Sunday, 30 March 2008

Can we play you every week?

Spurs 1 Toon 4

Oh, such giddiness - two wins in a row, a win in London, four different goal scorers, and back above the mackems in the league table.

I've had to put up with Five Live Sports Extra coverage (to be fair, I can see why they've selected the Merseyside derby as their main game). The coverage was typically patronising - full of "well, we knew that Keegan would get it right in the end", "all fears of relegation are now banished", "the team is starting to have belief" etc, etc... But all this pales into nothingness compaired to the match preview in The Observer this morning, from Dave Mason :-

Don't we have sweet days at the Lane now? And after Keegan's remarks about Southerners*, it would be even sweeter to wipe the floor with the Geordie nation today. Given the relative trophy count sounds more like subordi-nation to me. But we mustn't be so charitable to our beer-bellied friends - the six points we gave them last season kept them up and we've already donated three this time.

Mr Mason, to coin a ancient Norwegian phrase, "your boys took a hell of a beating". Thanks for the six points again this season. And really, does the a league cup win qualify you to be quite so smug?(I'm more than aware that Newcastle haven't won anything on living memory, but the league cup isn't really that great is it - even Middlesbrough have won that.) What happened to all the talk about Spurs finishing up in the top 4? So, thanks for the charitable six points this season... And its not that improbable that we will finish above the Man City of the South...

Anyway - roll on Match of the Day tonight... According to the radio, EMO was outstanding - I'll reserve judgment until I've seen it with my own eyes. Happy days. And long may they continue.

*Keegan's comments about Southerners - "people up here look forward to their football as much as people down south look forward to the theatre." Which, to be honest I took as slightly more insulting to Northerners, and surely not the worst insult in the world... Maybe, Dave Mason also doubles up as a theatre critic??

Sunday, 23 March 2008


Toon 2 Fulham 0

Phew... Last time we played Fulham, we scraped a flukey win which wasn't really deserved. Ir wasn't the same this time, this was a deserved win and it could have been much more than the two goals that ended up separating the teams.

Thanks to Sky I watched the whole of the game, and I think that I might be in a state of shock... Barton actually can play football. Having hitherto shown nothing to justify his selection, he played well and him and Butt looked like a good midfield team. Geremi still struggles with the corners though, but hey, you can't have everything.

What was gratifying to see was the goals. Firstly, Viduka had a typical game, does virtually nowt, except win a few headers and score a cracking goal. The way he plays must annoy the hell out of most of the rest of the team... but he got the important early goal that made so much difference yesterday. It settled down the team and, as importantly, the crowd. Apart from a short spell in the early 2nd half, it looked as though there would only be one winner after Big Mark's goal. That said, I'm still struggling to see why Martin's was taken off with 15 mins to go rather than the rotund Aussie.

Secondly, EMO - he played like a captain yesterday. Rather than just standing around waiting for the ball to come to him, he went and got the ball and kept going throughout all the game. He had a couple of horrible misses, but kept on trying and got his goal at the end of the game. Best game I've seen him play for us, since the hat-trick at West Brom.

So, the upshot of yesterdays game? Well, not a whole lot really- 3 points nearer safety, (but still plenty to do) team spirit shown, (maybe a bit of belief will start run through the team now) a clean sheet, (hallelujah) and Keegan's first win (admittedly against an awful Fulham team). That said, he's not the Messiah, but this might just be the start of the resurrection of the team (well, it is Easter Sunday, so maybe you'll forgive me the biblical pun).

Oh - and I learned something yesterday - dreams are just part of your subconscious mind... Don't put money on a dream, it won't happen.

But, I wonder what the odds are of EMO getting injured playing for his favorite team against France on Wednesday? Pretty high I'd guess.

Saturday, 22 March 2008


Another day, another "relegation six-pointer", the various stresses of this season is starting to take its toll... I've now moved on from just having PMT about today's game, to having a serious obsession. The manifestations of this include thinking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 when I'm hoovering, wondering if Martins will play whilst watching a new TV show and pondering the future of Shola Ameobi in the local Tesco's (who knows, the two might be intertwined, that might be where he ends up)

All of the above demonstrate the that I
a) don't get out much
b) use football as a diversion from real life
c) am sad....
All of which I cheerfully accept.

However, even for me today's match has taken on an absurd level of importance. I dreamed that I saw the result last night... 2-1. So Paddy Power now has some of my hard earned cash and even more is riding on today's game.

Howay the lads

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

No substitute

Birmingham City 1 Toon 1

'Suppose it could have been worse. A point at St Andrews, it all felt a bit like a draw in a cup game. Sort of vaguely satisfying, but not quite enough somehow.

The positives of last night were,
  • starting with 3 up front with Oba amongst them - for me the main difference between tonights game and the abject surrender at Liverpool
  • a very good performance from Butt, who seemed show a passion for the game that so many of his colleagues lacked
  • EMO scored a goal (which maybe will be priceless at the end of the season)
  • We came back from a goal down for the first time since the ball had laces in it
  • We could have won it and the overall performance was so much better than against Liverpool
The negatives of last night were
  • Joey Bloody Barton - As BAWARAL said " Just do everyone a favour, Joey, and plead guilty" He was awful all night.
  • Geremi's corners were, by and large, complete rubbish
  • Faye - for a man with physique of a heavyweight boxer in his prime, he was humiliated by the lightweight that was James McFadden for their goal - and left on the turf on his arse
  • No wingers, until Charlie Zog came on
  • Mark Viduka looked knackered after 15mins, but played the full 90.
However, the most baffling thing of the night was the decision to substitute Obafemi Martins with about 20 mins to go. He made Owen's goal, he was a threat throughout the whole of the 2nd half, and most of all his pace troubled the Birmingham defence - which is more than Owen or Viduka did. I was one of the ones that booed when I saw the No 9 go up on the subs board. I've expressed my thoughts on this before, but Keegan cannot make a sensible substitution to save his life - he didn't do it the first time here, nor for England, nor for City... Last night it was just baffling. Why put on Charlie Zog when Martin's was doing so well... I was baffled and so were those around me.

Still, a point has moved us up a place in the table, it could have been worse... It makes Saturday's game another really important one and we must get 3 points from Fulham.

Funniest things from last night :-
  • the slowest pitch invasion in the world, and all the guy succeeded in doing was getting 3000 Geordies to laugh and wave at him
  • Liam Ridgewell catching the ball because he thought the offside flag had been raised.. The look on his face as the free kick was given was priceless
  • the unmarked police car that swept into the away end with three coppers in uniform looking all important. One of them got out, put on his helmet and went to the boot of the car... Opened it and got out an empty tea urn.., Two thoughts, (a) was this a sanctioned use of tax-payers money? (b) why did he feel the need to put is helmet on, afraid that the Northern ruffians might try to beat him up for us urn???
So, until Saturday comes... As a fanzine once named itself.

Sunday, 16 March 2008


Oh, I've got it so bad - I'm irritable, can't concentrate, and I've got a slight headache just behind my eyes... The cause of this? Pre-Match Tension. Tomorrow against Birmingham is going to be the most important game of the season for us, bar none.

Needless to say the press knives are sharpening again, stories about Viduka falling out with Keegan, about plans to replace Keegan, about Man City wanting Owen (have him, please, EMO can then be your problem) All nonsense, of course, but it all manages to increase the pressure and fills more column inches.

I was tempted to write that tomorrow will be our cup final - but we always lose them. So, I just say thanks to Chelsea for keeping the mackems in their rightful place - just below us, here's hoping that Wigan do the same later today against Bolton. Mostly I just want to see 31 points against our name in the paper on Tuesday morning .

Howay the lads

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Game No 13....

Glutton for punishment or what... Got a ticket for St Andrews on Monday night now. One the advantages of working near Birmingham is that it means I don't have a five hour journey home after a Monday night game... in fact it might be the only advantage.

I'm sure it will be grim, again. Birmingham are two places below us and two point behind us... So apparently that makes this a "six pointer"... I was relieved that they got nothing from Portsmouth yesterday, but at least they are scoring goals, which is more than our attack is doing at the moment. Please Kevin, give Oba a start... he's so much more convincing than either Owen or Smith (who last scored when players were paid in pounds, shillings and pence). However, we will be without Milner as he's injured after the Anfield humiliation, but ring the bells... Joey Barton is available for selection. Deep joy.

I also found myself watching Bolton on the TV tonight, and willing them onto win. This is odd because Bolton still pay terrible football and irrationally I want to blame Bolton Wanderers for employing Allardyce and leading him to the door at St James' Park. Anyway, I wanted them to win tonight, not out of a desire to see a Premiership club progress in the Uefa cup, but in the hope that a cup run would distract them sufficiently from their position in the league. Needless to say they lost. Bloody typical.

Anyway, Monday will be game 13 since our last win. Unlucky number? I still say that we make our own luck. If Newcastle don't win and other result go against us then we will be replacing Bolton in that 3rd from bottom. Time for the battle cry and unwavering support for the full 90 mins from the fans - I'd even cheer if Barton scored. Fickle or what?

Sunday, 9 March 2008

We pay your benefits

Liverpool 3 Toon 0

Well, I thought it would be grim and it was. We'd traveled more in hope than in anticipation and the result was much as we have feared it would be. You know that it isn't a good sign when the first question that your traveling companions ask on arrival into the ground was "Has Torres been rested?". Shows the limit of our expectations.

Most of the first half we struggled to contain a Liverpool team that weren't really that interested. The defence was doing a pretty good job, Taylor and Faye seemed to be coping with Torres and Gerrard and even Reina had to make a save - from a set piece, naturally. Then just at the end of the first half came a season-defining moment. One of those small passages of play that sums up the 2007-8 season for Newcastle United.

I'm sure you'll have seen it, ball played into the box, Enrique seems to have it covered, attempts to clear it, succeeds in hitting Pennant with it (who was trying to get out of the way) and it looped up off him, over Stevie Harper and went into the back of the net. Summed up our season. Why? Well, not that it was bad luck (which it was) but more it was an encapsulation of the state that the club is in.

Enrique cost the club £6.3m in the summer, since then he's never looked a good player - short of pace and lacks any positional sense. Since he's arrived he's always looked out of his depth. I've whittered on before about the need for a left back and nothing has been done. An Allardyce signing who has failed. My point is that the Pennant goal was as a result of a substandard player reflecting the substandard management of the club. The ramifications continue, because one goal goes in, confidence drains away and Newcastle lose. Only Stevie Harper can pick up his wages guilt free this week - without his contribution it would have easily been 6.

As for EMO? Me and many around me felt that he never tries against Liverpool and its in the red shirt where his allegiances really lie. Yesterday did nothing to disprove that - at least Martins looked interested when he came on, way more that Michael did.

Finally, the banter yesterday was great, gallows humour at its best - "Fifty years and we've won **** all" in response to the Liverpool "we've won it 5 times" song. And credit to the one guy half way down the main stand who stood on his chair in response to "stand up if you've got a job". That was swiftly followed by 5,000 Newcastle fans bellowing "We pay your benefits"... I wonder if any of the players in black and white shirts stopped to reflect on the irony of that.

So, we traveled more in hope than in anticipation - it was telling that in the pub later we started to console ourselves with thoughts of trips next season to Sheffield, Burnley, Blackpool and Barnsley.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

It's my duty

The text came yesterday... bad news.... I've got a ticket for Anfield on Saturday. It's going to be grim. I'll need to have the pubs and psychiatric hospitals on high alert. I'll be the one purple with rage, screaming at the useless wasters on the pitch and wishing that I'd saved myself the petrol for the journey. [Oh, and standing next to me will be a slightly more demure soul, harping on about the "so called City of Culture", swearing in Northern Irish and bragging about using an Apple Mac - but I digress.].

It'll be another ugly game - in which no doubt the players will have a decent start and then remember they are playing a better team and capitulate in the same way that we have done against Villa and Manure. No Given or Emre; but equally no Barton or Carr - so its not all bad news. Of course EMO will be returning to his former employers. I wonder
a) what sort of reception he'll get from the home fans... he was booed last time he appeared in a black and white shirt at Anfield
b) how interested he will point to prove
Well, I'll be there to witness it anyway. I just hope that Oba starts.

Of course all of the above is reverse psychology... I think that we are going to win (despite the fact that Torres has hit a hat trick tonight ) but every time I say this to anyone I get stared/laughed at. We'll see...

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Pulling in the same direction?

Toon 0 Blackburn 1

I now find myself in the odd position of longing for the boredom of midtable obscurity. Instead I found myself listening to the radio yesterday, hoping that Reading would loose (they didn't) Fulham would loose (they did) and City would beat Wigan (they didn't). But most of all I was willing the Toon to beat Blackburn... Another forlorn hope.

From the "highlights" on Match of the Day it appears that we were unlucky... but how many teams have complained of been unlucky as they fall into the Championship? Certainly, we can't say that we are 'too good to go down' - because we aren't anywhere near good enough at the moment. A lethal combination of comedy capers defending and a midfield packed full of players who can't pass to a team mate make the perfect recipe for relegation.

Assuming that Derby and Fulham are going to take up two of the spots, that leaves one from Reading, Bolton, mackems, Wigan and us (maybe the Smoggies as well). Wigan and Birmingham are both on an upward curve, Reading had a good win at the weekend. So that leaves Toon, mackems and Bolton.... A heart stopping thought that the game against the mackems could decide if we are playing Chelsea or Crystal Palace next season has crossed my mind....

Well, the season won't just be petering out then will it?? Not the usual mid table floundering this year. Liverpool next weekend, I'm waiting to see if I've got a ticket, not sure my heart will stand another Anfield trashing.