right and Gutierrez on the left, the crosses did not materialise. On Saturday, whether it was because of Duff’s absence or not, the crosses rained in and we got three goals. Not a coincidence.

As everyone knows, the big worry now is that we may not have any players left by the 1st September. The main one is that Steven Taylor may be off to Everton if Lescott is sold, and that Sol Campbell may be brought in if Taylor is sold. Here’s an idea: why not bring in Campbell to partner Taylor and sell Coloccini instead? Ridiculous. A partnership of Campbell and Taylor would be the best that the Championship has ever seen. Presumably, Coloccini is on something approaching £50/60k a week – I doubt Campbell would expect half of that. His contract could be laced with promotion based incentives – a hugely enticing prospect for a defender of his age. But when it comes to drawing up contracts, Ashley et al seem hopelessly out of their depth. If Taylor goes, I genuinely fear the ramifications.

Quick word for Reading: They were awful. Not that surprising – they lost Doyle and Hunt and haven’t replaced them. Two league games and no goals, and it was easy to see why. I expect the return fixture to be a lot tougher.

Player Ratings (apologies if I’ve forgotten any details, I’m a bit late with the report this week):

Harper – 6: No obvious errors. A few tricky shots that he managed to hold onto well. I’d still prefer Krul.

R Taylor – 7: World class delivery for Ameobi’s second goal. About time. Danny Simpson was presumably not brought into play understudy, but Taylor probably has a couple of games now to prove that he isn’t as bad as we have accused him of being, or Simpson will be waiting in the wings.

S Taylor – 7: Our best defender. Again. Looks far better than a Championship player – which is highly worrying.

Coloccini – 6: Didn’t cost us any goals, so in that respect he had a good game. Tries to be a bit too fancy sometimes. Which is good, in theory, but he isn’t good enough to get away with it. If he stays, he’ll be a lot more severely tested than he was on Saturday. Wait until he comes up against a strong 6”2 forward and then we’ll see if he’s cut out for this division. All academic to be honest, as I fully expect him to be off, irrespective of whether Taylor stays or goes.

Enrique – 7: Excellent cross for our opening goal. Solid in defence as always. I really hope we keep him. If he goes, just watch him turn into a top class left back for a Spanish side.

Barton – 6: A difficult day on the right side of midfield. Did ok considering its not his position. You can tell that he could be a very good central midfielder, but at the moment I’m not sure I’d trust him with that role. His corner taking was inconsistent. Some excellent ones, some terrible ones. But that is better than Taylor or Geremi – when they’re pretty much all terrible.

Nolan – 7: Strange one, and always difficult to rate out of 10. In the first game of the season against West Brom, he was awful but he set up our goal with a fantastic pass for Duff. On Saturday, he was quite poor again but he managed to pull out another couple of ‘magic’ moments. In the first half he put through Gutierrez with a wonderful through ball (squandered by Jonas) and it was his chasing down of a loose ball that resulted in our second goal. He looks unfit, but still seems a class above most players in the Championship.

Smith – 6: Almost identical to his performance in the West Brom game. At the moment, he is well worth his place in the side. Whilst his shortcomings are still evident on occasion, a fully fit Nolan would make him look even better. With Nolan regularly getting forward to support the strikers, Smith could be left to what he’s good at – winning the ball. However, he could easily have seen red in the first half with a couple of rash challenges. If he’s going to be shielding the back four, he can’t afford to give away too many free kicks in dangerous positions, as he is liable to do.

Gutierrez – 6: Was our best player in the first half, but gradually faded. Much like the West Brom game, lots of dangerous runs that ultimately came to nothing. Was brilliantly put through by Nolan in the first half but embarrassingly failed to even get a shot out from under his feet, such was his panic. This has become a problem and it is clearly a confidence issue. Like Coloccini, I fully expect him to be off in the next few weeks.

Carroll – 6: Worked hard and linked up well with Ameobi. Mostly seems to be playing with his back towards the goal at the moment and it would be nice to see him get into a few more scoring positions in the next couple of games.

Ameobi – 9: Great day for the young (well, 27 year old) Geordie. While I’m still not convinced, you’ve got to give credit where its due and he won us the game today. You’d like to think that he will take a huge amount of confidence from this and maybe, maybe he’ll do well for us this year. MOTM.

SUBS:

Geremi and Xisco – 5: Did nothing of note. Waste of space – both of them. Why was Ranger not brought on? You know, a player that actually has a future at this club.

LuaLua – 6: Looks quick. Erm, that’s about all I noticed.

Duff to Fulham? Steven Taylor to Everton?

August 14, 2009

So Duff and Steven Taylor are being linked with moves away from the club in the papers this morning. F*** me. 

Ashley will sell anyone that he can, for whatever he can get. We all knew this. And we knew that the only players that he would be able to sell would be our ‘better’ ones, consequently leaving us with all the sh**e that no one wants (Coloccini, Ameobi, Geremi, Xisco, Ryan Taylor). 

£4m would be great money for Duff. He’s 30, awful and he’s on approximately £60/70k a week. Fortunately, people that don’t watch Newcastle United as often as we do have not realised just how bad he is. Take the money and run. 

£8m for Steven Taylor is difficult to turn down. Its decent money and, again, we need to lower the wage bill. I’d love him to stay but what can you do? You go down and you have to lose some of your best players. 

£8m for Bassong was a great deal. He’s a good defender, but he was only here one year and we made a huge profit on him. He wanted to go, he was sulking, and so we did well to get that much in my opinion. 

£9m for Martins was a great bit of business. Never worth £9m.

I loved Beye but we were offered good money for a player in his thirties on good wages. We didn’t have a choice.

Its not the players leaving that is worrying me. We’ve just been relegated. A clear out was necessary and inevitable. I was talking to a Palace supporting friend the other day, and he told me that Shefti Kuqi was released in the summer and he was their highest earner – on approximately £10,000 a week. It was widely reported that in the immediate aftermath of our relegation, our squad contained fifteen players on over £50,000 a week (some on nearly double that), so the maths are simple. 

I’m a realist. Players need to be sold to generate some money and we can’t afford to pay them anymore. Some of the players that will move on you are glad to see the back of, and some (not many in our case) of them you will be gutted to lose. That’s fine. The fans aren’t stupid and we will accept any player being sold in the current circumstances as a necessity. 

But you have to replace them with someone. ANYONE. To sell over half the squad and not bring one single player in is suicide. It is criminal on behalf of Ashley. If you don’t want to spend any money, there are players out there on the cheap. You can get players in on loan. But come on, use your f***ing head for once man. 

Talking of loans, Danny Simpson became our first summer signing today on loan until January from Man Utd. Underwhelmed isn’t the word. Maybe that’s a bit harsh actually. Apparently he did quite well at Sunder***d and Blackburn (although obviously not good enough to convince them to sign him) and lets face it, he’s got to be better than Ryan Taylor. That’s if he even starts ahead of Taylor that is. Worryingly, I fear that he has been signed as a backup. Sobering thought indeed…

simpson

Probably not as good as Beye

If Duff goes, good riddance. If Taylor goes, I’ll be extremely sad to see him go. But f*** it, like I said, what can you do?

My big worry now is that a couple of good performances from the likes of Krul and Carroll between now and the end of August may result in a cheeky bid or two from Premiership clubs. If Newcastle are to have any hope of avoiding total meltdown, we need to keep them. A front two of Xisco and Ameobi? No thanks.

A quick striker to partner Carroll is our only way out of this division. Nile Ranger? Possibly. Lovenkrands? Still available on a free after we released him. Well, he’s better than most of our squad, he wanted to play for us and he was on relatively low wages last season, so we of course did the sensible thing – we texted him and told him that his contract isn’t being renewed. Disgusting. A perfectly good player – looked decent in the Premiership and his pace would scare the hell out of Championship defenders – and we treat him like that? Even if Ashley gives the go ahead for a few players to be brought in, I’d be astonished if anyone agrees to join us.

Reading at home tomorrow. Tough game. Stephen Hunt has gone to Hull at least. Jesus, how much happier would we all be feeling next week if we were to get four points from our opening two games? Lets pray for a miracle.

EDIT: Since writing this, there has been some talk from Roy Hodgson regarding Damien Duff.

The Fulham manager has been quoted as saying:

“The clubs are talking and I hope the deal goes through”

So do I

“Damien and I go back a long way from when we worked together at Blackburn”

I didn’t think Hodgson’s time at Blackburn worked out particularly well?

“Damien had injury problems at Chelsea and has done well at Newcastle given the turmoil there”

No he hasn’t

“Every time he’s played for Ireland he’s consistently been one of their best performers”

He hasn’t done that either

Now, I have a huge amount of respect for Hodgson, and he’s not the sort of manager to spout rubbish to the media. If he is talking up a move for Duff, then the chances are that it is more than likely to go through. Bye bye Duff. Thanks for the goal last weekend but thanks for nothing throughout the previous three years.

Now, where to find a replacement slow, one footed, donkey winger that doesn’t like taking on full backs?

PS. I’m not even going to comment on the stories about betting being suspended on JFK coming back. I refuse to believe that it is a possibility.

David O’Leary to Newcastle?!

August 11, 2009

Right, so we’ve all read the David O’Leary stories and we’ve all laughed/cried (delete where appropriate) at the idea so lets take a more in depth look at this… 

I don’t believe anything I read in the papers anymore regarding Newcastle United. No one knows anything anymore, of that I’m sure. But for the sake of today’s blog, lets make a few assumptions: 

1)       Mike Ashley is unable to sell the club

2)       No transfer money is to be made available

3)       Any player that can be sold, will be sold

4)       The stories about O’Leary are true

 David O’Leary is a manager that experienced an element of success at both of his previous jobs. He took Leeds to a Champions League semi final and never finished outside of the top 6, and he took Villa from the bottom half of the Premiership to a 6th place finish with an extremely limited squad and no transfer budget. 

However, neither set of fans were sad to see him go when he eventually departed both jobs. 

Better than Hughton or Kinnear... surely

Better than Hughton or Kinnear... surely

Leeds United – Whilst he is clearly not entirely responsible for the mess he left them in, he did spend a lot of money on a lot of unnecessary players. Seth Johnson, Robbie Fowler, Robbie Keane to name a few… He also failed to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive season – something that Ridsdale had banked on, and arguably something that he should have done with the squad at his disposal. He got Leeds playing some great football. And for a while the unthinkable happened, and they began to become everybody’s second team. However, O’Leary developed a bit of reputation as someone who liked to make excuses to the press. The whole Bowyer/Woodgate incident happened on his watch, and O’Leary foolishly released a book titled Leeds United On Trial, which angered many at the club. By the end of his reign, despite a few great seasons, Leeds had nothing to show for it and O’Leary had spent almost £100m in his four years there. 

Aston Villa – When O’Leary took over at Villa in November 2003, they were hovering above the relegation zone, yet he managed to take them to 6th place by the end of the season. A slightly disappointing 10th place followed in 04/05. The notoriously tight ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis gave O’Leary little in the way of transfer funds, and it wasn’t until the summer of 2005 that O’Leary was able to splash a bit of cash. In came Baros, Phillips, Milner (loan), Berger, Bouma, Cahill and Aaron Hughes but Villa endured a miserable season and O’Leary was dismissed the following summer after finishing 16th. Again, O’Leary was characterised as an excuse maker and towards the end he often publicly blamed the players after a loss (but when they won, he obviously took the credit). Villa fans generally don’t have a good word to say about the man, citing the miserable football and the overall un-likeable qualities that O’Leary demonstrated in his final year. 

Nowadays, David O’Leary has somewhat of a ‘cheque book’ manager reputation, rather unfairly in my opinion. Whilst it is undeniable that he spent a lot of money – badly – at Leeds United, most of his success at his two clubs came when he was forced to work with what he had at his disposal. 

Would I want him in charge of a transfer budget? No way. But he seems to me to be a fairly decent coach. At least, and this is the key bit, he seems to me to be a far, far better coach than Joe Kinnear or Chris Hughton. 

In this country, there seems to be a nasty culture of ridiculing any manager or player that has one or two bad experiences (see Steve McClaren, Paul Ince, Paul Jewell), despite successes elsewhere in their managerial careers. 

Lets not get too carried away with David O’Leary. He isn’t that bad. I’m not saying he is my number one choice, and if it means that Ashley is staying at the club, then I am praying that none of this happens. But he isn’t a manager who is a proven failure like say, Bryan Robson. And the way he has pathetically linked himself with any job going over the past couple of years indicates that he may just be desperate enough to take the Newcastle job. 

Remember, Mick McCarthy was a spectacular failure in the Premiership with Sunderland and he’s just taken Wolves up as Champions. Despite all the laughing at Newcastle that would undoubtedly take place if O’Leary were to be appointed, he would be a more than capable manager/coach at this level.

Like I said, I hope this doesn’t happen, as that would mean that Ashley is presumably going to be here for the foreseeable future. But if the worst case scenario does happen, and Ashley does stay, we could do a lot worse than David O’Leary (on a one year contract of course). 

PS. I haven’t yet commented on the departures of Habib Beye and Seb Bassong: Good luck to both of them. I’m sure there will be some Newcastle fans out there who are angry at them for jumping ship, but who can blame them? Both men were amongst our few players to come out of last season with any credit, and Newcastle United is a shambles. Along with Steven Taylor, they would have been the main men that I would have liked to keep in an ideal world, but we are getting very good money for both. Bassong let himself down slightly towards the end, but his departure was swift and painless when compared to the years of sulking and moaning we got from N’Zogbia. I’m glad that Habib didn’t waste himself at the wasteland that is Hull City and Spurs is a good step up for Bassong (it kills me to say that as I’ve never thought Spurs were any better than us until this last twelve months). 

Until next time.

West Brom 1 – 1 Newcastle United

August 9, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, R Taylor, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Duff, Nolan, Smith (c), Gutierrez, Ameobi, Carroll

A well worked second half goal from Damien Duff earned Newcastle a perhaps fortunate draw against many people’s favourites for the title yesterday at the Hawthornes.

Despite the men in yellow largely having the best of the first half, it was West Brom who took the lead in the 39th minute when Newcastle typically failed to cope with a routine set piece and the centre back Martis piled in the loose ball.

Harper had come to claim the cross from the free kick but spilled it, and whilst everyone (bar Coloccini) was scrambling around to clear it, Harper got kicked in the head by Ameobi and Martis was left with an even easier chance than the one that he had spooned earlier in the game (from a similar free kick position).

Harper required medical attention for a couple of minutes, and once he was up again, Newcastle looked like they may collapse in a nervy five minutes until the half time whistle. Fortunately, the team were able to make it to the dressing room with their one goal deficit still in tact and the fans at home were treated to a ‘Shearer team talk’ in the BBC studios. He went on to point out our inadequacies, which we all already know, and briefly discussed his ‘could have been’ plans for the summer. On the transfer target list that he had drawn up, Lee Dixon pointed out that they had probably all already moved on, which was met with laughter from Shearer and Lineker. Shearer promptly remarked ‘I don’t know why I’m laughing’ and in that one moment he struck more of a connection with Newcastle fans than anyone else currently at the club could ever do. Plenty of times this summer I have found myself making light of our current situation, and laughing about it with fellow Toon fans on messageboards or with my mates down the pub, and I’m tired of having to do that.

Prior to West Brom’s goal, Newcastle had actually looked half decent, in patches. Plenty of possession but nothing in the final third. Half the players doing alright, and the other half disgracing the shirt. Nothing new there. Gutierrez was the one that will probably divide opinion and frustrate, as usual. The Argentine looked able to beat his marker at will, getting the better of him on at least four or five occasions in the first half. But every single time, the cross was weak, inaccurate and came to nothing.

Which brings me on to my next point. What the hell is with playing wingers on their opposite flanks? We did it last season and it didn’t work then either. Jonas (right footed) on the left flank and Duff (left footed) on the right. Ok, so Duff’s goal came from the right hand side, but other than that, neither winger put in one proper cross all game. Duff’s right foot is non-existent, and Gutierrez’s crossing is poor enough as it is, let alone on his weaker foot. I understand the theory behind this tactic. I know that Jonas, for Argentina, likes to play on the left and cut in on to his favoured right foot. The best example of this sort of player was Robert Pires. Hovering out on the left, he was devastating when he cut inside. But Gutierrez is no Pires. Duff doesn’t need an excuse to cut inside and pass it backwards at the best of times, but when he’s stuck out on the right side of midfield, he is almost forced into it every time. The reason someone like Pires, or even Ashley Young, is so good at cutting inside, is because they are decent with both feet. When a full back knows that a winger can go either way, its hugely difficult to defend against. But defenders know that if they show Gutierrez and Duff down the by-line onto their weaker foot, absolutely nothing is going to come of their crosses. Its easy to defend against, and it pisses me off that a high paid ‘coach’ like Hughton can’t see this.

The teams came out for the second half and Tim Krul came on for the slightly concussed Steve Harper. Krul is a great talent and I have been looking forward to him being given a chance for a long time. Its sad that it came at the expense of a Steve Harper injury, but that was realistically the only opportunity he was ever going to get.

Duff slots in the equaliser on his right foot

Duff slots in the equaliser on his right foot

Ten minutes into the half our equaliser came. Hughton had obviously told Nolan to get forward more and support the front two (something Shearer also suggested at half time) and that is how he began. Shola, coming in from the left hand side, looked as if he was going to pass it to the overlapping Gutierrez. The defenders obviously thought this too, as it seemed to take them by surprise when he instead opted to pass it neatly into the centrally positioned Nolan on the edge of the area. In a rare glimpse of ability, Nolan calmly controlled it and then perfectly rolled it into the path of the incoming Damien Duff who placed it beautifully into the far corner of the net with his right foot. It was a great move and a great goal – and its not often we have been able to say that in recent years.

Almost immediately, Tim Krul was forced into action with an awesome save from a Robert Koren shot that looked to be headed for the bottom corner. This was the first of four truly excellent stops. Laughably, Mark Lawrenson came out with the statement that “there’ll be 500 or so fans in that away end that had never heard of Krul before today”. What?! Mark, do not make the assumption that just because you know nothing about football, no one else does either. He is our number two keeper, and as was pointed out to you, he made his debut three years ago with a man of the match performance in a hugely impressive 1-0 win in the UEFA Cup away at Palermo.

Should Harper be back in the team for the next game…? Harsh as it is, you have to say that Krul has probably earned another shot. Yes, he didn’t look entirely comfortable on one or two occasions when coming to claim the ball, but he grew in stature as the half wore on. He could barely have had a more impressive 45 minutes, and I’m in no doubt that Harper wouldn’t have made all four of those saves. Harper used to always be justifiably annoyed that no matter how well he played, Given would always come back in and re-claim his place. Well, now the boot is on the other foot. Lets not make the mistake of awarding Harper the number 1 spot just because of his loyalty to us over the years. He’s extremely likeable and professional, and in an ideal world, he would be my keeper. But there is a reason he was never given an extended run in the team – he wasn’t good enough. He was a very good back up, but not a goalie that you wanted to build your team on. As it is, apparently Hughton has come out and said that Harper will be back in the team for the next game, so we will wait and see how it pans out over the course of the season.

On the 75 minute mark, Hughton made his 2nd substitution of the day. Barton for Carroll. I’m not going to get into the stories about Barton getting in a huff and storming out of training. It probably did happen. I don’t like the bloke – he’s a scumbag. But he’s probably our best player. Play him, or sell him. Regardless of that, the decision to bring off Carroll was staggering. Carroll had worked hard all day, won the majority of aerial balls that came his way and had generally put in a very good shift. You may notice that I haven’t mentioned Ameobi much yet, and that’s because I’m saving that for later. But by the 75th minute, Nolan was breathing out of his fucking arse. After 10 minutes of getting forward, the goal arrived, and Nolan promptly went back to working on his vanishing act. One decent pass in 90 minutes is not acceptable. I’ve been a massive critic of Smith, but he did well today. His passing and shooting was still piss poor, but he made some great tackles and he was essentially doing the work of two men. Barton should have been brought on for Nolan or Ameobi. No doubt about it. To instead bring off Carroll is ineptitude of the highest order, and shows Hughton up as the clueless man that we all know he is.

From this point onwards, we were largely holding on for the draw. A West Brom goal was correctly ruled out for offside in the dying seconds, in a moment that had Newcastle fans everywhere collectively soiling themselves. Nile Ranger was brought on for Ameobi with three minutes to go and looked more threatening than Ameobi had done in the previous ninety.

Very good result, but the performance has a lot of room for improvement.

Player ratings:

Harper – 5: Spilled the ball that led to the West Brom goal, and had little else to do. Not his fault that he was kicked in the head by the oaf Ameobi.

R Taylor – 4: Awful, awful player. Barely found a teammate with a pass all game and to call his set pieces inconsistent would be extremely generous. Not a patch on Beye and we need a proper RB replacement desperately.

S Taylor – 7: Our best defender. Made a couple of weak headed clearances that fell to West Brom players in dangerous positions but other than that he was pretty solid. Typical Taylor.

Coloccini – 4: Woeful. Looks just as out of his depth here as he did in the Premiership. Replays of the West Brom goal showed that whilst all around him were scrambling to clear the ball, Coloccini was standing outside the six yard box with his hands on his hips. It comes as no surprise that the man who put the ball in the net, Shelton Martis, was the man Coloccini was supposed to be marking. Needs to be flogged back to Spain for whatever we can get and Kadar needs to be given a go.

Enrique – 6: Passing was a little wayward but this was a half decent performance, as we’ve come to expect from the Spainard. Rarely a liability in defence, he should start to prosper if paired up with a proper left winger in Duff.

Duff – 6: Took his goal brilliantly, and whilst he spooned a good chance in the first half, it was stupidly put on to his weaker right foot by Carroll. Clearly uncomfortable out on the right wing, he needs to be switched to his proper position as soon as possible.

Nolan – 5: A big, fat disgrace. Evidently woefully unfit. Its the first game of the season for God sake! What’s he been doing in pre-season? A good pass for the goal, which prevented him being given a 2. Offers nothing. Hopefully someone like Hull will come in and give us a couple of million for him, as he is no good to us.

Smith – 6: Has received a few plaudits since the game yesterday, but lets not get carried away. He looked incredible in comparison to Nolan and relative to our low expectations for him. He still can’t pass or shoot, and he’s still on approximately £60k a week. He’s not worth it. Hopefully his performance yesterday will convince someone in the Prem to take him off our hands. A partnership of Barton and Guthrie is still our best.

Gutierrez – 5: A generous 5 at that. Beat his full back on numerous occasions but still can’t cross or shoot for shit. In the second half, he began diving at every opportunity. It was embarrassing. The referee was having none of it, which resulted in no one believing him when he went down after genuinely being whacked on the side of the head. He was typified when in the first half, Gutierrez found himself on his own in the middle of the pitch on the ball. No one was making any runs, so he started waving his arms about. Ryan Taylor then belatedly made a run, only for Gutierrez to fail to find him, feebly passing the ball out of play when only 6 or 7 yards away from his intended target.

Carroll – 6: Worked hard, won the ball in the air more often than not and had some decent touches. Needs a new partner…

Ameobi – 3: Ah. Ameobi. Fucking useless. This man is a disgrace and no longer fit to wear the shirt. Hopelessly out of his depth even at this level. Tried a couple of tricks and flicks that didn’t come off. No skill, no pace, no finishing ability and lazy. We need to either bring someone else in or at least give Ranger a go ahead of him. Beckford, who was rumoured to be a target earlier in the summer, scored 2 goals for Leeds yesterday. Typical. Not a chance of getting him anymore.

Subs:

Krul – 8: Brilliant league debut. Four terrific stops, despite what Lawrenson may tell you. Should be given a run in the team in my opinion, but unlikely with Hughton in charge. MOTM

Barton – 5: Didn’t really do much when he came on.

Ranger – N/A: Not given enough time.