Monday, January 31, 2005

Somersaulting out of the Cup?

Oh joy.

Following my fervent prayers for Brentford or Hartlepool at home, this lunchtime's draw for the Fifth Round of the FA Cup has paired us with Chelsea.

OK so we can still beat anyone on home turf on our day and it's not a foregone conclusion, but we've got to fear for the fact that Shearer's going to retire in the summer having never lifted a trophy with his hometown club.

C'mon lads, it's up to you to surprise us.

Somersaulting into the Fifth Round

For the best part of 90 minutes, as we put the Sky Blues to the sword, the sky over St James’s Park was, for once, blue. It made a welcome change from Messrs Bellamy, Souness and Fat Freddy turning the air blue every time they open their mouths, to the embarrassment and frustration of every Newcastle fan.

For this FA Cup Fourth Round tie, it goes without saying that Bellamy was nowhere near the pitch, and is unlikely to be ever again. Less controversially, Given was rewarded with a well-deserved rest after his Highbury heroics, whilst Bowyer sat the game out too. Taylor can consider himself unlucky to have been replaced by Carr, returning to the side after a long lay-off – unlike Robert, whose abject display last Sunday fully merited bench-warming duties. The place of the injured Boumsong was taken by O’Brien, and Babayaro, recovered from a knock, came in for Bernard. The other players to come in were Kluivert, making his first start for a while, and Amdy Faye, for his debut.

Right from the off a very poor Coventry side, stumbling along in the basement of the Championship, looked incapable of surviving long with their goal intact against a Newcastle team buzzing with attacking menace.

Numerous chances to take a well-deserved lead were spurned in the opening half-hour before JJ – himself earlier denied by an excellent save from Coventry’s on-loan keeper Luke Steele – found Shearer at the edge of the box, and the skipper took one touch before driving it right-footed into the bottom left hand corner of the goal.

Ameobi grabbed a second soon afterwards, outfoxing the full back out on the right touchline before cutting inside with a sharp turn of pace and finishing with aplomb with his left foot – the sort of contribution you wish he’d make more frequently, suggesting a genuine talent rather than someone who too often has the distinct air of disinterestedness about him.

Of course, we had to at least threaten to undo all the good work of the first half with a moment of madness just before the whistle. New Coventry manager Micky Adams, forced into replacing the injured Andy Morrell with Dele Adebola just three minutes in, had the pleasure of seeing the substitute striker heading home unmarked from a corner whilst our defence watched on statuesque.

Mercifully for the long-suffering fans, the threat of a Coventry fightback lasted only a few minutes of the second half. With a combination of skill and slight good fortune Babayaro escaped the attention of two opponents and strode purposefully into the area. His low hard shot deflected past Steele into the back of the net and he wheeled away to soak up the cheers for his first goal for the club. Reassuring to know that, having sold Lua Lua, we once again have someone enthusiastic about gymnastic goal celebrations.

After that, further chances came and went, Kluivert hitting the bar with a header, but the result was never in doubt. Had we been more clinical in front of goal – a recurrent complaint in recent match reports – we could have notched up a morale-boosting cricket score, but history has taught us not to grumble too much in the wake of comfortable victories, and we booked our place in the Fifth Round draw without unduly exerting ourselves.

We’ll take a nice home game against the winners of the replayed Brentford v Hartlepool tie, please. That, combined with a resolution to the painful Bellamy saga and a steady improvement in results leading to a climb up the table, really would prompt us to turn somersaults.

Other reports: Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian

Friday, January 28, 2005

Someone old, someone new

Amidst all the hullabaloo this week surrounding a certain number 10, the signing of Amdy Faye and the return to the coaching staff of Terry McDermott (as reported on have gone almost unnoticed.

Faye arrives to add a bit of steel and bite to our midfield in the continued absence of Nicky Butt. Presumably this will see JJ relinquish the holding role he has adopted of late and given greater licence to roam. Who Souness will pick to join them in midfield remains to be seen, with Dyer and Bowyer seemingly left competing for the third berth in our midfield.

Terry Mac returns to the backroom to join his former playing colleague Souness. Precisely where he is going to fit in to the backroom staff remains to be seen, but he should hopefully boost morale and help Souness to manage the squad without any further public slagging matches.

How he will get on with Peter Beardsley and Kenny Wharton, who were in charge of the Academy when Terry's son Neale left the club amid accusations of bullying and favouritism, is anyone's guess. However, unlike recent public spats I suspect that any ill feeling that remains will be dealt with behind closed doors.

If only all our dirty washing was treated like that...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Going Pottery?

Apparently the only club to make an approach for Bellamy so far is Stoke City.

Maybe the thought of running out in the Championship serenaded by fans singing Tom Jones numbers is one which is appealing to our little dummy spitter, and might even compel him to forego a large transfer pay off and actually request he be allowed to leave.

After all, it's the best chance he's got of playing football again this season, unless he apologises.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Lifting the trophy

Congratulations to Inspector Sands of Charlton blog All Quiet In The East Stand, who's done what we'd all love Big Al to do before his retirement and lifted a trophy - for Best Sports Blog.

Also - new to the B&W&RAO blogroll:
Football Commentator
Portsmouth Blog

Monday, January 24, 2005

Out on his own

Once again, our feisty little Welshman has been shooting his mouth off, much to the annoyance of the management. However, this might just prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, with Souness far less likely to accept this kind of shit than his predecessor.

Now, I can understand that Bellamy wants to play up front, as that is probably his most effective position, and in fairness he has been scoring goals with increasing frequency this season when played up front.

However, when a player feigns injury and whinges about how the manager isn't doing what the player wants him to do then he crosses the line. Be honest, how many of us could get away with telling our bosses how to do their jobs and not be the recipients of P45s? Footballers consistently get away with murder because the public humour them, smile when they get in to trouble and dismiss it with their next moment of on-pitch genius.

The problem is that the joke is starting to wear thin. Getting in to a spot of bother on the quayside is one thing (and I'm not condoning that either) but refusing to play and faking an injury is a whole different ball game. If Bellamy was giving his all on the pitch, I doubt many of us would give a toss what he does in private. However, failure to perform, and if rumours are to be believed, bad mouthing the club, is unforgivable.

I said at the start of the transfer window that Bellamy was one of the few players we couldn't afford to lose. However, a whinging player who refuses to play is just the sort of person we can do without, and if that means selling Bellamy or anyone else for that matter, then so be it.

I'd rather we ditched those players who don't want to do what they are told than had them dictate the way the club is run. It's time for Craig, and others like him to make a decision: either shut up and play to the best of your ability, or fuck off.

It's a shame about Shay

Two 1-0 defeats to Arsenal in the space of less than a month, but yesterday’s could have been much worse were it not for the between-the-sticks heroics of Shay Given, who didn’t deserve to finish on the losing side.

Babayaro missed out through injury, so Bernard was back in from the cold, whilst Bellamy was left out of the squad altogether – the official line was a recurrence of his hamstring problem, but the rumours suggest he took a leaf out of that weighty tome The Kieron Dyer Guide To Wrecking Your Newcastle Career and refused to play wide right in midfield. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of that…

We could have been one down within a minute of the kick-off, Dyer making a mess of a clearance in the six yard box following a lightning Arsenal attack down the left – presumably his mind was already on the possible post-match goings-on at the Grosvenor, because he certainly played as if it was. With Mathieu Flamini lurking with intent, Bramble’s outstretched knee blocked the ball on the line and bailed the Little Waster out of trouble.

The only goal of the game came eighteen minutes later, and it was that familiar thorn in our collective sides Dennis Bergkamp who strode onto Flamini’s flicked pass, held off Taylor’s flailing challenge and calmly slotted the ball home. Taylor had allowed Bergkamp to get inside him, and it was that naivety that cost us, as good as the finish was.

Further upfield Robert, Bellamy’s replacement in the starting eleven, was busy proving himself an even greater waste of space than Dyer. In the past he’s had some fine games against the Gunners, but on this occasion he was staggeringly lackadaisical, gifting the ball to opposition players time and again.

With Shearer anonymous it was left to Ameobi to provide our sole threat up front. Pushed out into the wide right position Bellamy had allegedly refused to occupy, he gave Ashley Cole plenty of problems on the ground but especially in the air. He had our only real chance of the half, heading over from Bernard’s cross when he should have done better.

In central midfield Bowyer and JJ showed a willingness to tackle hard and unsettle their more cultured opponents, assisted by some characteristically robust challenges from Taylor, Bernard and Bramble. Occasionally the line was crossed – Bowyer and Taylor both picked up yellow cards, the latter being replaced at half-time by Hughes – but too often in the past we’ve allowed ourselves to be bullied out of games so this was reason to feel a measure of satisfaction.

We restricted Arsenal to very few chances in the first half, but the second period soon became a procession of close calls as their key players – Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Jose Antonio Reyes – shifted up a gear. Given had already made a decent stop from Henry in the first half, but now his goal was being peppered and he took centre stage with a series of marvellous saves.

We rode our luck when Henry was played through by Vieira, and his shot took enough of a deflection off Given to deviate it off the post and back into the keeper’s grateful arms. The Irishman’s two best moments, though, came when he saved a low shot from Pires following a flowing move that had our defenders chasing shadows, and then intervened even more spectacularly to claw away Henry’s shot and prevent what had looked like a certain goal.

In amongst it all Boumsong limped off, having put in a reasonably sound performance, and Given escaped punishment when Henry claimed to have been felled by an outstretched hand. Referee Steve Dunn made the right decision, waving Arsenal appeals away, but should have booked the Frenchman for his melodramatic plunge to the turf.

Our offensive threat had been virtually non-existent in the second half as we were pushed back relentlessly – our only effort of note being a tame free-kick from Robert, who was promptly replaced by N’Zogbia – but after this flurry of chances at our end we at last conjured up a decent passing move. Bowyer jinked into the area but planted his left-foot shot straight at Almunia. Right at the end of stoppage time Shearer had a half chance, but was unable to direct his header goalwards, and the opportunity to hit them with the sucker punch was gone.

A point would have been more than we deserved, though, and as was the case with the home defeat at the end of December, there was little shame in losing to the Gunners, especially considering they were at the top of their game in the second period. Up against a rampant attack, the defence remained fairly resolute though also indebted to Given on several occasions.

However, the result leaves us in 12th place, behind such mediocre outfits as Portsmouth, Man City, Villa and Spurs. Our results this season have suggested we’re fully deserving of that label ourselves. Europe seems like a distant dream, and we need to climb the table just for respectability’s sake. The media vultures are bound to be circling having smelt blood over the latest Souness / Bellamy bust-up, and that’s unlikely to help matters at a time when everyone at the club needs to pull together, stop believing their own hype and deliver the goods on the pitch.

Other reports: Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian

An Arsenal fan's view: East Lower

Monday, January 17, 2005

Saints preserve us

Goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble were sufficient to see us past a fairly poor Southampton side on Saturday – just.

The first, a penalty within 10 minutes of his return from injury, saw Shearer, arm raised, celebrating in front of the Gallowgate. The opportunity having arisen after one time target Calum Davenport hauled down Shola in the box, and the ensuing tumble saw Saints keeper Niemi stretchered off to be replaced by reserve goalie Paul Smith.

The second came after a good free kick in from Babayaro on the left touchline was met by Titus at the near post, and he was able to flick the ball past the keeper and give us a healthy two goal cushion.

However, despite a number of good chances in the first half, we were unable to capitalise on what must obviously have been a nervous time for the new keeper, and it was the visitors who finished the half stronger when Peter Crouch was the only person to react as the ball came back off the bar and he knocked it in to our net. Frustratingly for us, it was yet another example of our defence standing and ball watching when they needed to be reacting to deal with the threat of a goal.

The second half saw us lose rhythm and control in midfield, and repeatedly allow Southampton back into a game which we should have killed off long before Uriah Rennie blew for full time. Worryingly of all were the decent claims for a penalty by the visitors (following a kick on Crouch by Titus) and David Prutton's miss in the final moments which could have given Southampton an undeserved share of the spoils.

Taking positives from the game, it was a strong return to the side for Shearer, and a return by Kluivert (although he looked a lot less ready to return to the hustle and bustle of the Premiership). A strong home debut for Babayaro (including an assist) and a reasonable first appearance at home in black and white for Boumsong.

On the down side, we once again failed to kill off a side that should have been dead and buried by half time, and we faded badly in the second half to allow them back into the game.

Still, three points and a win to take to Highbury on Sunday, where we will hopefully repeat the heroics of Christmas 2001 and secure all three points.

Other reports:, Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bling'll fix it

Listing amusing search engine referrals - a well-trodden path taken by those bloggers wishing to mask a lack of new content. But, hey, every now and again a real gem turns up...

"how to mend a tumble dyer"

Well, perhaps you'd be best consulting Paul Ferris and Derek Wright, mate, but I'd hazard a guess that the promise of a bottle of Cristal, some more "ice" and a brand spanking new Ferrari would do the trick.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Sent to Coventry

This lunchtime's draw for the Fourth Round of the FA Cup handed us a home tie against Championship outfit Coventry. Not a side we should fear, and if the attitude of the players is right we've got more than enough ability in the side to give them a good stuffing. No room for complacency, though.

Just a shame that Peter Reid resigned from his post as Coventry manager last week, shortly before the Sky Blues cruised into the Fourth Round with a 3-0 home win over fellow Championship side Crewe - it would have given us all great pleasure to inflict further pain on Ol' Monkey's Heed.

The discomfort zone

Not so much a banana skin as a patch of sheet black ice, but one on which we narrowly avoided slipping up.

The draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup, that great leveller, had pitted our overpaid, underenthusiastic, prancing big-time charlies against Yeading, a bunch of hardworking amateurs sitting pretty at the top of their league, coming into the game on an eight game winning streak and with an impressive defensive record to contrast with our own. Add into the mix Fat Freddy’s unforgivable comments about lower league sides, which no doubt made the opposition all the more intent to bloody our pampered Premiership noses, and there was a distinctly uncomfortable Sunday afternoon in prospect.

It was a classic no-win situation. Even if we had thrashed them, everyone would have said “It was only Yeading” and it would have unjustifiably raised expectations of a marked improvement in our league form. The possibility of defeat didn’t bear thinking about – though given our track record in the Cup against non-league opposition and some of the improbable results the previous day, it was hard to avoid fearing the worst, amidst the knowledge that the whole country was willing us to fail.

Perhaps in the circumstances, then, the 2-0 final scoreline in our favour was the best possible outcome, signalling a professional job on our part whilst also leaving us under no illusions as to how poorly we played.

Souness hardly compromised when it came to team selection, affording Yeading the respect of putting out a near full-strength side (take note Fish-Eyed Ferguson). Bellamy returned up front for Dyer, whilst new signings Boumsong and Babayaro took the places of Hughes and Bernard at the back. Of the side which disappointed at West Brom, only Given was rested, replaced by Harper.

Certainly the goal feast we’d been hoping for failed to materialise, and in a goalless first half we were desperately poor, matched in nearly every department by the Ryman League outfit. We could even be regarded as rather fortunate to be on level terms at the break.

We had several gilt-edged chances, the first as early as the 90th second, when Robert sneaked in behind the Yeading defence and should have given us the lead from Ameobi’s flick-on – as it was, his tame close-range shot dribbled into the grateful hands of keeper Preddie.

Other chances followed, with Bowyer just unable to get a foot to Ameobi’s low cross, Jenas’s shot turned over and, closest of all, Bellamy striking the bar when he really should have done better. It’s been wastefulness in front of goal rather than the defence that has been our downfall of late, and we lived in fear of it costing us dearly.

Yeading had chances of their own, wing-back Protain outjumping his marker to send a header over the bar from a set-piece, and a powerful low free-kick from Clarke excellently tipped round the post by a full-stretch Harper. Most disturbing was the way Yeading were holding their own in midfield, despite coming up against captain JJ and the normally combative Bowyer – quite what the watching Eriksson made of it is anyone’s guess.

Mercifully the second half was only six minutes old when Bowyer settled the nerves with the much-needed first goal. Ameobi embarked upon a powerful run, slipping the ball to Bellamy down the right channel and his cross was tapped in from two yards by the onrushing midfielder.

The goal marked a significant change in the pattern of the game, as we suddenly started to exert our superiority, creating countless chances primarily by releasing Bellamy into dangerous positions in and around the penalty area. It was only a matter of time before we took another opportunity, and Ameobi it was who got in front of his marker from an Ambrose free-kick to head in.

From then until the final whistle we were relatively comfortable, easily containing Yeading’s forwards whilst showboating at the other end - which was not only arrogant but also unjustifiable, given that the players should really have been going for another two or three goals to make amends for their lame first-half display. Bellamy was wasteful with his shooting, but Taylor was unlucky not to notch his first senior goal with one of three fine efforts.

Even then, there was a late scare when Harper was forced to push a scorching Yeading shot wide, though it might have been hitting the post anyway. I don't want to lapse into a patronising gush here - there's been too much of that elsewhere. Suffice to say that Yeading made a mockery of the supposed gulf in class and ability, emerging from the encounter with pride and dignity intact without having ever really suggested they had the firepower to threaten an upset.

New signings Boumsong and Babayaro both looked fairly solid, the latter showing some nice touches coming forwards and the former allowing Telemaque and the lively DJ Campbell no sight of goal. It’s far too early to gauge their qualities, though – whether they will prove to be prudent signings will only become clear once they’ve been pitted against Premiership attacks.

So, we’re through, and thankfully at minimal cost – N’Zogbia and Robert were both withdrawn having picked up knocks, and Bramble, also substituted, received a booking for one clumsy challenge too many. Realistically, this is our only chance of a trophy this season, and so we have to hope for a favourable draw for the Fourth Round. The Mackems at home, anyone?

Other reports:, Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian, Hobo Tread

Friday, January 07, 2005

Oh he does like to be beside the seaside

Hobo Tread is the new blog by B&W&RAO associate Skif, a Havant & Waterlooville FC fan resident in Liverpool.

As he posts about much more besides football, you'll find Hobo Tread in the new 'Blogs with occasional football content' section in the sidebar, which is also home to two other favourites, Kenny's Parallax View (West Ham) and Pete's The Whole Wide World Of Fat Buddha! (Birmingham).

Click, read, enjoy.

'Celebrity' fan

Absolutely fantastic. Just what we need. Our club is one big PR disaster zone, lurching from tabloid calamity to tabloid calamity. And now, on the eve of a match which has the potential to bring acute discomfort to us Newcastle fans, we have to face up to the fact that there's a chance John fucking McCririck could be staying in the 'Celebrity Big Brother' house for a whole two weeks.

Yes, that's a potential two weeks of embarrassment at the hands of possibly the most odious arsehole ever to call himself a Toon fan (though Blair runs him close). Even watching the interview he gave before entering the house, when he was clad in full Toon regalia (shirt, scarf etc), I was wincing.

Let's just hope he gets booted out nice and early.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The champagne goes flat

A novelty of a scoreline, but one which was greeted with the same old sense of frustration at a missed opportunity.

Our last goalless draw with West Brom had come 81 years ago, and with the Premiership's two most porous defences on display, who would have bet on that being the outcome of Monday night's game at The Hawthorns?

The loss of Bellamy with a knee injury (sound familiar?) prompted Souness, serving a one match touchline ban for his post-Fulham outburst, to give N'Zogbia his first Premiership start ahead of Milner and Ambrose. The 4-3-3 formation of recent matches was retained, Dyer taking up Bellamy's wide right forward position and N'Zogbia coming into midfield, but only to an extent - in reality, it was more like a 4-5-1 with Ameobi alone up front, being supported by onrushing midfielders.

The Baggies also opted to switch to a 4-3-3 formation of their own, with Robert Earnshaw lining up alongside Kanu and Geoff Horsfield up front. In the process, though, the clueless Captain Marvel handed us a boost by dropping Hungarian forward Zoltan Gera, their goalscorer and by some distance best player against Bolton on New Year's Day, and keeping talented playmaker Jason Koumas on the bench whilst populating the midfield with donkeys like Ronnie Wallwork and Riccardo Scimeca.

The clean sheet, obviously, was a cause for celebration, even against an attack which could be described as limp at best. No doubt spurred on by Souness's recent forays into the transfer market, Bramble turned in one of his best performances in a black and white shirt - defensively solid throughout, and remarkably accurate with his long left-footed passes out to Dyer on the right wing. He should have done much better with a fifth minute header from a brilliantly-flighted Robert free-kick, though - as it was, he simply planted the ball straight into Russell Hoult's midriff.

With our midfielders enjoying huge amounts of possession - primarily because their players were strangely content to let us dwell on the ball - and Ameobi causing havoc up front as against Arsenal (and being on the receiving end of numerous strongarm challenges from Darren Purse), the chances continued to come and go. Bowyer came closest, striking the post with a low shot from just outside the area, and Ameobi forced Hoult into a good diving save, whilst Bernard tried to buy a penalty that referee Neale Barry rightly refused to award.

For the Baggies, Wallwork's shot was parried by Given shortly before Kanu headed wide, and in the closing stages of the half the out-of-sorts Nigerian striker tamely prodded a presentable opportunity wide of the post.

That there was no score at half-time gave cause for concern, because we knew we wouldn't be allowed to dominate so much in the second period - and so it proved. West Brom came out more combative, and, though we continued to look sound at the back and retained the ball well, our attacks looked less potent. Ameobi faded, Robert didn't do enough and Dyer continually ran at the defence before taking on one defender too many. The one real bright spot was N'Zogbia, who built on the neat touches of the first half by scampering away quick-footed on the byline on a couple of occasions to set up decent chances for onrushing Newcastle players.

Despite our overall control of the game, though, Hoult was rarely tested, and indeed it was Given who was called upon to make the game's best save, sparing Hughes's blushes when Horsfield escaped his clutches and fired in a shot from close range. Earnshaw also had a decent chance at the far post late on. Meanwhile, for us substitute Milner, on for N'Zogbia, looked lively and a Robert thunderbolt near the final whistle almost provided a fairytale conclusion to a frustrating evening.

An away point can be regarded retrospectively as either good or bad - this one was definitely bad. I won't disrespect Baggies fans by prefacing what I'm about to say with "No disrespect to West Brom, but..." - on this form they are relegation fodder, a very poor side filled with cloggers, clunkers and hoofers that bring nothing to the Premiership.

However, the fact that we couldn't beat them does not reflect at all well on us. Even without Shearer, Kluivert and Bellamy we should have been able to score. Our recent inability to finish sides off with ruthlessness in front of goal suggests that perhaps Souness should be looking at our attacking options in the transfer window, as well as addressing the familiar defensive shortcomings.

Other reports:, Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian


Congratulations to Inspector Sands, whose Charlton blog All Quiet In The East Stand has been nominated for a Best Of Blog Award in the Best Sports Blog category. As All Quiet... was one of the prime inspirations behind our decision to set up B&W&RAO, it's only right that Paul and myself should urge you to click on the link and give the site your vote.

Best of luck, Inspector.

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year new hope

Sticking with the same team that had performed well for no reward against Arsenal, Souness saw his new 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation deliver in fine style against a Birmingham City team who looked like they'd all been down the Quayside for New Year's Eve.

Jenas, Bowyer and even Dyer had good games in the middle and completely dominated the midfield, reducing Lily Savage to nothing more than a whinging bit-part player. Only our own profligacy in front of goal prevented us from being out of sight at half time, as a fine header from Shola Ameobi, after excellent work from Bellamy, and a fine Lee Bowyer shot following Laurent Robert's cross saw us lead two nil at half time.

The second half was a more subdued affair, as we allowed the Blues to recover from their hangover and find some rhythm, and in the process allowed Heskey to crack a strong left-footed shot past Shay Given (one of these day's we'll keep a clean sheet...). Fortunately we refused capitulate and if anything finished the stronger side, with Dyer crashing a shot off the crossbar in the dying seconds.

The only note of concern being the site of Bellamy limping down the tunnel mid-way through the second half. However, the new formation appears to give us the necessary width and solidity which we've been seeking all season, and also allows our midfield triumvirate to work together to good effect.

The trick now, is to string a few good performances together and carry the momentum with which we've started the year through to May and hopefully beyond.

New Year - new faces

With the clock striking midnight and bringing down the curtain on a pretty lousy year for Newcastle United, Souness and Shepherd have sprung in to action and moved to bolster our beleaguered defence. Snapping up Celestine Babayaro from Chelsea for a nominal fee and coughing up £8 million for Jean-Alain Boumsong of Rangers the men in control have moved quickly and purposefully to bring in the players they think we need.

Only time will tell whether they can do the business, and bring a much needed stability to our defence, but at least the squad looks a bit healthier for their arrival, and if nothing else the competition for places might just force one or two to raise their games.

Rumour has it we are still looking to bring in more new blood, with Distin and Boa-Morte the two names most frequently in the frame, personally I'd have thought a new right winger was more important than a left-sided one, but I've no complaints so far - so hopefully Graeme and Freddy will continue to buy the players we all know we need, and the players themselves will live up to the weight of expectation upon them.