Monday, 8 August 2011

Charity Shield

Leeds United 3 Toon 2

Oh, Leeds was grim, but in a fun type of way. It's that remembered pain, the returning toothache, the headache that you can't quite shift - all of those sum up supporting the Toon. The game was 'wrong' in so many ways... Brilliant sunshine, NUFC playing in Orange (one of the amusing chants was "are you Blackpool; in disguise?", half-hearted players. But the result was the same, the Toon coming up against a team who just wanted it more..

I'd said before the game I was looking forward to seeing Cabaye and Marveaux, needless to say only one of them made an appearance. However, Cabaye looked promising and Pardew certainly seems to like him. The highlight of the game for me, was Haris Vuckic. When he came on in the second half, he (and is orange boots) lit up the pitch - loads of busy, bluster and a good goal as well. I'm sure I'd seen him for the Toon before, but he seems to have grown about 6 inches and put on a bit more bulk. He looked desperate to impress, it will be interesting if he gets a chance early season to get on the pitch. Give me Haris over Nile Ranger any day.

Most of the game wandered by in a blur of laughter and dissapointment. Partiluarlrly amusing was the away supporters reaction to a 'robust' challenge by Leeds Ross McCormack. Given that this was a friendly and only squad numbers and not names appeared on shirts - can there be anything worse than being abused by your squad number? For a full match report, from a proper website, see here - like most of the players, I can't be bothered to go into details.

However, in the last week since that game, things have got, well, interesting at NUFC. Firstly Barton spits his dummy out (again). Starts using Twitter to have a pop at Ashely and Co. Now, as I may have mentioned, I"m not a fan of Ashley (only EMO falls lower in my personal pecking order) but to me the recent actions of Barton seem to be him maneuvering his contract discussions to some sort of resolution. It will be either a 'on your way, son' or happy smiles as he has a new contract in his mitts. Either way, he'll get what he wants - more money... I did like his tweeting of Smiths lyrics though, although the Smiths lyric that has most often rattled around my mind when reading the guff he's been spouting is "Frankly Mr Shankly"

Frankly, Mr Shankly, since you ask
you are a flatulent pain the arse
I do not mean to be so rude
but still, I must speak frankly, Mr Shankly, give us money

And then of course, we get back to the on the pitch antics. Surely not much could go wrong with a friendly with an Italian Serie A side?? Wrong - only the Toon could have a game rained off at the start of August. What next - a plague of locusts?

Still, at least football is back on the telly, and it all starts in earnest next week. I saw some of the Community Shield game - but that got me pondering, why did it change its name? Ever since I can recall, the first 'proper' match of the season is the Charity Shield. However, for some reason, this has been altered to Community Shield.. No idea why...

That said, I've been thinking about charity a lot this week - if you haven't seen it have a look at I've been following this blog for some time, and Mark Allison's inspirational run across the US in 100 days, to raise money for two deserving causes. As I'm typing this he's painfully close to the finish line on day 100, but its been hard work for him. He's looking to raise £50k for the charities - about the average weekly wage of a premiership player from one of the top four clubs. There is something so wrong with that. Still, Mark has been doing a sterling job and he's almost there... If you can spare a couple of quid, I can't think of many better places to put it. Go on, you know you want to.

Howay the lads

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Starting over

Sunday morning. It's warm, no strike that its hot, humid even and I'm awake early. As is my custom I start planning the days tasks. Mundane stuff, cleaning, washing, ironing, going to the match, shopping... [Comedy double take moment] Going to the match... in July, surely not! Quite a few years ago I swore that I'd never go to another pre-season friendly... Lots of reasons why, mainly because its an waste of money and petrol to attend a pointless, meaningless kick-about in the sun. Its the pointlessness of it all, combined with the sure knowledge that the one meaningful tackle that goes in will completely knacker your most important player for at least half of the season... Shearer at Everton anyone?

That said, some of my funniest moments have come at some of the friendlies. I can vividly recall the chemically inebriated chaps in front of me at Burnley about 10 years ago, wondering how the players could concentrate with the dragon coming out of the centre circle... And no, it wasn't Nicky Butt.

So why are myself, the Favourite Nephew and the New Mum heading to Elland Road this afternoon? Part of it is to see what has happened to the team. I get the sense of a changing of the guard at NUFC at the moment. Some of the stalwart players have wandered away. Nolan will be a big loss in terms of his leadership, but he was getting slower by the day, and hardly a box-to-box midfielder. All the noises from Jose suggest he's on his way to join the likes of Carroll and his mackem mate at Liverpool, which will be a shame, but I can't blame him. The other 'new' players like Gosling and Ben Arfa will make a difference to the team. Its changing, as it should in order to avoid that 'difficult second season syndrome'. To me it felt like most of last season was a lot easier than I expected, and I suspect, a lot easier than NUFC expected. Staying in the Premiership wasn't really in doubt. The reason for this, was that a number of teams where in even greater disarray than the Toon... Odd sensation wasn't it? West Ham were a joke (possibly something to do with the number of ex-Toon players on their books), Blackpool were all bluster and enthusiasm, until they got found out... and Birmingham just had too many of our ex-players on their books as well.

Anyway, I have a frisson of excitement this morning. I'm looking forward to seeing the new players - especially Sylvain Marveaux and Yohan Cabaye, seeing what they can bring to the team. Also, it will be good to see Gosling and Ben Arfa... Oh, hang on - he got injured in a meaningless friendly last week didn't he?? Hear that noise? That's the sound of my case being rested.

Howay the Lads, lets see what jollity we can have this season...