Saturday, 29 November 2008


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


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 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.