Archive for September, 2009

Ipswich Town 0-4 Newcastle United, Kevin Nolan Hat-trick!

September 29, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, Khizanishvilli, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Smith, Butt, R Taylor, Nolan, Ranger, Carroll 

First Shola Ameobi, now Kevin Nolan? Madness. I think it is safe to say that the gap between the Premier League and the Championship can now be classified as ‘bloody massive’.

Saturday evening saw a brilliant performance by Newcastle United but severe questions should be asked of Ipswich, who looked like relegation fodder. God knows what has happened at Portman Road this summer, but many people thought that with Roy Keane at the helm, they were going to be promotion contenders. I am well aware that I could be alone amongst Mags here, but part of me actually likes Roy Keane. He always seems to be talking sense and I couldn’t help but admire him as a player. However, what the hell has he done to Ipswich? 

We won’t have an easier game all season. That’s not to say though that our players didn’t work their arses off and earn their win. Carroll and Ranger were brilliant upfront. At this rate, they are arguably ahead of both Ameobi and Harewood in the pecking order. The only disappointment is that Ranger didn’t get the goal he deserved. 

At the back, there is very little to talk about. Ipswich offered nothing. Save for a couple of dodgy moments from Enrique (presumably complacency), there was nothing to worry about. One quick word for Khizanishvili (or Zurab, for the purposes of this blog) – he was excellent throughout. His distribution was perhaps a little poor, but defensively he was spot on and he surprised me with the number of runs he made down the right flank. Far more convincing than Danny Simpson anyway (although again, it was only Ipswich). He reminds me a little of, dare I say it, Habib Beye. 

The Championship version of Steven Gerrard

The Championship version of Steven Gerrard

But lets not forget our hat trick hero, Kevin Nolan. Has he worked hard and improved? Or is this division so bad that even he looks good? I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it is the former, although his second goal did make me chuckle – just how slow is that Ipswich defender, Balkestein? Nolan’s first two goals were excellent. The first a powerful header from a terrific Ryan Taylor free kick, and for the second two minutes later he out-sprinted the sluggish Balkestein and cut inside him, before calmly slotting in beneath the helpless Richard Wright (just how far has he fallen from his heady days at Arsenal by the way?).

Ryan Taylor scored a belter of a free kick yet another couple of minutes later and we were coasting. Were it not for the Bobby Robson memorial service, you get the impression that the Ipswich fans were ready to viciously turn on their team – but they were rather subdued. The second half was just as comfortable as the first and Kevin Nolan completed his hat trick after nodding in a knock down by Ranger, after a ‘rampaging’ run and cross from Zurab. Easy.

A couple of words for Ipswich Town’s tribute to Sir Bobby. What a proper club they are. Maybe it was the couple of beers I’d had but I could have sworn I felt a little tear in my eye whilst Laura Wright sang My Way. The whole arrangement was a lovely gesture and it looked like Lady Elsie was extremely touched. 

Player Ratings:

Harper – 7: Had nothing to do but did it well

Zurab – 7: The new Beye? Not yet anyway but he did look pretty good

S Taylor – 7: As easy an afternoon as he’ll get all season

Coloccini – 7: Ditto

Enrique – 6: Excellent aside from a couple of sloppy back passes. Against a better side it may have cost us

Smith – 8: One of his best performances of the season. Dominated the lightweight Ipswich midfield

Butt – 3: Thought I would save the anger for this part. Utterly woeful. This man is finished. He’s knackered. His passing is nothing short of a disgrace. His pass completion rate must be less than 50%. Pathetic. Get this old man out of the team now

R Taylor – 8: Assist and a goal. Fast becoming undroppable. Who woulda thought it?

Nolan – 10: Nothing else to say. MOTM

Carroll – 7: Great, hard working performance. Seems like he wins 100% of the aerial balls that come his way

Ranger – 8: Sadly didn’t get the goal he deserved. It’ll come against QPR – I have a feeling 

Subs: 

Harewood – 6: Did pretty well actually. 6 is maybe harsh but he was only on for the last 25 mins. If he keeps up that level of performance he’ll be a good acquisition. Had a great shot saved by Richard Wright

Lovenkrands – 5: Meh. When are we going to see him at his best?

Donaldson – 6: Did ok in the time he was given. Not going to judge him yet though, obviously

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Peterborough 2-0 Newcastle United, Marlon Harewood & Administration

September 24, 2009

NUFC Team: Krul, Tavernier, S Taylor, Tozer, R Taylor, LuaLua, Guthrie, Donaldson, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Vuckic

So our kids were easily beaten on Tuesday by a good Peterborough side – not disastrous by any means (although I must say that I was not one of the unlucky 2,361 souls that were unfortunate enough to travel to London Road).

I had been hoping that some of the youngsters would get a run out and, whilst I was surprised by how many were selected, it was a pretty sensible lineup chosen by Hughton in my opinion. Of course, just how sensible will be proven on Saturday evening when we play Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town. Three points at Portman Road will fully justify Hughton’s gamble, whereas a third successive defeat on the road (in all competitions) will raise further questions about Hughton’s ability to steer us towards the Premier League.

Peterborough were, by all accounts, by far the better side on the night. One or two of our kids apparently had a bit of a nightmare, but lets not read too much into it. I am sure that the experience was an invaluable one, even if a little traumatising.

It pains me to say it, but I’m genuinely not at all bothered by the loss. It’s a sad sign of how far this club has fallen – I’ve never previously been one for belittling the Carling Cup – but we’re not strong enough to compete on more than one front at the moment. The ‘top 4’ teams can get away with it, but shame on the rest of those Premiership teams that now deem the Carling Cup to be below them – I’m thinking about the likes of Hull and Fulham who fielded what can only be described as piss poor teams.

The fact that we are so weak only makes Hughton’s decision to introduce Nolan, Geremi and Smith even more bewildering. Either you want to protect them for Saturday or you don’t. What you do not do is start without them and then bring them on with half an hour to go when you are losing 2-0 and down to 10 men. It is decisions such as this (as well as the decision to play Geremi at all) that make me seriously doubt the basic intelligence of Chris Hughton. Its not rocket science, as some football managers would have you believe.

Marlon Harewood is apparently very close to signing for us on loan. This strikes me as little more than an excuse for Hughton to maintain his favoured long-ball tactics. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but Harewood is a real beast of a player – and not in a good way. I’m not looking forward to the prospect of our defenders hoofing endless long ball up to a pairing of Carroll and Harewood – which is what will probably happen. He hasn’t played all season and he’s just recovered from an injury, so one would think that he won’t be in the team for Saturday – so hopefully Ranger and Carroll will get another opportunity to work together. Sadly, knowing Hughton, he likes a little 4-5-1 formation and I expect the same again.

Finally, I read some more utter rubbish today about the possibility of NUFC being forced into administration if Kevin Keegan is successful in his case against Mike Ashley. Come on! As if. Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias have pulled some shit in their time, but this would take the biscuit. It makes absolutely no sense. None. Ashley would gain nothing from this. This administration rumour reeks of Ashley and Llambias trying to turn the fans against Keegan. Sorry lads, but whilst some of us may well be a little cheesed off with Keegan’s behaviour last season, there’s not a chance that we would ever take your side over his. Of course, he could have stayed and worked through the problems, but he didn’t and you two have only yourselves to blame. Here’s hoping KK is victorious and we finally hear some details about what actually happened. I imagine that it isn’t going to make very pleasant reading for Ashley & Co when we get to see what really went on.

Until the weekend!

Newcastle United 3-1 Plymouth Argyle

September 21, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, Simpson (Ryan Taylor 30), Enrique, Smith, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Barton (Guthrie 59), Geremi, Carroll, Nolan, Lovenkrands (Ranger 59).

So three more points and back to winning ways – although to be honest anything less than a win would have been completely unacceptable given the opposition. For some inexplicable reason, I have a bit of a soft spot for Plymouth, so there genuinely is no malice intended when I say that they are woeful. As easy a three points as we can expect to receive this season. As it happens, we made a bit of a meal out of it but ultimately the team pulled through.

An early Steven Taylor goal looked to set us on our way but what followed was a pretty dreadful half. But what do you expect? Yet again, we fielded four central midfielders – Geremi, Barton, Smith and Nolan. This is becoming a bit of a problem now – it simply isn’t working. We might be grinding out results but that is all we are doing – grinding them out. There are going to be plenty of games in the division where that is all that is necessary – against the likes of Cardiff, West Brom and Boro – but Plymouth at home? Is Hughton sticking with his central midfielders because he has no alternatives? Or because he isn’t brave enough to drop them? Because Geremi and Barton are certainly not worth their places in the team at the moment.

I’ve said it before, but Smith, Nolan and Guthrie are clearly our three best midfielders. By miles. There is no need to field Barton and Geremi. Ryan Taylor and Lovenkrands on the wings, and two of Smith, Nolan and Guthrie in the middle. That is obviously the best lineup at the moment (until Gutierrez returns). To waste Nolan or Guthrie ‘upfront’ in support of a lone striker is criminal – especially when we have a decent striker (Ranger) on the bench, presumably raring to go after a couple of excellent performances.

Hughton has built up a huge amount of good will from Newcastle fans in recent weeks. He really has earned it, for his hard work in such dire circumstances, but it would be a shame for him to squander it all. Is he seeing something that we’re not in Geremi and Barton? Or, as I suspect, is he simply reluctant to leave two players on £50k+ a week on the bench? That is not something that a strong manager would do (by the way, I am aware that he had the ‘strength’ to leave Butt on the bench on Saturday, but it is slightly easier to leave a 34 year old on the bench than a 27 year old Barton and a ’30 year old’ Geremi).

Back to the game, and the introduction of Guthrie and Ranger on the hour mark helped turn the tide in our favour (on for Barton and Lovenkrands). Nolan reverted to his preferred midfield role and scored moments later. Carroll then scored his second goal in two games late on to seal the victory. I know I’m not alone in having a huge amount of time for this kid. He might not work as hard as Ranger – or at least he might not appear to – but he looks like he could become a really good player for us. I’m reluctant to build up youth players too much in the wake of the Michael Chopra fiasco – I specifically recall saying to one of my friends once that he was going to be the new Alan Shearer – but, unlike Ameobi, Carroll can lead the line for us for years to come, even in the Premier League. Like Steven Taylor, you can just tell how much it means to him to score for us.

Peterborough away tomorrow night, and whilst I would be lying if I said that I’m desperate for us to progress in this year’s Carling Cup, it is no bad thing to maintain the good form. A solid away win would stand us in good stead for a vital away game on Saturday evening against Ipswich. Its been well publicised that Ipswich have yet to win a game this season, and it would be sod’s law if they were to break that dunk against us. The Roy Keane thing will be talked up – the Sunderland connection and his feud with Geordie ‘messiah’ Alan Shearer – so this game has upset written all over it (assuming that you consider Ipswich the underdogs, of course). Some things in football are inevitable, and I greatly fear that Keane getting his first win of the season over us is one of those things.

On the signings front, it appears that Marlon Harewood is signing a three month loan deal with us. Underwhelming is an understatement. From what I’ve read, both Villa and Wolves fans have nothing but bad things to say about him. However, I don’t like to criticise a player before he’s even pulled on a shirt, so I will of course give him a clean slate. And if nothing else, I would much rather him upfront than Nolan or Guthrie – who have looked extremely uncomfortable when put into that position.

A quick comment on Michael Owen and Craig Bellamy. Some of you may have noticed that in the biggest game of the season so far, there were three ex-Mags amongst the ranks. Shay Given pulled off some blinding saves whilst Bellamy notched a brace and Owen scored the winner. How sad is it to see so many good players performing to such a high standard for other teams? Bellamy was a little pr!ck but we’ve arguably not had as good a striker since we sold him (for non-footballing reasons). Given is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and we sold him for pennies, whilst Owen may have been shocking for us but if he is good enough to play for Man Utd then he’s certainly good enough to play for us. I have to say though, the little b*stard looked happier when he scored his goal on Sunday than he did in his entire four year spell at St James’ Park. He clearly didn’t want to be here, so he should have just left (or not joined us in the first place).

With the likes of Milner, N’Zogbia, Woodgate and Parker also playing well for their respective clubs (well, Woodgate is injured at the moment but has been largely excellent for two years at Spurs), it is extremely gutting to see such an array of great players that have all moved on for various reasons in recent years – to our detriment.

Blackpool 2-1 Newcastle United

September 17, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, Simpson, Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Jose Enrique, Guthrie (Lovenkrands 66), Barton (Ranger 83), Butt, Ryan Taylor (Geremi 66), Nolan, Carroll.

It was always going to happen eventually. Newcastle United finally came unstuck last night in a richly deserved defeat at Ian Holloway’s Blackpool.

In seven Championship games now, we have only scored more than one goal on two occasions (against Reading and Palace). That’s fine when you’re keeping clean sheets every week, but even a good defence has to concede at some point. Both goals last night were scrappy and poor goals to give away, but they were coming. In previous games, we have had to rely on a combination of excellent defending, good goalkeeping and good luck – three things that weren’t enough to save us last night.

There’s no need to get carried away with the result yesterday. We’re still third in the league and Blackpool are a decent side. However, that does not mean that we should not look seriously at the reasons for the loss.

 

Carl Cort makes it 2-1

Carl Cort makes it 2-1

Firstly, Butt started his first league game of the season which turned out to be our first loss of the season. The other game he started was the League Cup tie against Huddersfield and he was withdrawn at half time – when we were 2-1 down. We went on to win 4-3 without him. Coincidence? I think not. When will people see that this guy is finished, and has been for years? As a holding midfielder he is absolutely woeful. His passing is pathetic and his tackling is terrible. The amount of free kicks that he gives away is criminal. He realises that he is there to win the ball yes? Anyone – and I include myself in this – can just run around fouling and hacking players that have gotten away from them. And its not because he’s dirty – he isn’t – its because he’s too damn old and too damn slow to do anything about it. Regarding his passing, he seems to have spent a few too many years at Old Trafford ogling Mr Beckham, if Butt’s attempts to emulate him are anything to go by. One thing though – Nicky Butt does not possess one hundredth of the talent that David Beckham does. Why he insists on attempting the same range of passing is beyond me – it makes me cringe. Butt is a midfield clogger. He always has been and he certainly isn’t going to change now. If he accepted this fate and adapted his game accordingly – like say, Phil Neville and Lee Carsley have done – then maybe he’d have a use. But until then, he’s about as useless as Joey Barton at a quiz night.

Worryingly, Chris Hughton is showing signs of something that many feared – Being unable to drop the ‘big names’. Obviously, we have far too many central midfielders (Guthrie, Butt, Barton, Smith, Nolan, Geremi) – but Hughton seems intent on playing all of them regardless. Barton is not worth his place in the team at the moment – its simple. It is clear that our three best central options are Smith, Nolan and Guthrie. Smith was obviously suspended last night, which meant that a partnership of Guthrie and Nolan would have been fine. Chuck Ryan Taylor on the right and Lovenkrands on the left and we’ve got a pretty good midfield there. Carroll was back so he could have partnered Ranger upfront – taking some pressure off the youngster who worked his arse off so much on Sunday. But instead we get some higgledy-piggledy formation with players playing in their unnatural positions. No width, as usual, and Carroll left on his own upfront – what’s the point in that?! Carroll is never going to be as good a lone front man as Ranger was on Sunday – that’s not his game. And if Geremi is our solution when a goal behind and looking for an equaliser – then we really are f***ed.

Like I said earlier though, we needn’t get too carried away just yet (although I probably just did). If we beat Plymouth on Saturday we’ll be right back on track. It’s just so frustrating that, despite the fact our squad is horrendously lightweight; there are still better solutions within that squad than the ones we are being presented with at the moment.

Dear God, we really do need a few more players though. Diomansy Kamara would be a good shout – much rather him than Cousin or Folan of Hull (both dreadful). If Ameobi is going to be out then we definitely need a striker, as well as a wide player and some cover for the defence. To be fair, Hughton knows that we need a few more bodies in – he’s not stupid. And I’m sure that he has identified the same positions as I just have (hopefully we’re not after another central midfielder…), but as we all know the questions is whether Ashley is going to give him the green light or not. In that respect, last night could turn out to be a blessing in disguise – there’s no hiding behind the unbeaten start and defensive record anymore (as Ashley would have no doubt been doing).

Cardiff City 0-1 Newcastle United

September 14, 2009

NUFC Team: Harper, Simpson, Coloccini, S Taylor, Enrique, Guthrie (Lovenkrands ’61), Barton (Geremi ’86), Smith, R Taylor (Butt ’76), Nolan, Ranger.

Newcastle United returned to the top of the Championship yesterday afternoon with a huge – if slightly unconvincing – win against one of the promotion favourites, Cardiff City, inflicting their first league defeat at the new Cardiff City stadium in the process.

I say ‘unconvincing’, like it matters – it doesn’t. All that mattered here was getting a result. I’m sure that most Toon fans would have been happy with a draw, so to win has got to be a bonus. What is clear this season, is that we no longer should enter any game with anything less than three points as the target – a far cry from many a depressing day in the Premiership last season, where it seemed that most games were filed under ‘write-off’.

Our much maligned Argentine centre-half Fabio Coloccini scored the goal today, bringing his total tally up to 1 goal for Newcastle United (1 more than his Argentine team mate, Jonas Gutierrez). It has to be said – Colo looked half decent yet again. Whether its the Championship being dire or a genuine effort by the lad himself to turn his performances around still remains unclear. The fact he still looked out of his depth against Reading and Sheffield Wednesday indicates that he is actually improving as the season goes on, as Cardiff are arguably a far better side than either of those two teams, and he looked twice the player yesterday than he had done previously.

Better than Terry

Better than Terry

Of course, playing alongside Steven Taylor and Jose Enrique has no doubt helped the Argentine bed in. Those two again looked commanding and comfortable all game (well, apart from when Taylor should have conceded a penalty for an unfortunate handball – but a handball nonetheless).

The midfield played much like they have done all season. Tough to break down, perhaps not as creative as they should have been, lacking pace but ultimately, much better than the opposition.

Newcastle failed to create much of anything in the way of chances, and that comes as not much of a surprise considering that upfront were Nile Ranger and Kevin Nolan in a more midfield role. Ranger looked isolated but worked ridiculously hard. Lovenkrands came on with half an hour to go but didn’t add much – I’m not sure what his role was supposed to be and apparently he is still struggling with match fitness (unsurprisingly, considering he had no club and no pre-season all summer – our club’s fault).

Seemingly doing the impossible and polishing a turd

Seemingly doing the impossible and polishing a turd

Smith was deservedly sent off late on for two yellows, and its been coming for a while. More on that in the player ratings section…

You’ve got to say that, if we can avoid an injury crisis (I’m not sure quite how many injuries constitutes a crisis yet) and strengthen with a few more loan signings, there is every chance that we will go straight back up. Every game that approaches I keep thinking ‘the shit is going to hit the fan at some point’ and every game the opposition seems to be just as weak as the last. Obviously this run will come to an end at some point, but hopefully not for a while yet.

Player Ratings:

Harper – 7: Cardiff’s only threat seemed to be from set pieces, and Harper dealt pretty comfortably with these. Not one goal conceded since the opening day of the season – and to think that I was championing Krul’s claim for a place in the side (I’m clearly an idiot).

Simpson – 6: Solid, yet again. Infact, I think ‘solid’ is a decent description for every one of his games so far (apart from the Huddersfield adventure at Centre half).

S Taylor – 7: Fortunate to get away with a definite handball in the area, but apart from that extremely comfortable. This guy had better be given the captain’s armband in the absence of Smith in the next game (will probably be given to Harper though).

Coloccini – 8: Just as solid as Taylor at the back, but popped up with his first goal in a black and white shirt (well, yellow and cream in this instance) to give us the three points. Rapidly improving. Probably playing for a move away in January to help his World Cup chances, but lets not complain about that – its to our advantage at the moment.

Enrique – 7:  Tireless running down the left. I love this guy. By far the best full back in the division.

Guthrie – 6: Not one of his best games but pretty decent, as always. Should be an automatic first team choice in my opinion, but the worry is that he isn’t going to keep Butt out of the team for long. Hughton has been accused of pandering to his ‘big name’ players recently by Tim Krul, and Butt certainly qualifies as one of our ‘big names’ that will want a first team slot. Guthrie is the logical choice to be replaced.

Barton – 6: Whilst the likes of Smith, Nolan and Guthrie are flourishing in this division, Barton has still yet to truly burst onto the scene. You can tell that he’s a class player still, but I think we’re fully entitled to be demanding more of him at the minute.

Smith – 6: Well a red card was pretty imminent. Someone really needs to have a word with him. Whilst he’s been our most impressive midfielder so far this season, he has also threatened to become a liability on numerous occasions. Makelele was great at sitting infront of the defence and reading the game – reading the game to the extent that last ditch slide tackles were not often necessary. Smith still has a long way to go before he can be talked about as an excellent holding midfielder, and his reliance on these dangerous slide tackles is a perfect example of that. Still, he worked extremely hard as ever before his late sending off.

R Taylor – 6: Great cross for the goal. I must say that his contribution in terms of goals and assists this year has been excellent. I know that he’s up against weaker defenders, but his crossing this year is unrecognisable from some of the dross served up last season.

Nolan – 6: I gather that Nolan is the one who was supposed to be getting forward most to support Ranger but I honestly couldn’t tell if that was the plan. The fact we have no other strikers available is Ashley’s fault, not Nolan or Hughtons. I’d like to see Lovenkrands partner Ranger next week, playing as a proper striker, allowing Nolan to fit back into the role of partnering Smith in the middle – as they did so impressively in the first few games of the season.

Ranger – 7: Worked his arse off for the team, entirely selflessly. When you read about the troubles this kid had a few years ago and you look at him now, its easy to see that he is a worker. As good as Shola has been for us this season, if Shola had Ranger’s work-rate then he could probably be a proper Premier League striker by now. Hopefully Ranger will be given a real partner to play alongside in the next few weeks and he will be able to enjoy a more fruitful afternoon, one where he is given the chance to shine infront of goal rather than running down dead ends and chasing lost causes all game.

Subs:

Lovenkrands – 5.5: Not fit. Not sure where he was supposed to be playing. Can’t wait to have him at 100% – I suspect that he’ll be a great signing for us.

Butt – N/A: Useless and didn’t need much longer than 15 minutes to show it.

Geremi: See Above

Mike Ashley – Is it really too much to ask?

September 11, 2009

Is it too much to ask that either our esteemed owner or managing director actually speak to the fans now and then? A bi-annual manufactured press release does not count

Clearly an absolute moron

Clearly an absolute moron

Is it too much to ask that our beautiful stadium’s infrastructure be unadorned by a cheap, tacky sponsorship logo?

Is it too much to ask that we appoint a permanent manager? It has been a shade over 12 months now Mike… I think maybe a permanent manager may be a good idea eventually, yeah?

Is it too much to ask that we employ someone with even a modicum of experience in football administration to assist in the running of the club?

Is it too much to ask that when you appoint a manager, you do not appoint a ‘director of football’ behind his back only days later?

Is it too much to ask that you do not appoint a ‘director of football’ with absolutely no experience in said role?

Is it too much to ask that you do not buy and sell players without consulting the manager?

Is it too much to ask that we don’t offer a player at least £50Kpw for once?

Is it too much to ask that, in light of the club’s woeful ownership, the players take a teeny tiny bit of responsibility and agree to take a voluntary pay cut? At least until we gain promotion

Is it too much to ask that a relegation clause be inserted into the contract of a player signed in January, when the club is clearly on the precipice of relegation?

Is it too much to ask that our away shirt not be absolutely repulsive? Seriously, shirt design is not rocket science. Nice shirt = Increase in merchandise revenue

Is it too much to ask that Alan Shearer come out and explicitly tell us what Mike Ashley is really like? Safe to say you’re not going to get the job now Alan, you might as well…

Is it too much to ask that just a tiny portion of the TV, merchandise and ticket sales money, parachute payments and transfer fee revenue be re-invested back into the squad?

Is it too much to ask that someone actually take Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias to task over their lies, which have now been proven to be lies beyond a shadow of a doubt?

Of course, the answer to all of the above is seemingly yes. And if any one of the above things happened at any other club there would rightly be outcry from those fans. Yet we are ridiculed and accused of being both unrealistic and partly to blame for our current demise. Collectively, we have had to suffer an inordinate amount over the past twelve months. Some of the things that have gone on at our club genuinely defy belief. As in, a 10 year old could do no worse.

I am not even talking about things like poor signings here, of which there have been many. Every club makes mistakes in the transfer market. Mike Ashley signed the cheques but he was not directly responsible for the players we targeted. Sam Allardyce, Dennis Wise and to a much lesser extent, Joe Kinnear are all solely responsible for the duds we signed in the past two years (although obviously the latter two were appointed by the large man himself).

But he can be wholly blamed for many, if not all of the issues illustrated above. Some of them do not even require a basic level of f***ing intelligence. Good communication between the club and the fans – its not difficult, its not time consuming and it doesn’t cost anything. Appointing a manager – generally accepted to be the most important role at a football club, but apparently Ashley doesn’t think we need one. Don’t agree to pay players what you can’t afford. These sort of things are just plain common sense man, and whilst Ashley is no doubt currently at home wallowing in self pity and feeling hard done by, the pathetic truth is that every single last one of his problems relating to Newcastle United at the moment has been brought on by his own incompetence and arrogance. The fans aren’t to blame, the recession is not to blame and bad luck is certainly not to blame.

What is even more frustrating, is that even despite all of the above, after all the sh** he has pulled, this situation is inexplicably still recoverable. As it has been all along. After Keegan walked, the situation was still recoverable. When Kinnear had a heart attack, the situation was still recoverable. When we were relegated the situation was still recoverable and now that he has failed to sell the club, the situation is still recoverable. Obviously, spending a few million quid on some replacement players would have been the smart thing to do but he didn’t, and so there’s nothing we can do about that now. All he needs to do now, is appoint a manager with experience at this level of management and a Chairman with experience of running a football club. Like designing a non-repulsive football shirt, it isn’t rocket science. Appoint a couple of people that know what they are doing, with  a proven track record of proving that they know what they are doing, and let the rest take care of itself. Newcastle fans aren’t screaming out for millions and millions of pounds of investment – as Ashley seems to believe – we just want to be run like a proper football club for once. But that appears to be too much to ask…

Serious Fraud Office Investigates Mike Ashley!

September 10, 2009

News broke today of the Serious Fraud Office’s intention to investigate our glorious leader Mike Ashley and his dire company Sports Direct for alleged price fixing:

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating suspected criminal price fixing and fraud at Britain’s two largest sports retailers – JJB and Sports Direct.

The investigation follows a referral from the Office of Fair Trading, which has been secretly looking into the businesses since January.

JJB this morning told shareholders that it had sparked the probe with an approach to the OFT just 10 days after the company suspended its former chief executive Chris Ronnie. It claims to have negotiated immunity in exchange for whistle-blowing co-operation.

In a statement the OFT said it had earlier today “executed entry warrants at two addresses as part of an investigation into anti-competitive conduct in the sports goods retail sector”.

Football shirt retailers have fallen foul of the OFT previously. They were fined millions for price fixing after Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United FC, pointed the finger at his rivals.

The latest round of allegations could potentially generate much more serious penalties, including jail sentences, as price fixing has now become a criminal offence under the Enterprise Act of 2002. An SFO spokesman confirmed it is investigating the activities of both Sports Direct and JJB. He said the investigation was into suspected offences under the Fraud Act and the Enterprise Act.

The JJB statement today said that the OFT is focusing on the period when Ronnie – a former lieutenant of Ashley – ran the Wigan-based business. Ronnie moved into the JJB boardroom after buying a 29% stake in the business backed by Icelandic investor Exista. He borrowed the money to buy the stake from Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank which collapsed last year.

Sales and profits collapsed and JJB was nearly floored when two smaller retail chains – Qube and Original Shoe – that Ronnie bought for JJB from Ashley started to haemorrhage cash.

Ronnie was suspended by chairman Sir David Jones when it emerged that his shares had been seized by Kaupthing’s liquidators.

A bitter feud has since broken out between Ronnie and Ashley on one side and Jones on the other. Part of the feud has centred on a £1.5m loan that Ronnie arranged for a Jones family business, with the cash coming from Ashley.

Shares in JJB fell 10% to 34.5p and Sports Direct lost 5% to 123p. 

Hell on Earth

Hell on Earth

 I am by no means an expert in these matters, so I will not dwell too much on this story. Needless to say, whilst the thought of Mike Ashley getting his comeuppance does bring a smug smile to my face, the truth is that it is probably not in the best interests of Newcastle United Football Club for the owner to be sent to prison…

Interestingly, the SFO does not have a great track record when it comes to prosecuting firms involved in price fixing, which you can read about in an article from the Independent here.

I imagine that this is a story that will very much be lurking in the background for a while to come yet… Hopefully, Ashley will sell up and get out of our club before the story’s conclusion.

Some slightly better news – Good old Chris Hughton has been crowned Manager of the Month for August. Hooray!

Fair play to Hughton. He was dealt a remarkably shitty hand this summer. That we are currently in anything but deep trouble on the pitch is because of three things:

1)       The fans turning up in their droves when they had every right to turn their back on the club and the players.

2)       The Championship opposition so far being absolutely woeful.

3)       Chris’ tireless work.

You could say the players have turned things round but I wouldn’t agree. For example, just because Kevin Nolan was absolutely turgid last season, he should be applauded for upping his game slightly this year and looking like a professional footballer again? Lucky us. I’m so grateful that he’s suddenly decided to give 100% for the club and fans that pay his wages. These players are responsible for the mess we are in now, and what we are currently getting from them is the absolute minimum we should expect. Obvious exceptions are the players that are blameless for last season’s relegation (basically, the youngsters who barely got a look in last year).

But even more than Hughton’s ability to bring such a bunch of clowns together, I am impressed with his demeanour off the pitch. He’s had to put up with fans – idiots like me – goading him, mocking him and generally questioning both his competence and his integrity, yet he has been a model of decency throughout – something that our club has desperately been lacking for a long time now.

I still don’t think he should get the job full time. It seems that almost 100% of caretaker managers that get the job full time go on to fail spectacularly. But for the job he has done so far, I certainly applaud him. Also, put your life savings on us to lose to Cardiff at the weekend – the curse of the Manager of the Month award will no doubt strike again. With Chopra inevitably netting the winner.

Xisco – No longer even deserves a pun on the word ‘Disco’

September 8, 2009

Sometimes you have to marvel at the stupidity of the professional footballer. David Nugent has come out this morning with some scathing words about his time at Portsmouth, despite the fact that his move to Burnley is only a temporary loan arrangement until January. The one time England international (mental) said:

I was down there on my own with no family but I just had to get on with it. It was horrible. I lost so much confidence. 

Every time I came on as a sub I seemed to make an impression but that wasn’t good enough. Everything since I joined Portsmouth has just been downhill.

I was so down, I didn’t want to go to training sometimes. I was just on my own, sitting in the apartment, watching TV, playing computer games, going to bed at stupid hours of the morning. That’s been the lowest point of my career, and hopefully this will be a new slate. 

Some would say that being on £25k+ a week to play football and sit at home watching TV and playing computer games isn’t such a hard life, but what would they know. One might also question the assessment that every time he came on as sub he seemed to make an impression. His pathetic mis-hit when 6 yards out from goal against Man City last week certainly made an impression on me; I laughed and then put my head in my hands and wondered how someone so bloody useless can be a Premiership footballer. 

You may also remember Dave Kitson saying something similar last season. After costing Stoke City £5.5m last summer, Kitson spectacularly failed to find the net even once for his new club and was subsequently loaned back out to his previous club, Reading. On completing his loan move, Kitson was quoted as saying:

I was more bemused with the situation. I’d been bought for a lot of money but I wasn’t sure I was being utilised in the way I thought I was going to be.

You do have some days at training when you go back in and wonder what you’re doing there.

But I hold my hands up – it was my fault. I made the decision to go to Stoke, I didn’t have to, no-one forced me to go, and it was a bad decision.

And now of course Kitson is back at Stoke (and scored the winner against the Mackems last weekend wahey). To be fair to him, he did also say some complimentary things about Stoke as a club and wished them well but he made it quite clear that he wanted to go back to Reading permanently.

Anyway, why am I talking about David Nugent and Dave Kitson? Because of our favourite Spanish dud striker, Xisco, of course! Who came out with this beauty the other day:

After a difficult first year in Newcastle, this year seemed it was going to be more of the same and a good time to leave.

I even stopped playing in the last few days to force my exit. If they hadn’t accepted the loan at Santander, I would have regarded my situation at Newcastle as hopeless.

Did no one explain to the useless prick what a loan deal actually is? And that when Santander inevitably realise he is utter garbage, he will probably have to return to Newcastle once again? NUFC.com raised the following point…

It’s been undisclosed what deal has been done with Santander for Xisco to play there for the season, but assuming that Newcastle continue to pay a percentage of his wages then a club fine would seem appropriate.

Couldn’t agree more. Unfathomably, some Newcastle fans had been questioning why Xisco wasn’t given more of a run-out, despite the fact he made Albert Luque look like a Torres/Villa hybrid in the (admittedly) limited chances he was given. But when Ali Dia was hauled off after 25 minutes by Southampton and never seen again, no Southampton fans complained about the boy not being given a chance. It was apparent after only a couple of appearances that this boy (Xisco, not Dia) was woefully out of his depth in the Premiership and presumably, would be in the Championship too.

Lets hope that the Racing Santander bosses smoke the same brand as Dennis Wise and they decide to make the deal permanent.

International Break (or not, as the case may be)

September 7, 2009

Does anyone remember what it was like to see a Newcastle United player represent England? Or Scotland/Wales/Ireland (or whatever country you are from)? Seems like decades ago and I can’t help but feel that International weekends are not what they used to be.

Don’t get me wrong. Watching England is still a big deal for me, and the World Cup next Summer will be brilliant. This is as good an England side as I remember and with Capello at the helm we stand every chance of success in South Africa. But it now feels that – as a Newcastle United supporter – we are somewhat on the fringes. Its been that way for a number of years of course – even England’s Michael Owen wasn’t getting a game for England in the latter stages of his Newcastle career – but now we are in the Championship we are miles away from producing an England player.   

Worth another call-up...?

Worth another call-up...?

We have a few players in various countries’ youth set-ups which is all well and good, but its not the same. Geremi was the only Magpie to play for his nation at the weekend, against Gabon. Coloccini was left on the bench for Argentina, with Maradona opting to field a partnership at the back of Dominguez and Otamendi (One cap between them prior to Saturday night). And that was it.   

 

Obviously there was always Shearer, but a few years down the line it used to make me extremely proud to see the likes of Dyer, Parker, Jenas and Woodgate called up to the England squad. Watching Ireland was less of a chore with Given in the side (the less said about Duff the better) and seeing Speed and Bellamy line-up in Wales’ famous 2-1 victory over Italy was fantastic.  

West Ham fans have every reason to be proud of their boys from the 1966 World Cup team, as does every set of fans that was represented by one of their players that day. But if England were to emerge victorious next summer, it would be with a hint of regret in my eyes that we were unable to assist in bringing that trophy back.

Mike Ashley: A True Story

September 4, 2009

True story.

I bought a jumper in Topman last week but, after wearing it out one night, I decided I didn’t like anymore. The colours were a bit garish and it emphasised my rotund physique. My mates laughed at me and, needless to say, the girls weren’t impressed.

Stupidly I’d already taken the tag out, so there was no chance of a refund. £40 down the drain – great. Hang on, all is not lost I thought. With a bit of customisation, I might just be able to pull this off. I couldn’t. I tore some holes in the elbows and embroidered my initials into the chest – TF (smart). This didn’t work either, in fact it led to even more ridicule (something I had thought impossible).

That was it. There was no comeback from this latest humiliation. Ebay time. I’d heard plenty of cool stories about Ebay and how it is easy to make a quick profit. No problemo, I thought. I’d paid £40 (which my mate had told me was a rip off at the time but I ignored him, obviously), but if I was stupid enough to pay £40 for this heap of junk, surely there’ll be someone else stupid enough to pay double. I quickly stitched up the holes in the elbows and removed the TF embroidery, hoping that no one would see the permanent damage. Then I set the starting price at £80 (the website advised to start at a low selling point, but what the hell do they know) and set a 5 day deadline.

As the days went by, I didn’t receive any bids. That’s cool, I thought, they’re waiting to bid at the last minute. You can guess what happened next… The deadline passes and no bids! WTF?!

I was fuming. My mate said ‘just lower the price’ but why should I? Its my jumper and I’m not going to let it go for less than its worth, even if I do have no use for it. I thought to myself Fuck it, I paid £40 for this and I can’t get rid, so I might as well get my moneys worth.

I wore it and I wore it and I wore it. Every time I wore it out people laughed even louder. The signs of the permanent damage that I had inflicted on the jumper were still evident – the temporary stitching was beginning to come undone. After a while, other things started to unravel. I developed a hole underneath my armpit and the jumper’s shape was all lost. I even put it in the wrong wash and it shrunk.

At this point I genuinely couldn’t wear it anymore. I looked like a total fucking clown. I considered giving it away to a charity shop but at the last second I remembered – EBAY!

Fair enough, no one had wanted to pay double its RRP a couple of months ago, but surely I could still make some money from it? I’m a reasonable guy, so I decided that even asking for the £40 RRP was probably pushing it – no one would pay that. So I put it up for sale for £37.99. Bargain. After all, I was stupid enough to pay £40 for a shitty jumper so surely there’s someone else stupid enough out there to pay £37.99 for the same jumper in an even worse state.

Again, I set a 5 day deadline with a starting price of £37.99. Again, Ebay recommended that I start on 0.99p but why would I do that? I don’t want to lose the jumper for 99p! (even though I literally have no use for it at all…)

As the week progresses, no one actually bids for the jumper but I do receive a couple of messages. It seems that there are a couple of people interested in my jumper, but not at the price I have set. One man offers me £10 so I typed back lol fuck off m8. That told him. He’ll be back, don’t worry. As the deadline nears, I start to panic. Still no buys?! I don’t get it. But then I get that magical email at the last minute. Message from Mr B Moat: ‘Ok, final offer, how about £15?’

Erm, NO! The price is £37.99 prick. Rejection. Seriously, wtf is wrong with some people? The price clearly states that the item is for sale at £37.99 so don’t waste my time with your £15 piss take.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I am currently sitting here in my unwanted jumper because no one will pay me my £37.99.

My idiot mate told me that I might as well have sold it for £15, as its better than nothing. Don’t think so mate. I figure that if I sit around in this manky jumper that doesn’t fit me for long enough, someone stupid will either come and offer me my £37.99 or it will come into fashion at some point.

Like I said… true story.

On a completely unrelated note, I asked a friend of mine to explain this to me…

‘If Newcastle United is for sale at £100m, and £25m worth of players are sold, how can the value of the club still be £100m?’

This is a good friend of mine. He is extremely business sound and whilst he is by no means an expert on football, he has half-decent football knowledge. This is what he said:

Well in terms of selling players, there is a chance he could have added value. He has removed the cost of their wages and the likely depreciation of their value as they become older and tired and they have been replaced with a pile of cash. Now assuming they were deemed worth £25m, it is a straight swap of assets, players for cash, and the subsequent reduction of the wage bill. Though you could argue he has damaged the value by losing key players, tough one to call.

What it sounds like is that he is a complete idiot and in way over his head. He owns a (sorry) sinking club, lost a load of money and so rightly doesn’t want to invest anymore, yet he won’t admit he has f*cked up. Investors like him get emotional and forget, sadly, that football is a business. (At least in this instance, for the likes of Chelsea and Man City it is a hobby).

Basically he should cut his losses and get out. He is hoping you’ll be promoted with no further investment I guess.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.