Sunday, 28 December 2008

Thank you, Mr Ashley


Thanks Mike - just as the retail sector is gearing up for clearance bargains, you've decided to take the club off the market. Presumably you didn't fancy hawking a £200 million+ 'asset' around a marketplace already saturated with Woolies and Zavvi cast offs.

I wonder how many fans are going to choke on their pre-match hot dogs as they read in the programme :-

"For me 2009 will be the year in which we drive the club forward together"

Forward? Well, I suppose its a better direction than downwards. I keep hoping that there is a plan here somewhere...But I doubt it. I had to use this image... a barcode, not being sold...

I know that today's game will be remembered for one thing - that will be the tributes that are being paid to a great man - who has more dignity in his little finger than Ashley seems to have ever had. Sir Bobby Robson. Watch and learn Mike.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Pies, Damn Pies, and Statistics


Wigan 2 Toon 1

Well for 70 minutes was groundhog day... Boxing day at Wigan.. Spending the afternoon sandwiched between fully-grown, slightly inebriated, men dressed as Santa (including one guy who seemed to think that Santa wore a hat and boxers... and nowt else. It was freezing and he was tinged with a purple hue by the end of the game), Tweety Pie, Sylvester (the cartoon one, not the disco diva) four Smurfs, Darth Vader (a very weedy Darth at that) and numerous Spidermen. Watching Ryan Taylor score against a woeful Newcastle side and then seeing a spiteful, excessively aggressive Wigan midfield attempt to kick any creativity out of the game. It was as though I was reliving every game for the past four years at the JJB again and again... They say that you don't remember pain, until something painful happens to you again - well I'd say its true, because halfway through the first half, I just knew I'd experienced this level of angst before.

But then, just as I was cursing (which I do loudly and often) my sheer stupidity at trekking to deepest darkest Lancashire to watch the turgid fare that Wigan against Newcastle always is, I think that the referee got bored. I really can't think of any other explanation for Mike Dean's bizarrely erratic decisions towards the end of the game. At first he seemed to be happy to let the game flow (well, it would have done if the players had been up to doing anything as creative at 'flowing') but then Cattermole decided to stamp his authority onto the game.. literally. His actions had already cost Newcastle the services of Barton in the game at SJP, and now he's put Habib Beye out of the game for a considerable period of time. Git. Anyway, Dean decided that a yellow card would suffice.

In the second half Dean got even worse. He decided to give a penalty for a foul that was committed midway inside the half and that the lineman had given a full 20 yards outside the penalty area. Not content with that he sent off Bassong for the foul. Git. He then booked both Duff and Butt for having the gall to point out his ineptness at giving incorrect decisions. Almost as though he wanted to redress the balance, he then gave a penalty for a foul on Andy Carroll for a challenge by Kirkland that most goalkeepers would have gotten away with. But, of course he couldn't be consistent... he just booked Kirkland. Dean's final act of card-happy madness was to book Carroll for being fouled in the penalty area... Now, call me a traditionalist, but isn't that supposed to be a penalty? Double git.

The upshot of Mike 'git' Dean's invention was positive in a small way though - it was the most exciting end to a game at Wigan I've ever seen. Newcastle should have got a point at the end, if only Duff could have remembered that he needed to put the ball between the posts and and not around it. However, the negatives far outweigh any positives - for a team that was defensively light anyway; the loss of Beye, Enrique and Bassong is catastrophic. Liverpool tomorrow must be licking their collective lips and polishing their shooting boots at the thought of coming up against a very makeshift defence.

Wigan is famous for its pies - I assume that's what crossed Viduka's mind as he got halfway through the second half... "Humm, I'm a bit peckish - I think I'll see if the pie shop is open" so he wandered off the pitch and down the tunnel. The chants of "you're not fit to wear the shirt" were sung in anger rather than irony, but works on both levels.

So, thank you Mike Dean and Mark Viduka - 24 hours on and I'm still very angry at both of you. Gits.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Dear Santa

Well, Santa, I'm in a bit of a quandary...

Six games unbeaten and wins in the last two, the giddy heights of 12th place in the league have been attained and I find myself looking up at possible top ten place before the start of 2009. I'm also still in a state of shock that the goal scorers today were N'Zogbia and Duff - and I almost fainted when I saw the highlights and discovered that not only did Viduka play for 50 mins, but he also created the winner. Not only that but we've beaten Spurs, and I've just seen a dejected 'Arry Rednapp interview... Which has brought me a suprising amount of Christmas cheer.

So, Mr Claus, I'm in the habit of of asking for the 3 points on Boxing Day at Wigan (see last years list ) and I'm wondering if I should ask for something different this year. By my reckoning I've been to see Newcastle V Wigan four times and I've never seen us win.. in fact I've never seen us play even remotely well at the JJB.

So rather than ask for the traditional 3 points against Wigan from Father Christmas, I'm going to ask for a cracking game, a team display and JFK's happy face on the telly afterwards. I'm taking the Favourite Nephew to this match for his Xmas pressie... (But he doesn't know yet, so don't tell him... ) I just hope at 5.00pm on Friday he thanks me for it.

Thanks Santa

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Reflections on the Party Season

I used to work in banking....Christmas office parties were always produced a mixture of trepidation and anxiety. Traditionally the time for eating/drinking too much, telling your work colleagues what you really think of them (a years pent-up frustration can be a very dangerous thing) before finally getting round to abusing the photocopier creating facsimiles of body parts - all whilst wearing a slightly torn serrated paper hat. I then went to work in HE, the parties weren't that different, except we always had to go to pubs that students didn't frequent.. often a challenge.

As you may have guessed by the level of cynicism, I've never enjoyed these type of events - usually opting for the "I'll show my face and then slope off early" approach. However, this week the dreaded office party came around; and maybe its the different industry (I work for a software company) or maybe its because I'm older...But I quite enjoyed it. Much playing of Wii's and general natter with colleagues that often you don't spend enough time talking to during the usual working day.

Now, being as I work in software, a lot of my colleagues blog. Some are purely technology based and some are very general. As the conversation at the party meandered to blogging, a colleague, Nadeem, remarked that he thought it was odd that I just blogged about football. That got me thinking (keep awake at the back... I'll get round to the point shortly). When I first started this blog I had three aims, to vent my frustration, to keep a record of my views and to encourage me to hone my writing (ahem) skills. I think I've achieved this, but Nad's comment made me review my posts over the last year or so.

It's an interesting thing to do, what I didn't realise is that I seem to have wittered on over the past year on two main themes...

1. The manipulation of facts by the media in order to feed on Newcastle fans hunger for 'news'. And never letting something trivial like a fact get in the way of a good headline. See here for one of many examples
2. The disruption to the traditional business of football that has been caused by the huge amounts of money that has been poured into the game and the effect that has on the people who buy that product because they are fans and not consumers (well most of us anyway). See here and here for examples.

I guess my point is that yes, my thoughts are framed by football, but its a microcosm of many of the things that are going on in the world...

However, this bit IS about football. I'm still in shock since the result against Portsmouth last week... A group of us had watched it on the telly, and the end we were all slightly perplexed, the question was what do we usually do after an away win?? We couldn't remember. So, I really hope that we can carry on that form into the game against Spurs tomorrow. It feels like they owe us a home win... From Rednapp turning us down to them knocking a woeful shambles of a ex-Allardyce team out of the League Cup...Not least because of their odious mouth-piece, Dave Mason will no doubt be spouting his prejudices again... I hope EMO still has his mind on the for sale sign reminder to other clubs... A hat-trick and I'd almost start to like him...maybe.

Howay the Lads

(I wonder if the Newcastle players office party was spent discussing blogs? Somehow, I doubt it)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Pot, Kettle and Fish


Ok, I'll admit it.... I'm starting to get obsessive about Owen's engineering of a move away from SJP. I understand that he's not happy with the way that the latter stages of his career is panning out. Not doubt he wants to winning medals, adding to his international caps and challenging some Portuguese bloke for the European Player of the Year. But instead he finds himself in a relegation scrapping side, with a club intent on pulling itself to bits and a manager who is admitting that he can't foresee EMO staying with us. Or at least that's what I think he means when he says:-

"I'm pretty confident about everybody else, but Michael is a different kettle of fish."

So, no co-incidence that EMO's form and fitness both pick up as the January transfer window approaches as his (alleged) £140k per week contract starts to wind down and he puts a huge sign on the back of his shirt saying "open to offers" and starts to hope that a more attractive club begins to show an interest. Earlier this year Man City were supposed to be interested in him... I said at the time that they could have him... I bet he'd give eye teeth to be going there now...

Part of me would happily see him walk away. He's got talent, but doesn't appear to have the application. It's frustrating, but as a player he just isn't motivated at Newcastle. He doesn't care about the club (and I understand that as well, why should he have an emotional attachment to his employer?) and I suspect that the money isn't really that important to him either - after all how much of Cheshire can a 28 year old want to own?

But the another part of me whats to see him scoring goals in a black and white shirt for a long time to come, for N'Zogbia, Duff and Gutierrez to be supplying him with crosses for elegantly taken goals and for him find the perfect striking partner with Viduka... Oh, and also the sun will always be shining, world peace will have broken out and the mackems will re-appoint Howard Wilkinson as manager... Idle dreams, all of them... In the meantime he's talking to the media reminding anyone who will listen that he is still about and also Newcastle benefit from his goals.

I guess the real question is who will replace him? Somehow I doubt it'll be someone who sets my pulse racing.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Score Draws

Sometimes a draw can feel as good as a win, sometimes a draw can feel vaguely disappointing and sometimes a draw can feel like a earth-shattering loss. It all depends on the expectations going into the game and the way in which the team plays in the game. I can recall a Monday night at Anfield - the first time that I'd been there, when a Shearer-inspired comeback secured a 2-2 draw and it felt so much like a win... The cliche of one point gained, rather than two lost was never truer.

Yesterday, the 2-2 draw with Stoke felt like the exact opposite. This was a game that should have been won by half-time and in fact appeared to have been won by half-time. As the January transfer window prepares to crack open, Owen is starting to find a bit of form (what an astonishing coincidence!) and comfortably put the Toon 2-0 up. And then of course the second half started and the team stuffed it up.

Having survived the rigors of Christmas shopping with my Mother, I'd slumped in front of the TV with Soccer Saturday on. Now, Soccer Saturday is an odd phenomenon - for a programme that is basically radio on the TV (a host and three so called pundits, watching a game and then relaying what they have seen with the added benefit of their 'wisdom' in order to explain to the viewer what is going on). Its one of those programmes that shouldn't work, but for some reason it does. I suspect that the reason it's watchable is Jeff Stelling, Hartlepool's most (only) famous supporter and all round football geek. His child-like enthusiasm and in depth knowledge (such as
the last time that Arbroath scored in the Scottish Cup... with a striker who's name started with Mac) make the fact that you can't see what is on the screen somehow watchable. He also manages to control the ex-footballer numpties who 'ohhh' and 'ahh' at the screens that are in front of them.

For yesterday's game Phil Thompson was 'commentating' on the game from St James' Park... I found myself from 4.30pm desperately hoping that Thompson wouldn't utter another word...that time would somehow move forward by another 20 mins and Newcastle would get hold of those elusive 3 points. Every time someone off camera uttered a "argggggg" or an "ohhhh" I developed a twitch and then a ridiculous amount of relief when Charlie Nicholas' was panned to, rather than "Tommo" (why is a school boy nickname like that on a man in his forties vaguely unsettling??). Anyway, as usual, Tommo got more excited, Stoke mounted a comeback and Newcastle had a draw that feels like a bitter loss. The exact opposite of the Liverpool game all those years ago.

Too many draws could ultimately prove the downfall - games like yesterday's should have been won...Two points lost, which may become crucial when the Soccer Saturday lot commentate on the last game of the season... Stoke staying up and Newcastle relegated?? I so hope not.

In the meantime the denizens of Wearyside are looking for a new manager... Which will mean the creation of a new chant - I've missed the surreal nature of the Peter Reid song, and the Roy Keane one always brought a titter... So, I wonder what the song will be for the next one? What rhymes with Allardyce??

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Stickability


The expected the announcement came yesterday, which was two-fold

a) Ashely can't find a buyer for the club
b) JFK is staying on until the end of the season

My initial response to both of those was a shoulder shrug and a smug "I knew that was going to happen". With regards to a) hasn't Big Mike noticed the state of the world-wide economy? Even if someone had a few hundred million to spend, would you want to risk it on a venture like NUFC? I doubt it... Also if I were in the buying market for a football club I'd want to wait until the end of the season to see if Newcastle slip into The Championship (which the way this season is going is a real possibility). Then either pick up the club in a fire sale, or if the club is in The Premiership, have the whole of the summer to re-evaluate and re-trench, ready for the start of next season.

With regards to b) it feels like good news. Which is probably more a statement on my rapidly lowering expectations for the club. JFK has managed to manage the players. He's getting them playing as a team, in a slightly different style and he's getting results. Nothing spectacular, no Rednapp inspired conversion of the team, but never the less he's making a positive difference.

He's also taken the role as acting as official spokesman for the club with some degree of professionalism and relish. He's skilled at making the right type of comment at the right time, from a vicious verbal volley at the press, to this statement yesterday...


I am over the moon about it - Mike has asked me to stay as manager until the end of the season, and I am absolutely delighted

Its a heart-warming statement (with obligatory football cliche) and shows that he cares. I can't quite see Allardyce, Souness or even Roeder being that excited. It's easy to be cynical and say that he's pandering to what the fans want to hear, but I feel that it's a genuine statement from him; someone who wants the job, has had an opportunity thrust onto him and is grabbing it with both hands.

JFK has said that one of his first priorities will be to sort out players contracts, including EMO's, Steve Harper's and Nicky Butt's. Again, all makes good sense, but I wish that EMO would just disappear back to Cheshire and leave us be... I can't see the sense in an injury prone, disinterested, ex-international on a huge pay deal hanging around a club that is fighting to stay in the division. I've wittered on about this before and the sooner he goes the better. As for Butt, I hope he does get offered a new deal, he's getting older, slowing down but has the ability to read the game in a way that the rest of the midfield is sadly lacking.

Today - it's the Smoggies, away... So fingers crossed for JFK to lead us to our first away win of the season.

Howay the lads.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tormented

One of the best things about a Sunday is the luxury of the Sunday papers... that hour or so of uninterrupted time, absorbing the news of the week and planning future events based on film/theatre/holiday/book reviews. I love that time, either on a Sunday morning with a steaming hot coffee or in the afternoon, usually with the rain slamming against the window pane, with TV sport on as background accompaniment. Despite being happy to read the rest of the weeks news on line, Sunday's are the paper day

I usually read The Observer, and have a ritual. Sports pages first, followed by the review, the finance pages, the main news part and then usually catch up on the magazine later in the week (the TV guide and Travel sections usually jettisoned into the recycling untouched). A few years ago, The Observer created monthly magazines, based on cookery, music, women and sport. They tend to be high quality, lengthy features which make entertaining reading supplemented with some really excellent photography (for example the photo of the mackem manager by Murdo Macleod has been used to scare countless children). Needless to say I devour the Sport Monthly when it arrives.

So, with the rain lashing on the window frames this afternoon I've been reading the Observer Sport Monthly, and as soon as I saw the title of the article I just knew Newcastle United would feature "top ten: Most tormented fans" Sure enough, proudly at No 4,

"At least Chicago Cubs fans have a good excuse for their history of near-misses. At St James' Park, there is no cursed goat to help explain 81 years without the League title. Scapegoats abound, though. In the Premier League era, Newcastle's appetite for self-destruction has turned the 'massive club' into a laughing stock. How much blame lies with the self-professed 'best fans in the world', who can't stop scratching at old wounds, is difficult to assess. And with the Big Four seemingly impregnable, the wait for a title will go on and on."

Difficult to argue with any of that.... Sadly.

Yesterday was supposed to be the day that Ashley sold up... It didn't happen. Unsurprisingly the club is proving a difficult item to shift - the alleged buyers from the US haven't committed as yet, and JFK is with us for at least another month. So, football finance is affected by the current economic crisis (and why should it be any different to any other areas of the economy?). I'd always thought that when JFK arrived it was for longer than the usual definition of "interim". I'd be willing to bet he and Ashley will still be there at the end of the season.

That said, JFK is managing to make Newcastle a more cohesive team - a draw against Chelsea yesterday, more than many expected and even more surprising was the clean sheet. The siege mentality that he's developed might not be long term. but two wins, two losses and four draws is mid table form. Just a shame that the team had sunk so low in the first place.

Anyway, off to torment myself a little more, trying to work out how Newcastle can draw against Manure and Chelsea and lose against mackems and Fulham... I think that way madness lies - as some bloke from Stratford once said.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shola Success

What a difference a month makes. At the Everton game when things looked really bleak - JFK made a substitution, bringing on the outcast No23, the guy who had been deemed not good enough for the Championship with Ipswich in August, Shola Ameobi. The chant went up "If Shola scores we're on the pitch" and stewards looked around nervously at the prospect of a pitch invasion. Of course, the threatened (un)civil unrest wasn't likely to happen, as we all thought that seeing as he hadn't scored for over two years it was unlikely. Since the Everton game he's set about trying to establish a place for himself in the side and was this week voted Newcastle player of the month for October. He's scored a couple of goals and generally looked more determined than any of the other strikers at the club.

He's a JFK sort of player - in the John Fashanu mold. Big, physical, determined and of limited ability. Therein lies the problem with Shola. For years we have watched one of our own (after all he's one of only two Geordie's near the first team at the moment, I know that neither he or Taylor were born in Newcastle - but they count as Geordies) willing him to succeed, only to be let down. Some of the frustrations about Shola are that for a player who is well over 6ft he appears to be unable to jump more than 6ins off the ground. He is one of the worst headers of the ball I've seen in a black and white shirt. He also has one of the poorest first touches of a top-flight player that I've ever seen - the ball just seems to cannon off him in random directions. For example:





But, he despite all these short-comings he's a player who always gives it all for the club. His ability is limited but he perseveres when so many better paid and more talented players give up - to name a few Kluivert, Luque, and Guivarc'h spring to mind from the past and you could probably add in Viduka and EMO from the present.

I've always had a soft spot for Shola - I remember his debut against Chelsea. He came on as a sub and a certain 'hard-tackling' Chelsea midfielder decided to show this lanky new comer what the Premiership was all about and sent 'our' Shola to the turf with a crunching and illegal tackle. I can still recall Shola jumping up, bristling with indignation and squaring up to the bully - without loosing any control the stare, just said "don't mess with me, I know what I'm doing".

The name of that midfielder? - our current Executive Director (Football) Dennis Wise. Dennis you should have learned from eight years ago, don't mess with what Newcastle fans know and love....That and the fact that when they squared up to each other Shola was a good foot taller than him, much to the general hilarity of the crowd.

One final thought, I may have a soft spot for Shola, but not as much as a friend of mine - who named her cat after our No 23. That said, Shola the Cat is the most aggressive, surly, vicious feline I've ever come across. I wonder if Shola the footballer is like that? I'd doubt it, but the cat can still jump higher.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Floodlit Fun


I like Mondays...

For the past two Mondays Newcastle have been on the telly, the satellite stations have decreed that Newcastle should form part of their early evening 'entertainment' - and wonder of wonders the Toon have managed to put together back to back wins. As it stands at the moment we are luxuriating in 14th position in the league and the Mackems are in their rightful place... below us.

I've always loved evening games. Its the feeling generated by rushing away from work with a sense of excitement, walking to a ground and seeing it illuminated in the distance, wrapped up against the elements and knowing that this evening will be filled by football. Two particular evening games stick in my memory, one was Toon v Juventus in 2002. It was, I think, the first Champions League game that I'd been too, a tremendous game, with the most unlikely goalscorer - Andy Griffin. The other was even longer ago - Toon v Spurs in the FA Cup reply in Dec 1999. Memorable for the 6-1 scoreline, but also a wonderful goal by a talented young player called Dyer (I wonder whatever happened to him?) and getting numerous hugs from complete strangers filled with pre-Christmas cheer as we left the ground. Special because it was floodlit - special because the entertainment was spectacular.

As for the Villa game on Monday, well, lets say that times have changed, along with my expectations. I fully expected a loss as Villa are challenging the "big four" ( Sky) but what I hadn't factored in was how poor Villa were. Then again Newcastle/Villa games often are like this for some reason. So, it wasn't spectacular, but the three points gained (thanks entirely to Martins and Gutierrez) made the floodlit Monday night special.

That said, Joey Barton is one quarter footballer, three quarters complete idiot. Appropriately for a match near bonfire night, he allowed for his fuse to be lit, thrashed around like a demented catherine wheel and then came close to exploding over a nothing incident with Abonglahor. I hope JFK has the sense to give Barton a rocket (OK, I'm going to stop now... I sound like a cheesy tabloid journalist, an analogy isn't worth doing unless you push it far to far...). Barton's going to self-destruct again...soon. Please will someone stop him??

Tomorrow, Fulham away... on the telly...fingers crossed...again

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Bottom of the pile

Well, a huge thanks to both Liverpool and Man City.... Thanks to the abject failure of these two team to do the expected; Newcastle are now luxuriating in the position of bottom of the league. Bloody wonderful....

OK - so we've got a game in had over most, but to be honest its not that surprising that Newcastle are currently 20th in the table. I said last week that I hoped that there were three teams around that were worse... I'd pinned my hopes on Bolton, West Brom and Stoke, but on the evidence of this weekend it could be a struggle. There were some freaky results this week (Spurs 7 points from 9???) and to be honest, I think it'll be another freaky result if Newcastle beat Villa tomorrow.

It's going to hurt seeing Jimmy Milner in the 'wrong' colour shirt - probably one of the worst bits of transfer business since we let Nobby Solano go to Villa the first time.

Hoping for a win tomorrow, but not at all confident....

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Buying time?

Interesting comments from JFK in this weeks press conference. He's commented this week on the temporary nature of his contract and the difficulty that this causes him, and yesterday he went just a bit further...

"In the short term I will do my best but it might get sold under my feet. We've had Russians and South Africans but nobody has stepped up. But your guess is as good as mine.

As NUFC.com reported they reckon that everything will become clearer after the Chelsea game on 22nd Nov. This is interesting, as to me it smacks of a due diligence period being completed, once that is done then the deal will be signed and the club will transfer over to the new owners. So the note of caution by JFK can be read as an expectation setting in case it all goes pear shaped (i.e. the due diligence uncoveres something unexpected - like having to pay for players on HP, eh Mike??). However, over on Newcastle United Blog, Ed makes the point that at least via JFK the club are communicating with the fans, something that has been woefully lacking recently. Going quiet isn't an option at a club like Newcastle which provokes such interest from its paying customers... That only allows the media to make stuff up and we all know how annoyed that makes Joe.

I wonder if the BBC had communicated quicker and more effectively about Brand/Ross stuff that has obsessed the print media this week - then a few more people might still be in a job? I've been amazed at the ludicrous indignation expressed by various 'esteemed' commentators this week, in the same way that I was infuriated by the print media's umbrage at JFK's outburst. Do these people live in the real world? People swear... hardly breaking news. But at least their is some communication from the club - whether its smokescreen or honesty, the next 21 days will tell. However, if I had to guess, both JFK, Ashley, Wise and Llambias will still be at Newcastle United at the turn of 2009.

Oh, and thank you Chelsea for today's result... Brought a smile to my face.





Tuesday, 28 October 2008

3 Points for the good guys

Well, for only the second time this season I find myself grinning as the good guys have picked up 3 points. Thank you West Brom... for having the good grace not to score twice (otherwise JFK's new nickname was going to be Desmond*). Its a win that lifts the team in a number of ways, not only to the giddy heights of 15th in the table (for today anyway) but also hopefully the confidence of the whole of the team. This was a hugely important game to win, if the Toon had lost then I think that the plans for next season would have consisted of trips to Notts Forrest, QPR and Preston... It still might be the case, but at least its a start.

I've had to suffer listening to the game via my PC, on a very poor connection - that kept buffering at inopportune moment.... Can someone remind me what enjoyment I get from following Newcastle United???

Apparently, Newcastle played at the weekend, but I have no recollection of that match at all...

Denial and delusion are wonderful ways of deflecting.... Bring on Villa

* Its the obvious joke, 2-2

Saturday, 25 October 2008

28 years

More PMT (pre match tension) - I'm full of cold, got home really late last night after a long week of work, its cold, wet and I've got loads to do this weekend... Still, my first thought this morning (after the coughing fit) was "please let us beat the mackems" - its difficult to get the right tone of pleading down electronically - but think small child manipulating harassed parent for something that they really really want.

JFK has been given a rolling one month contract, which was as surprising as the sun rising this morning - but 3 points higher up the table by the end of today and he'll be well embedded with the Newcastle fans, and I think he's bright enough to know that. He's not going to set the managerial world alight, but he's ok for Newcastle at the moment. If we win today he'll be with us until at least the turn of the year. It's the surest way to win over fans, beat your local rivals.

One of those statistics that is made to be broken... 28 years since the mackems have beaten us at their place... Hope its still intact at the end of the day.... Hope.... Hope.....Hope

Saturday, 18 October 2008

EMO

Well, an early season international break, which as ever spells disaster for NUFC... Players coming back from it injured and unable to play. As usual EMO is one of those... Apparently its a groin strain and he'll be out for about 10 days... Ho hummm.... EXCEPT EMO doesn't play for England anymore (I'm going to have to think of a new insulting nickname for him soon).. so out of apparent spite he's decided to get injured anyway.

I'm sure Captain Michael must have really regretted a) moving to Newcastle b) not moving away from Newcastle in the summer c) not playing in a team good enough to make him the chances that would get him back playing with the 3 lions. Although, no doubt the (alleged) £110k a week softens the blow. Wouldn't it be nice if he showed a little commitment and decided to put in some effort for his wages... He was a class player, he is a world class finisher - but unlike other great centre-forwards he hasn't been able to adapt his game as he's got older and has become increasingly ineffective. Somehow I can't see him playing into his late 30's as someone like Sheringham did - he hasn't got the nous, or more importantly, the motivation.

So, the game against Citeh on Monday night fills me with the dread. Talk about David v Goliath?? The billion pound Brazilians against the might of Shola Ameobi and Xisco... I'll be the one watching from behind the sofa, just like when I was five and the Daleks scared me on Dr Who

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Pre-programmed


I collect stuff.... Perhaps not the worlds most shocking revelation. But I've always done it, things like books, records (remember them?), CDs, gig tickets, films (video and TV) etc. These things provide an additional set of memories to my life. Whatever has grabbed my attention for a period of time has been hoarded and cherished, until eventually getting discarded in favour of the next thing that my attention alights on. They normally lie about cluttering up shelf space, then get relegated to cupboard, wardrobe or some other hidden storage area, Eventually I pluck up the courage to chuck out the offending clutter.

In terms of football memorabilia I've got tickets (oddly enough in a large biscuit tin, I'm sure there is something deep and meaningful to that) stretching back to the mid 1990's (when I moved to Manchester and started going to away games in earnest) and I've got loads of programmes. The programmes are like a guilty addiction for me. I go to a game, think "ah.... there is no point what will I learn from them" and then find myself gravitating to a bloke in a fluorescent jacket, standing in a plexiglassed hut selling glossy magazines. I then usually shell out anything between £2 to £5 for an anodyne description of the club that Newcastle are going to be beaten by. I think that when I first started going I used to get the programme to see who was in the team... But now that so much depends on printing deadlines and squad sizes that this is meaningless as well. However, it doesn't seem to stop me seeking out a programme seller and parting slavishly with my hard-earned cash.

The other thing that often happens is that I tend to read these in accordance with how well/badly Newcastle have played. If the game is a good one (i.e. Newcastle actually win an away game) then the programme is devoured on the day of the game. If a poor result, then it usually lies on the kitchen table for a few days and might be studied after the pre-requisite period of grief has elapsed.

The Everton programme was midway between those two in terms of time. A typical corporate production, with lots of stories about how much the club cares for its fans and what upstanding fellows all the players are, a few words from the manager and captain and a smattering about Newcastle. This copy had a "Guest Appearance" by Sid Waddell, a darts commentator, expert quipper and semi-professional Geordie. The article was about Waddell's career and the state of darts in general (as an aside, how on earth can darts be considered a sport??) and some comments about the North East in general and Newcastle in particular. I then stumbled across this quote :-

"Newcastle United are not a football team; they are a crusade. They were the best of the tribe; these were our Geronimo, our best warriors. They came out of the pits and the shipyards... How the Toon did affected the whole society. People's mood in the pubs and clubs would be affected for the whole weekend"

This made me stop and think for loads of reasons - interesting use of the past tense; are the current players really our best warriors?; when did this all change?; how many are really still employed in the pits and the shipyards?; why is football so important that it can alter the mood of a region depending on what 22 men kicking an inflated pigs bladder around do?

Waddell's view is undoubtedly harking back to a glorious past seen through rose-tinted glasses, but perhaps the first sentence is the most telling for me. And perhaps if Mike Ashley had understood his customers a bit better, then perhaps he'd have a few more million quid on the table for his most recent declining investment.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Phew....

Everton 2 Toon 2

It wasn't pretty most of the time. for a while it looked like a thrashing, so all in all it feels like a fairly good result. At least a point has stopped the decline and for the first time in a over a month Newcastle have started to climb the table. After the same game last season this was certainly much better.

For the first 40 mins it looked like a typical inept and gutless display. But a goal just before half time (Taylor scored it apparently, I completely missed it, it was at the other end to the Newcastle fans and seeing as I was standing at eye-level to the pitch I had very little chance of seeing it - ah, the joys of watching live sport) changed the complexion of the game. The icing on the cake was a goal by Duff just after half time (this time I did see it!!) which was made this time by Taylor. You could see the confidence surge back into the team and for a lot of the second half it felt like the game was ours to win, and that Everton were hanging on. I'll be watching MOTD later on to see if I was right. For me one of the main differences today was that Guthrie was back. He's a ball winner and an unfussy midfielder, he reminds me of Butt in has younger days. Oh, and Butt had a poor game.

As I mentioned The Favourite Nephew* came to his first away game. He was a giddy kipper by the end of it. Well, and truly hooked now - he's learning the words to The Blaydon Races (although explaining the cultral significance of the song was a challenge, for me) and the Geordie Boot-Boy chant. We both chuckled at "If Shola scores, we're on the pitch" and howled with laughter at "Joe Kinnear, he's got tourettes" which was kept up for most of the 2nd half.

As ever, sods law struck again - I've written in the past about how strongly I feel about the group of supporters who have felt the need to characterise the Ashely/Wise regime as "Cockney Mafia" and have had the banner "Cockney Mafia Out" made up. It parochial at best, inaccurate at worst. Anyway, I noticed halfway through the first half that the guy next to me had a large plastic bag with him. Sure enough just after half time him and his mate unfurled the self same banner. I just know that there is going to be a picture somewhere this... With me looking as though I'm part of this protest.... Typical.

The other piece of news today, is that it looks as though Ashley is going to have his own 'Super Tuesday' with 7th Oct being the closing date for bids for the club... I'll believe it when it happens. Seeing as JFK is bringing in another member of the coaching staff, Gerry Francis - it seems to me that he's preparing for a long haul, rather than just a few weeks holiday in the North-East.

Still, a point today was a good start for our new interim manager - despite the fact that he missed both of our goals.


*BTW - The Favourite Nephew isn't as much of a compliment as it seems - he's my only nephew...


Saturday, 4 October 2008

What have we done to deserve this?

Two small snapshots from my life from this week

Snapshot 1

A work acquaintance rings me up - I haven't spoken to him for about 6 months. His sole purpose for ringing me?  To offer me sympathy at the "plight of your team".  Who does he support?  Reading.  He reckons that Newcastle v Reading will appear on the fixture list next season.

Snapshot 2

As I've mentioned before, I'm lucky enough to do a fair amount of travelling with my job.  Which is great until some transport goes awry.  Yesterday this happened to me with a delayed flight from Inverness to Manchester. Now, Inverness Airport isn't exactly an international hub, in fact I think my living room is about the same size as the departure lounge.  Lets just say its one of the cosier airports in the world. A three and a half hour delay and you soon run out of options of things to do (although there was a Piper for a while, playing Bagpipes for a while to cheer us up - a few scowls and he scarpered).  However, I was lucky enough to be kept company by a Saga tour of ladies who had been on a train tour of the Highlands for the past week and were flying back to the North West to return to the bosom of their families.  

After getting offered boiled sweets (declined), asking if my computer could help with  the crossword (accepted) and asking if I'd go to the cafe for them (accepted), I became the focus of their intrigue. After all the questions about why I was there, what did I do for a living and my family, they asked twigged that my accent wasn't "right" for someone from the North West.  As soon as I said I was from Newcastle - one of them chirped up with "Oh dear, your football team is a bit rubbish isn't it?"  Another "Yes, they shouldn't have got rid of Bobby Robson, he was a nice man" then there was a general discussion about the malaise at Newcastle United and then modern football in general. Fortunately they then became distracted as the snow started to fall.

A couple of thoughts about these snapshots... Firstly, football is a conversation point, a punctuation mark in connecting people.  One of the reasons why I love the game.  The second point is that whilst I don't really want sympathy or pity about the club I've supported all of my life, at least people want to talk to me because of who I support.  Which  says something for the re branding of the game since the 1970's and 1980's. 

Tomorrow I'm taking my favourite Nephew to his first away game.  I wonder how he's going to feel after a Goodison experience.... Come to that, I wonder how I'm going to feel?  Somehow I doubt that sympathy or pity are going to be the overriding emotions.


Sunday, 28 September 2008

Dragons' Den

Hello, my name is Mike and I'd like £400 million pounds for....


Well, for what exactly? A team so dispirited that it rolled over and played dead against a mediocre Blackburn Rovers; a captain who sounded on MOTD last night like he's clinically depressed and the mogadon has taken over; a backroom staff that are as threadbare as the squad, a set of 50,000 fans who are now so apathetic that they have lost all passion and have stopped turning up, even though they have paid for their tickets...

Somehow Mike, I think that you are going to have trouble offloading this, especially if Peter Jones starts to question you about the figures... Seeing as it looks like you didn't understand them when you bought the company in the first place.

I'd guess these five, along with some Indians and (probably) some Nigerians would say "I'm out" and send you on your merry way.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Ich Bin Ein Geordie

Its a crisp, sunny morning in the North West of England and I've spent most of it musing about one of my heroes, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a man who managed to combine a supreme intellect with  a charismatic leadership style in order to change not only the face of the US in the 60's but also the face of the world.   

He also gave one of the most influential speeches of all time, whilst standing the shadow of the Berlin Wall he criticised the newly erected dividing line between West and East Berlin by declaring "ich bin ein Berliner" It might have taken another 30 years for the wall to come down, but the speech was a landmark in terms of the idea of freedom, specifically in terms of movement, but also in freedom of thought.   As an aside, its another of his speeches that stays with me... and is just as relevant today as it was in 1961 (Obama please take note)

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Now - back to earth with a bump.... NUFC have just appointed a new 'leader' - Joe Kinnear. Marvellous... A man who was managed to get a small club - Wimbledon to the semi-finals of the FA cup and is largely credited with putting Nottingham Forest into the doldrums that they are in now.  If I get one more text about Vinny Jones joining as training coach I'll scream... I'm even starting to think that Ashley is creating his own version of the cast of  Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at SJP.  But I'm not going to fall into the trap of the 'evil cockney empire'... Doh...

Anyway, back to Kinnear, NUFC.om have described him as our very own JFK... not because he bears any resemblance to the man described in the first couple of paragraphs, but because when anyone hears that he's been appointed as our manager, the reaction is "Joe F***** Kinnear???"  

The club have said that he's going to be in charge until the end of October, and he's already alluding to Keegan and Shearer being parked around the corner for when the new owners arrive. But I wonder if this is the case?  To stretch the analogy above a little further, this smacks to me of appeasement. Time will tell. 

In the meantime NUFC continue to grab the headlines of all the red-tops (and many of the others).  As Phil McNulty has commented
Newcastle is a circus, a soap opera, a black comedy, a farce - but it is never dull.
Of course, we've all known that for ages, but at least Spurs should be grateful to the club... Its providing a welcome distraction to their woeful under-performance... But then again Ashley is supposed to be a Spurs supporter... Doh - there I go again. 

Anyway, apparently there is something going on at 3.00pm today.... on a field in NE1, with a group of visitors from Lancashire. I wonder if NUFC come away from that with 3 points then the press will start to hail the NUFC JFK....  I doubt it.

BTW - I've avoided the grassy knoll/dugout comparison, I'll wait until he leaves for that one. 


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What the El?

Just finished watching Newcastle getting thrashed 2-1 by Spurs on the telly. A few words spring to mind; gutless, clueless, passionless, hopeless, spineless, leaderless, and ultimately meaningless. Here endeth the match report as Newcastle stumble out out the Carling Cup, like adolescent boys who have sipped their first bottle of cider and are pretending that they don't feel sick. All bluff, bluster and bravado that has ended in tears.

The latest round on the made up paper rumour mill is that a Nigerian consortium is preparing to buy out Ashely ( I can see the "Abuja* Mafia Out" banners around SJP in the near future). Still, if it is true then perhaps Oba Martins might hang around for longer than when the snowdrops start to come up in my back garden.

The other rumour is that Terry Venables is going to add Newcastle United to the following list
Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona, Spurs, England, Australia, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Leeds. The radio is reporting he will be a temporary manager for about six weeks... Great, should just about be relegated by then.


*Apparently Abuja is the capital of Nigeria and not Lagos... See, tis an educational blog as well...


Sunday, 21 September 2008

Dark Days

Ho and indeed Hum....

The week of madness continued :-   
Wednesday saw stories of Ashely and Wise hawking the club around the middle-east, with no success, so he took refuge in a bar...
Saturday - saw the team "hammered" at Upton Park.  Comedy defenders matched by disinterested strikers
Sunday - Andy Carroll, one of the young 'prospects' at the club accepts a police caution for common assault on a woman in the centre of Newcastle.  

I've said it before, but you couldn't make it up....

Through my door earlier this week dropped a copy of the Newcastle United fanzine, The Mag. Usually its a publication that I devour when it arrives, a refreshing mixture of humour, sharp observation and well-written articles.  Its always had the advantage of being unofficial and therefore hasn't had to toe any party line.  I've only read half of of this edition... It's so depressing that it may as well have the phone number of the Samaritans emblazoned across the front of it.   

It's just got to get better soon - I was asked recently what gift I'd like - with only a moments hesitation I said "a proper manager for the Toon"... and three points on Saturday. Hummm, looks like a wasted wish.

Still, one of the reasons that I love football, is that there is always another game just around the corner.  Wednesday sees Toon v Spurs in the Fizzy Pop Cup.  Seeing as Dave Mason has been at it again in today's Observer - who managed to shoehorn into a 50 word preview article on the Spurs V Wigan game comments about how bad Newcastle are (he's right, but that's not the point) - I'd love it, just love it if we beat them..... Now where have I heard that before???

Oh - I couldn't resist this one... not my orginal idea, but its made me smile this week

Criteria for Newcastle United Owner

1. Must have more money than sense
2. Must be prepared to be disliked by the media
3. Must be a Geordie
4. Must be slightly bonkers

.... therefore the perfect owner for NUFC is...... the ex-Mrs McCartney, Heather Mills.. 

Monday, 15 September 2008

Its all gone to hell in a handcart

How to sum up what has happened in the past four days??? *sigh*

- Friday - Keegan and Ashley meet in London, LMA release a statement that no agreement has been reached between the two... Rumors abound that Ashely is trying to entice Keegan back
- Saturday - The much vaunted protests by the fans took place - including marches, alleged boycotts of merchandise, bed-sheets for posters and innumerable chants of "sack the board" Oh, and Newcastle United managed to loose to Hull City, convincingly and soundly beaten.
- Sunday - Mike Ashely releases a statement (which is now being criticised for being too long) which basically says "I've had enough, I'm off" as a For Sale sign goes up on Barrack Road
- Monday - The club has to release another statement, denying that they've sacked Alan Shearer from his role as Club Ambassador due to the remarks that he's made as a result of Keegan debacle. (Apparently his contract had ended at the end of last season, but hey, why let that get in the way of a made up story - that bastion of press righteousness the Daily Mail was responsible for this one*)

So, what on earth is going to happen next? A mysterious fire at SJP for the insurance money? A take over bid from an Irish Consortia with links to Wearside?.... The rate these few days have panned out then it wouldn't surprise me...

A few thoughts on the past few days

  • I still don't believe the press portrayal of the extent of the protests on Saturday - sure a lot of people are angry, but the woman on MOTD who claimed her "life had been ruined" by Keegan's departure should either get out more, or stop trying to get onto the telly
  • Ashely's statement read well, was very sensible and I actually agree with what he has been trying to do. There is a logic in trying to run the football club as a business, to make it viable and to establish a model whereby the talent is both sustainable and affordable. I don't believe that Fergson, Wenger nor even Keane have a say in each and every transfer that comes in through the door. I don't see how many can disagree with:-
"I want Newcastle to be able to create its own legends of the future to rival those of the past. This is a long term plan. A long term plan for the future of the club so that it can flourish.

One person alone can't manage a Premiership football club and scout the world looking for world class players and stars of the future. It needs a structure and it needs people who are dedicated to that task. It needs all members of the management team to share that vision for it to work.
"
  • The problem is the way that he's gone about it. Dennis Wise was loathed by many in football because of the way he conducted himself in the past - Leeds. Chelsea, Wimbledon, Swindon... I ask you... never mind what he has done to taxi drivers. He was never going to be popular and there was always a suspicion that Ashely brought in Wise to be the next manager. The statement has come too late to win back hearts and minds - the battle for the hearts and minds had been lost.
  • Who would want to buy the club? The talk of a fans buy-out is fanciful and misguided. It might work for Ebbsfleet United, but Newcastle United is on a bigger scale - that has been at the core of the problem. RadioFive were suggesting tonight that Freddy Sheperd may be 'persuaded' to come back... Spare us.
  • Who will be the next manager? - and who would want to take the job? It looks to me like Chris Houghton for the foreseeable future. But it must be bad, because I found myself thinking that Steve Bruce might not be a bad option.
To cheer myself up over the weekend I dug out an old DVD of Our Friends in the North a mid 1990's TV drama which was loosely based on the corruption scandal surrounding T Dan Smith and John Pouslon (amongst other things). Apart from launching the career of several of Britain's best actors (Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig, Gina McGee and Mark Strong) it also portrayed Newcastle to be full of proud but parochial people. That stereotype still exists today, the flames of it are fanned by the press and parading banners with "Cockney Mafia Out" around the ground just re-enforces it. (Its also probably inaccurate seeing as I don't think Ashely was born within the sound of Bow Bells nor is of Italian extraction.)

Its time we all moved on. This has gone beyond a joke, its now painful. Stoppit....




* I've never yet manged to read a full copy of the Daily Mail - I occasionally come across a copy, start to read it, get to about page 5-7 stumble onto some xenophobic, sexist or royalist (usually Diana related) comment. This causes me to tut and leave the paper wherever I found it. Is it just me?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Protest Song

A week of chaos has ensued, from the last week of chaos - no clarity in terms of leadership, no sign of the new messiah and worst of all Newcastle United are still a laughing stock.  Its now got so bad, people have stopped taking the piss and all I get is sympathy from Manure and City fans. As the bard of Salford once said : - 

That joke isn't funny anymore 
It's too close to home 
And it's too near the bone 


Its got so far beyond a joke that people are really angry - two weeks have passed and the emotional attachment to Keegan hasn't diminshed.  Tomorrow is going to be interesting.  No doubt the media will skew and manipulate, but there will be some sort of protest before/during/after the Hull game. The media will show the window lickers who have been enticed by the prospect of gurning on TV - but underneath it all is a groundswell of option that what has been happening at the club isn't right.  I have a view that Keegan was too 'last decade' for modern, big business football, but I'll expand on that in another post, in the meantime there will be an emotional reaction at tomorrows game. 

I wonder if Mike Ashley has made a big misjudgement.  The recent PR has reminded me of Gerald Ratner, when he said his product was crap - and as a result a multi million pound buisness went down the pan.  Ashely's mistake hasn't been on that scale, but the fans do think that he hasn't treated his punters with respect - therefore the groundswell seems to be to hit him where it hurts.... in the pocket. 


Still - as Michael has said - support the club, not the man.

Howay the lads

Friday, 5 September 2008

Skin Deep

Well, the messiah has gone, long live the new messiah... Whoever he may be.

The three days of indecision have finally come to an end with Keegan resigning - despite what the media say, no doubt with a large pay off and a gagging clause to stop him saying anything too damaging to the club.

He's claiming that he's been prevented from managing and he's lost control over the 'managing' part of his role. Which are exactly the same reasons as Curbishley has given for leaving West Ham earlier this week. Both claiming that they have lost control over who is bought/sold for the team. No doubt with Keegan much of the problem will have been with him needing to stamp his authority onto the club, (have a look at previous post for my wittering on this before) a power struggle with the directors has led to him throwing his dummy out in the grand manner.

Why does any of this matter? I'd be willing to bet it matters a lot to the guy in the photo (I took this at Everton last season and have been waiting for an appropriate occasion to use it), not only does he care for the team so much he travels to the games, shells out for a season ticket but he has also wanted to show his loyalty to the team he loves (note, not follows, loves) by paying a large sum of money to have the club crest indelibly imprinted on his back. That's the passion that football can engender and its why it matters who is in charge of your team.

Part of the problem at Newcastle United is that we don't really know who is in charge (although today has given us a fairly big clue...) Keegan was brought back by Ashley as an antidote to the dour Allardyce and Keegan's charisma is part of why he has been successful and why the reaction is as strong as it is that he's gone.

As ever, NUFC.com sum it up perfectly:-

While the mass media see this purely as messiah departs, it seems that many fans (correctly in our view) are less concerned about KK disappearing than they are about the shambles he leaves behind.

The key question for me is what will Ashley do next for a manager? Dennis Wise or Alan Shearer - invidious or populist - cheap or expensive...

Like I said, never a dull moment.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Implosion

On a day when Manchester City become the richest club in the entire universe (apparently Newcastle came 2nd in that race... always the bridesmaid...) Newcastle decide to re-brand themselves... Newcastle DisUnited...

Pick the bones out of this statement:-

Newcastle United can confirm that meetings between members of the Board and manager Kevin Keegan were held both yesterday and today.

Kevin has raised a number of issues and those have been discussed with him.

The Club wants to keep progressing with its long-term strategy and would like to stress that Kevin is extremely important, both now and in the future.

Newcastle United values the effort and commitment shown by Kevin since his return to St. James' Park and wants him to continue to play an instrumental role as manager of the Club.

For the avoidance of doubt the Club has not sacked Kevin Keegan as manager.


Two words spring to mind "laughing" and "stock"

Never a dull 'un

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Jimmy Jimmy

As The Undertones once said :-

Little mummy's boy
He wasn't very old
Though he was very small
He did what he was told

Jimmy Jimmy
Jimmy Jimmy - Oooh
Jimmy Jimmy
Poor little Jimmy wouldn't let go


Unfortunately, Newcastle United have finally let poor Jimmy go, to Aston Villa, yesterday for £12m. Milner spent four years at SJP, with one season on loan at Villa, Newcastle paid £5m for him in the Leeds United fire sale and no doubt the amount of profit was significant in the sale. However, during those four years Milner has also become one of the most capped England U21 players, has grown in confidence and stature and has the ability to change a game with a shimmy and a dip of his shoulder.

Their can be no doubt that he has been treated badly by the club, loaned out to Villa, almost sold to them on the last day of the transfer window two years ago, played out of position by Allardyce and then apparently not getting the same type of pay deal of his peers. What has always been so impressive about Milner is that he hasn't played all this out in public, he hasn't let it affect what he does on the pitch and he has always 'done the right thing' - even down to submitting a transfer request last week - a move that will have cost him a few quid in loyalty bonuses. As the ever eloquent NUFC.com have said

In our eyes Milner's genuine graft and honesty provided an antidote to the feeling that we've signed mercenaries, thugs and conmen in recent years.


Its fitting that his final game for the Toon came in the Midlands, along with his final goal... In a game that will have left him cup-tied for his new employers. Shows that the boy has turned into a man and, for me, his presence will be sadly missed in the Black and White shirt.

The sale also brings in a horrible deja vu - there are 3 days left of the transfer window and Newcastle are selling one of their best players. Why, why, why?? In the mid-week game Newcastle squeaked past Coventry without playing any strikers (actually squeaked is a bit harsh... it was one of the most one sided games that I've ever seen go into extra time) until EMO came off the bench to get us through to the next round of the fizzy pop cup. So where is the logic of selling one of the more attacking players in an already depleted squad? Beats me, but it most certainly smacks of the type of short termism that we used to see so often under the previous ownership.

The fans have been promised a 'wow' signing... Keegan is still alluding to this

"It might not look like a positive move to fans at the moment but what will happen in the next two to three days will be positive."

I'm not so convinced - although during a bout of insomnia last night I was listening to Radio five's "Up all night" Some guy rang in and was convinced that Newcastle had let James Milner go, because we were on the point of signing.... David Beckham....

Laugh? I almost spilt my ovaltine...

Posh, shopping on Gosforth High St (don't think she'd fancy Sheilds Rd) - now their is an image to conjour with...