Friday, 29 February 2008

Genius - Not

I see that EMO* has been doing his captains PR stint prior to Saturdays game. Stating that we are short on confidence, but he's sure that Newcastle will get themselves out of trouble. He then has gone on to say that the game on Saturday is winnable, but that the one against Liverpool isn't. OK, I'm paraphrasing slightly, this is what he's reported as saying

This game against Blackburn on Saturday is one you look at and think Newcastle at home should be getting something out of it.

"If we can do that we can get a bit of confidence. We then play Liverpool and after that we have got a few games that are winnable.

Now, it could be argued that he's being realistic, but I'm not sure that I want a realistic captain. I want someone who will cajole, rabble-rouse and inspire the best in any team he plays for. I want someone who believes that his team can win every game and will drive his team forward to do that.

I can't see Owen doing this, he has that wonderful strikers selfishness that means that all that is important to him is scoring goals. He's not a team player, and its not his job to be that. I can't see him inspiring Charlie Zog to put in a better cross or for Steven Carr to become a defender again. And as for the comment above, I still think his allegiance lies with his previous employers rather than his current ones... And given half a chance he'll be off in the summer. Not what is needed of a captain in a relegation scrap is it?

The other news this week is that Oba Martins is going to sign a new contract. Good. I just hope he celebrates with a hat-rick against Blackburn tomorrow.... Off now for my medication...

*EMO - England's Michael Owen

Monday, 25 February 2008

Tale of two trials

It was with a sense of bewilderment that I watched Johnathan Woodgate score the winner in the Carling Cup on Sunday. For a start I've often said that he's the best defender I've seen in a black and white shirt. He would have been a player to build that so-called spine of a team around (good 'keeper, good centre half, good goalscorer) but for two things.

1. In two years with us he managed to play the grand total of 28 games - spending more time in the treatment room than many of the physios do.
2. Fat Freddie saw the pound notes when Real Madrid came calling and cashed in on a £4.4 million profit on the smoggy sick-note.

Of course, fast froward four years and Woodgate has to choose between returning to the Toon or a trip to the Smoke with Spurs. How glad he must be that he's made that decision. Tough call for poor old Woody, relegation scrap or winning something at Wembley. I bet Sunday has softened the blow of having to fork out for an expensive 'penthouse' in the capital.

Of course Woodgate isn't a stranger to the court room. He was the only player to be convicted after the Leeds players trial for the attack outside the Majestyk nightclub. He got community service after being found guilty of affray. So, Woodgatge's rehabilitation appears to be almost complete - scores the winner in a cup final (albeit I reckon the goal was as much a surprise to him as it was to the Chelsea defence, talk about being in the right place at the right time!)

If only the same could be said for the Scouse crim that is currently on our books... Somehow I can't see rehabilitation beckoning for Barton - still the good news has come today that he won't be able to play against Liverpool. The terms of his bail haven't been varied enough to allow him to set foot in Merseyside. Thank gawd for that! At least this way Keegan might start with Emre or even Geremi - who have the ability to pass to one of the other players in a black and white shirt - something that completely escapes Barton.

Saturday, 23 February 2008


Toon 1 Man Utd 5

Oh, this hurts so much.... Humiliation, capitulation (again) but most of all today was painful.

At this rate we are going down with the mackems - and rightly so.

Even the most optimistic of Toon fans won't have expected anything other that a defeat, but this was catastrophic even by our standards. I joked at half time that Harper was sent on because Given's back would be getting sore, picking the ball out of the net. It wasn't so much a joke as a prophecy. Manure have put eleven past us in the last month... and the one reply that we did have was iffy to say the least. The worst thing about a truly awful day? Saha scoring the fifth - a player that was jettisoned by us for not being good enough. Tragic or laughable...

As for Barton - if there was any justice in the world he would be locked up for fraud as well as the ABH. He's now masquerading as a Premiership footballer.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

My World

As I've mentioned before, I work for a company based in Birmingham - and as a result often have to go into the office for all those hum drum work-type things (meetings, and filing my expenses claims mostly) so I've got used to hearing cries of derision from Villa and Birmingham City fans at me wandering around the office with my brew in a Newcastle United mug.

However, we've recently had a new addition to those who speak the universal language of football; a Liverpool fan. He's not actually a Scouser (apparently born in Cumbria which has (obviously) included him in Liverpool's catchment area) but he's obviously as daft as the rest of us. He was at Athens (the Champs League one that they lost) and regularly travels the 200+ miles round trip for home games... and makes it into work on time the next morning (which suggests he's not a big drinker). Anyway the point of this background is that he's had the sort of week that's been a shock to him, but commonplace to me. A 'welcome to my world' moment.

For him last Saturday must have been the lowest of the low. Getting scuttled out of the FA Cup by Barnsley won't have been a lot of fun for them (although half of Merseyside and all of Manchester found it hilarious) but then beating Inter Milan must have been so sweet. From the depths of despair to joy unbridled within the space of 72 hours... Its why we watch sport isn't it? Well, maybe not for the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manure fans... Are the highs as high if you get them all the time? I guess not.

So, if Newcastle follow the Liverpool model, then after the humiliation at Villa we should be odds on to win on Saturday... Its only Manure after all. Only a month ago they put six past us at their place, so all those odd omens are in place. Or maybe not. I can dream that Paul "I always score against Newcastle" Scholes is going to announce his retirement just before the game - but its as likely as Roy Keane's dog being taken for a walk by Alan Shearer. As for the game - its on telly, so I'll be hiding behind the cushion hoping that the Toon play like they mean it and win. But I'll not be putting any money on it.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Well, its a football free weekend for the Toon, the FA Cup juggernaut trundles on, with Newcastle left in an Arsenal inspired wake... So, news has been a bit thin on the ground this week, with one exception - Charles N'Zogbia has said that he's "homesick" and wants to leave the Toon.

This bad news for a couple of reasons - the first is that ever since he came to us from Le Harve he's been one of our best performers. Always whole hearted, quick (both on foot and in the head) and adaptable playing either left wing or left back. Secondly, its bad news because if this "Keegan Second Coming" (copyright Evening Chronicle) is going to stand a chance of working then we'll need wingers. To me, Milner and Charlie Zog will fit the bill perfectly.

After reading a bit more into the story (which has surfaced a couple of times) it transpires that he's actually homesick for London and not France... Odd that, seeing as Spurs keep being quoted as being interested in him.... Now I may be being cynical but to me London isn't that much easier to get to Harfluer from than Newcastle is. So, another money (or agent) inspired move is on the cards.

I could understand it if he'd been treated badly by the club, but he has just signed a new contract at the start of the season (presumably with improved terms), he plays most weeks, he's a favorite with the fans (Zog on the Tyne chant is testament to that) and he's just starting to break into the French national side. So why do we have trouble hanging onto players? Is it geography? Unlikely. Lack of funds? Almost certainly not. The absence of European football will be having an effect, and this may be the cause. However, I'd guess its more to do with the economics that are involved in a transfer - a dollop of money to an agent, a dollop to the player and hey presto contract broken.

As an aside - why do the Toon have such difficulty with French players? have pointed this out some time ago - but Goma, Boumsong, Bernard, Distin, Guivarc'h, Robert have all been either complete wasters or do well for a while and then implode. The finest example of this was David Ginola - wonderful player - when he could be bothered. Re-built his career at the Toon and then upped sticks for Spurs (hummm... maybe a theme here) and left in a galic huff when Kenny Dogleash arrived.

So I really hope that Charlie Zog decides to stay in Newcastle - for one thing if he does move one of my favorite bits of football trivia this year will not be as relevant.... "Which tennis grand slam finalist has a cousin that plays for the Toon?" I wonder if he and Charlie have had a go on the courts on Nuns Moor Road - like I did as a kid??

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


After the Villa game I've been in a state of shock (no, not that I won a bet, but at the awful display), so I haven't commented (yet) on the 39th game proposals. For those who have had their head in a bucket over the last few weeks, the Premier League is suggesting that an extra game is played each season overseas (presumably further away than the Isle of Man or Holy Island).

This is a overtly money making exercise, aimed at exploiting the 'product' in foreign markets like US, Far East and Middle East. What this ignores is that football in England is a tribal game. Just like all those who trekked to Villa more in hope than anticipation (see the picture) - most of the fun is in the journey rather than the result (well, it has certainly been the case this season) its all part of the away game experience that makes it so enjoyable. No doubt we'd sell a few away tickets in Kuala Lumpur ... but how many of the lads above would be able to go?

The Football Fans Federation has set up a No to Game 39 site and has said
What makes English football unique and so attractive is the passion and vibrancy of the crowd. Trying to recreate that elsewhere is as pointless as trying to experience of London by walking around the old London Bridge in the Arizona desert.
I get the point (although not since Shearer's testimonial has SJP been vibrant) and agree with it to an extent. What really got up my nose was the pompous Richard Scudamore on 5Live saying that it will only affect about 3000 fans per game... For a start I don't know where he got that figure from (unless he means the number of mackems that turn up to an average game at the stadium of plight) and secondly it won't - it'll affect a lot more. Much as I'd like to see the Toon play in Sydney, my purse will only let me go as far as Stoke.

But, I bet that something will happen - eventually. Its been coming for a while, threats of breakaway leagues, the slightly sinister G14 clubs and most of all the lucrative lure of the Champions League. Game 39 might not happen, but the Premier League will find some way of prostituting itself on a worldwide basis - on its ever more urgent quest for more money.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Villa 4 Toon 1

Thank goodness for Niall and Biffa, if it hadn't been for them I'd have a totally awful day. As it was had struck a deal with Paddy Power with some very generous odds for Owen to be the first scorer. As a result I'm £120 better off than I was at the start of the day.

It all started so well - in many ways. A trouble free M6, a bright sunny day, and even an early goal. I made the mistake of saying at half time that this was the best that I'd seen us play for some time and that we were making Villa look ordinary. I should have known. The second half had the worst type of groundhog day - it was Manure away again. Let in an early goal and complete panic - no concept of defensive shape, nor of any creativity. Joey Bloody Barton hasn't the ability to pass a ball to one of his own teammates. Alan Smith isn't ever, ever going to score in a black and white shirt - he just runs around like a headless chicken, snarling at people. Fortunately for my blood pressure I missed the Carr handball, but apparently, he thought he was playing a completely different sport - basketball.

Those three were the worst, but the whole lot are culpable - again. Why don't they seem to care? When the Villa fans started chanting "There's only one Kevin Keegan" in the most sarcastic way, then you know that we are in trouble. Whisper it quietly, relegation might be looming, its certainly not far away.

As you can see, I took my camera along, and bumped into the person 2nd from the left on the way into the ground. Mike, was this what you expected to buy into? I suspect not.

Oh, and to the throwback racist near me - crawl back under your unenlightened stone, Enoch Powell is long gone and this is 2008. Grow up and shut up.

One final thing - can anyone explain to me why a Norwegian felt that Birmingham was so cold today that he wore gloves throughout the first half? John Carew, you are a joke. Mind you, I wish he'd bloody kept them on, when he forgot them for the 2nd half he got a hat-trick.

Rant over - I'm off to enjoy a good bottle of wine - thanks to Mr Owen.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Likely Lads Revisited

Toon 1 Smoggies 0

Yesterday it was my brother's birthday - and over a week ago I promised to go round for a birthday lunch (I brought the cake) not realising that Sky had snaffled the kick off time and it was a 1.30 start. OK, I was now faced with a dilemma, the choices were

1. Ask him if I could come round after the game (and maybe miss lunch)
2. Turn up late/early
3. Tape the game, not hear the result and get back and watch it as live

I opted for number 3 - and it worked... Unlike Terry and Bob I didn't have to stay clear of any media outlets (in the 70's this was a newspaper seller - now it was my mobile with text messages) and I managed the slightly surreal feat of watching the game as live.

I was so tempted to start to flick the fast forward after a dull first half - tight and nervy summed up the opening 45 mins. The 'highlight was a bizarre refereeing decisions to disallow a perfectly good goal by England's Michael Owen (EMO from now on) on the grounds that Schwartzer dropped it. Then EMO got a perfectly good goal and it looked like 3 points might finally be coming our way.

But I'd forgotten that this was Middlesbrough...and they always get a draw against us, usually by cheating (Hasselbaink's punched goal??) This was no exception. Up popped Robert Huth with a goal that was so offside that it was laughable. By the way, David Wheater - he
must be the love child of Phil Stamp and Ann Widdecombe... Gruesome.

I know that the 'we woz robbed' cry is heard often, but when you get phone calls from Reading fans offering you sympathy then you know you've been the victim of a refereeing robbery. I'd been temped to put myself out of my misery by fast forwarding through the last 15 mins - for the opposite reasons to the first half. But I stuck with it. And was spitting feathers by the end of the game. Oh, and Nicky Butt brought new meaning to a bad day at the office - he was awful.

Been cheering myself up tonight by watching the Africa Cup of Nations - Tunisia v Cameroon, its just gone into extra time. A guy called Njitap is having a storming game for Cameroon in midfield, has scored a tremendous free kick and has been at the heart of all the good movement. The Toon should sign him - hang on, we already have... If only he'd play like that for us.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Alpha Male

I've been thinking about Dennis Wise, Kevin Keegan and the upper echelons of the Newcastle United management team and the barely hidden power struggle that seems to be going on (I don't get out much these days) It strikes me that the need for a top dog can add stability if its the right man, but if its not, it leads to conflict.

An on field example is the way that Stevie Gerrard runs the show at Liverpool, everything that the team does is set up to make the most of his talents. This is fine whilst that focal point is doing well, but if the 'main man' has an off day its vital that there is a plan B. It is easy to see that Liverpool are suffering from the lack of a plan B at the moment. A couple of years ago the same situation was at Arsenal with Tierry Henry, and its interesting since he's upped sticks for the bright lights of Catalonia that the general consensus is that the Gunners have started to play better and with more invention.

We had exactly the same for the Toon with Shearer. The problem was that when he retired the void that he left was nigh on impossible to fill. Shearer's ability as a striker was equaled by his ability as a leader, therefore it was a double blow when he left. Whilst its relatively easy to bring in another striker, its not as easy to bring in another leader. Look how many captains we've had
on the pitch since Shearer went - Geremi, Owen, Smith, Given, and these are just the ones that I can recall - there will have been others. It shows that we have no leader on the pitch at the moment. I'm sure that Barton sees himself in that roll, but HMP Walton has taken care of those aspirations for the time being.

So, the need for an alpha male on the pitch is easy to see - but what about in the boardroom? I've no reason to suggest that it should be any different, leaders are needed in any area. Also, they don't have to be male - look at Wigan and Birmingham for examples of women in leading roles (admittedly these are the exceptions). So what is the position at the current Newcastle United Management team - who is the leader? I suspect that there are some huge ego's Wise, Keegan, Mort and Jimenez. But at least one thing is for sure, the man with the cash - Mike Ashley is the current alpha male in the boardroom. So despite even more press sniping that's the leadership chain. Obviously Alan Shearer is aware of what is going on - as quoted today in the papers :-

"Right now I think the last thing they would need is another dominant personality, another name.

“It needs one personality driving things forward at the club and that is Kevin Keegan. It needs to be his way and if it is, I think he can turn things round. Myself and Kevin were just too similar personalities, we are both opinionated.

I just hope that my chosen Toon leader has a storming game against the Smoggies tomorrow... Steven Taylor - future England captain...Hopefully.