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

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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.

Top of the League! Lovenkrands In. Harewood Too? (Please God, No)

September 3, 2009

Top of the league, best defensive record in the country and unbeaten. At any other club this would be joyous news but at Newcastle United you can’t help but feel that this is merely the biggest false dawn in the entire history of false dawns. The transfer window is closed, and whilst this is not necessarily disastrous – football league clubs are able to make loan signings between September and November – it would be foolish to expect too much of Mike Ashley in the way of providing funds for any extra wages. Lovenkrands was a good signing (why we left it until now I don’t know) but is it enough? Probably not. There is absolutely no defensive cover and we still have about six central midfielders on Premiership wages (Smith, Nolan, Barton, Guthrie, Butt, Geremi) when four would suffice – go figure.

Good news? Other than the Lovenkrands signing, at least Xisco has gone. I suppose keeping hold of our better players has to be a bonus. Our promotion hopes this season are going to rely wholly on Steven Taylor, Enrique, Nolan, Smith, Guthrie and Ameobi. If they keep playing like this, we should comfortably finish in the top 6. So what’s to stop them being sold in January if they keep up their impressive form? At the moment, nothing. Ashley has made it quite clear that he will sell anyone if he receives a half decent offer. I’m not sure if I could take the disappointment of being top at Christmas only to see half the squad sold and for us to fall away. Surely Ashley wouldn’t be that stupid? Don’t count on it.

I would have happily seen the back of Coloccini, Barton, Geremi and Butt, but unsurprisingly no one wanted them. The former two are liabilities whilst the latter two are old men. And all four are on £50k+ a week. Shocking. Though perhaps it was for the best that Coloccini did not leave as Ashley would no doubt have refused to sanction the signing of a replacement – which would have left us with one senior centre back. You would think that Ashley might be desperate to offload a useless defender on approximately £70k a week – when the division average is nearer £10k a week – but apparently not. Cretin.

Back to Lovenkrands, this is a great acquisition. Despite our good start, the key thing that our team lacked was clearly pace. Many people said that Martins would have scored a shed load of goals in the Championship, but Lovenkrands is perhaps just as good a player. I’ve stated before how much I liked Martins as a player, but lets not fool ourselves – he was somewhat limited. Both his touch and footballing intelligence were sorely lacking, and he had a worrying tendency to blindly blast the ball over from relatively simply positions. Lovenkrands is arguably as quick, just as good a goal scorer and infinitely cheaper. I don’t deny that he looked poor on occasion last season in the Premiership, but who didn’t? He still scored three goals post-January (not much, but still more than anyone else if I remember correctly) and as we’ve seen from our impressive start, the difference in quality between the Premiership and the Championship is massive. Lets also not make the mistake of wasting Lovenkrands out on the left as we often did last season – it is upfront where he could thrive.

Ideally, in addition to Lovenkrands, Bale – as rumoured – would be brought in on loan and would slot into the left side of midfield (and hopefully not to oust Enrique from the left back position). That deal looked to be dead with the injury to Luka Modric but after Spurs pulled off the deal of the summer by signing Niko Kranjcar for £2m, Bale may once again be deemed surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane.

On the subject of potential loan signings, Chris Hughton has today been quoted as saying:

In five days’ time we hope to bring in loan signings. These will be initial one- month loan deals that could be extended to three months.

We made moves on Tuesday and they didn’t work, but most importantly for me we didn’t lose anybody else. 

As the deadline approached I was aware that we were unlikely to – but you never know. Therefore I was very glad when that time passed, like most other people in my position would have been too.

Which sounds pretty promising, but he then goes on to say:

Marlon was one of the numerous names we looked at – again we were unable to do business.

We know where we are when it comes to the areas we are short of and in five days’ time we will see exactly who we can bring in.

There isn’t anybody we can rule in at this stage, but certainly we have some big decisions to make

Is Marlon Harewood really the sort of player we want to be looking at? Hopefully not – he is abysmal. I’ve seen a few Newcastle fans on forums saying that he would be a good signing – seriously? Villa and Wolves fans have nothing but bad things to say about him. Here’s a quote from a Villa fan on a forum when quizzed on his opinion of Marlon Harewood:

useless, lumbering, vacant mess of a player

He is certainly no improvement on Shola, Carroll or Lovenkrands, and I would much rather see Ranger given a go than Harewood – the poor man’s Heskey (yes, shockingly there does appear to be such a thing).

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