Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tu es un imbecile

Look Laurent, there were times we loved you. Times we thought you were wonderful. Times we were glad we'd missed out on Boudewijn Zenden and signed you instead. Times when that £9.5m looked like money exceedingly well spent.

Those times were rather too few and far between, admittedly - but they existed.

But even now - even after all those wasteful corners, lazy performances and pathetic whinges in the press and on your personal website - there remains some sympathy and fondness for you on Tyneside.

So SHUT YOUR GOB before it all dwindles away. Those fines should hit you where it hurts.

You've moved on. You've got a new club, new team-mates and a new city to adapt to. Get on with it, and stop dredging up past grievances that don't matter anymore.

Friday, June 24, 2005

New blood

With the fixtures list for next season now available (and printed on and Emre a Newcastle player in all but name if press reports are to be believed, it will be interesting to discover what Souness envisages will be the team taking the field against Arsenal on the first day of next season.

From what I can gather, Emre is a left sided central midfield player, and as such must be hoping he gets the nod to start alongside Scott Parker in the centre of the park next season. With Dyer presumably on the right, and Milner currently favourite to start on the left, it looks like JJ and Faye will be left to warm the bench (particularly if we succeed in offloading Butt and Bowyer before the transfer window closes).

Presumably attention will now be turned to adding another quality centre-back and at least one if not two strikers to the payroll, and the disposal of those players unwanted by the manager (namely Viana & Bellamy). Whether we succeed in bringing in the players Souness wants, and equally ditching those he doesn't could well mean the difference between another season of lurching from one self-inflicted injury to the next, or a quite season of steady improvement.

Begging Letter

It was announced this week that the club had decided to extend the deadline for season ticket renewals. How generous of them!

Reading between the lines, this suggests that not only were drop off levels higher than usual (hardly surprising given last season's complete non-performance), but that the club are worried they don't have sufficient people on the waiting list to fill the remaining vacancies. I can't imagine that if demand was incredibly high that the club would give a toss whether old season ticket holders renewed provided they could get a sufficient number of bums on seats.

Obviously this is no longer the case. Whether the financial future of the club will be in jeopardy if we don't all renew our tickets I don't know, but I do recall Fat Fred saying that the cost of expanding the stadium was being covered by season ticket holders – presumably if they drop off, then the money will need to come from somewhere else – and I can't see Freddie wanting to sacrifice his massive dividend payment to pay the mortgage.

Can you?

New reads

A hearty B&W&RAO welcome to the latest additions to our list of Newcastle centric websites, Mag Columnist Billy Furious, the online version of Newcastle fanzine True Faith and for those of you with a head for figures, a website which shows our latest set of accounts, including just how much Dirty Doug gets for sitting on his sun lounger and wasting daddy's fortune.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Value for money?

Following Scott Parker's £6.5m move from Chelsea to Tyneside earlier in the week, we contacted someone who's used to watching him week in week out - Inspector Sands of Charlton blog All Quiet In The East Stand - for his thoughts on the player:

"At Charlton, the bruises left by having Parker wrenched from us in 2004 still haven't properly faded yet. We lost a tough midfielder who wasn't afraid to throw throw everything at winning every ball - never mind every game. Even if he failed to win the ball, he'd chase and chase and chase until he got it. When we sold Mark Kinsella to Aston Villa in summer 2002, some felt it was a rash gamble on Alan Curbishley's part. But the truth was, Parker was outgunning him in every department. He got better and better - but it was our 4-2 defeat of Chelsea on Boxing Day which proved to be the turning point.

It's widely believed Parker was tapped up by Chelsea not long after that game. After a defeat of Wolves a couple of weeks later, he confronted chairman Richard Murray - and that was it. He refused to train, and by the end of the month he was gone on a £10 million deal (later to increase thanks to the Carlton Cole loan fiasco).

Parker's transfer was a nightmare for us, but few journalists have explored how it was a professional tragedy for him - he was happy to treble his wages, but his career went nowhere. His England career stalled, Claudio Ranieri played him out of position, Jose Mourinho bollocked him in public at an airport. All for £45,000 (or is it now £55,000?) a week.

Newcastle were one of the few clubs who could match that inflated Chelsea wage bill. He's actually a Spurs fan - but there's no way Tottenham would cough up for a player who's spent the best part of 18 months doing sod all. Especially considering the foot injury which put Parker out of action earlier this year, will he be a shadow of the player who dazzled Charlton fans two seasons ago - or will Newcastle have an attacking midfielder in the best years of his career? I'm sure the Toon army will be quick to let him know. What The Valley will make of him when Newcastle next visit is another story altogether.

Thanks to Inspector Sands.

For my part (it was Paul who wrote the post below announcing he'd signed), it could be an excellent deal for the club. Fans on Chelsea Blog seem disappointed he's been allowed to leave, and we had so many underperforming midfielders last year that he can surely only make a positive impact.

That said, money is an obvious factor - Spurs and Everton would probably have baulked at the transfer fee alone, and £55,000 a week over five years is an awfully big financial outlay. Does that make him a mercenary? Well, he might be at St James's Park for the cash, but as long as he does a good job then I don't think we'd be too concerned. (The move also allays fears that our failure to qualify for Europe automatically and our pathetic league display would hamper our efforts in the transfer market - it seems that players can be blinded to the mess they're walking into if you hold enough banknotes up in front of their eyes...)

One last thought: there was certainly no need to bullshit about it being Souness who persuaded him to make the move - I mean, who's going to believe that?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Scott One!

Apparently Scott Parker has now successfully completed his medical, and what seems like the most protracted transfer in recent history looks set to reach a climax this afternoon when the club officially unveil our first new arrival of the summer.

With three players already out of the door, and a fourth departure looking likely, it is to be hoped that Parker will soon be joined by some more new faces in the St James' Park dressing room.

Whilst previous midfield cloggers Faye and Butt have so far failed to deliver on Tyneside I have high hopes for Parker who, in his time at Charlton at least, looked an excellent all-round midfielder. Hopefully in the year leading up to a World Cup he will be keen to impress his new employers and Sven, and in doing so might really perform werll for us as well as finally forcing JJ to raise his game.

Blue Bow?

According to erstwhile colleague puncher Lee Bowyer has been given permission to talk to crim lover Steve Bruce. Apparently this decision has been taken by Fat Fred rather than Souness, although I can’t imagine there will be too many tears shed on Tyneside if Bowyer does leave.

What bothers me about this is that once again Shepherd is dictating the transfer policy of the club, which he did so successfully last season when he signed Butt and Kluivert against Bobby's wishes and in doing so undermined the position of the manager.

The most pertinent thing that anyone has said about this potential transfer has to be the words of Birmingham Chairman David Gold, who said: "Lee Bowyer's record speaks for itself".

I couldn't agree more.

Pompey and circumstance

Confirmation, at last, that Laurent Robert has completed his move to Portsmouth, and snubbed Bolton's offer of European football to join up with his old sparring partner Andy Griffin on the South Coast.

Hardly a move that will shock too many people, with Souness and Robert unlikely to break into bouts of mutual backslapping anytime soon a parting of the ways is probably best for all concerned.

In terms of his time on Tyneside, the statistics will show a player who scored and created goals throughout his time here, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Often erratic, and apparently disinterested, Robert was one of those players who could conjure a goal from nowhere and for that reason was rightly regarded as a player who could be a joy to watch. However, his regular sulks, and whinging to the press regularly stuck in the throat, and no matter how often he changed a game in our favour there were equally times when his inactivity cost us dearly and left us exposed down the left.

Whether you choose to treasure your memories of fabulous strikes and game changing free kicks both home and away to the likes of Spurs and Derby is up to you, but for me the thrill of seeing him in a black and white shirt, on his game and taking aim thirty yards out will be one I'll treasure for a long time to come.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Revolving Door

The Newcastle departure lounge has seen further business today, with confirmation that Andy O'Brien has joined Pompey for a fee of around £2 million and Laurent Robert a Trotter in all but name at the moment, and a fee of between £1-2 million being bandied about.

Assuming the Robert deal goes through for £1.5 million, that'll take Souness' summer transfer income from player sales up to the 5 million mark. With big name players such as Bellamy, Viana, Bowyer and Butt still possible departures, and Darren Ambrose also looking on his way out, Souness could well raise a pot of over £15 million if he can find buyers prepared to meet our asking price.

Where he then spends this money (together with any given to him by the board) remains to be seen, although approximately £6 million looks bound for Chelsea in exchange for Scott Parker. Stories also doing the rounds link us with another move for Sylvain Distin and with the glaring need to sign a striker and keep the local Greggs in business (having parted company with Fat Pat) have seen the press suggest a move for pie-lover Mark Viduka is on the cards.

Whether either comes off (or indeed if the Parker deal ever goes through) remains to be seen: personally, I feel the signing of Distin would add better depth to the squad, however I'd hardly welcome Viduka with open arms – he may have a decent scoring record, but he looks like he may have lost his hunger for the fight.

Even if these players do all come on board, that would still leave us looking under strength if any injury should befall one of our first choice full backs, and still in need of a fourth striker (unless Chopra has matured massively as a player in the last twelve months).

Still the transfer merry-go-round has well and truly started, and we'll be watching the arrivals lounge with interest.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Andy O to go?

Reports are suggesting that massive nosed defender (and renowned makem slayer) Andy O'Brien is to join the Newcastle old boys club that is Portsmouth.

Whilst it's fair to say that O'Brien was always committed to the cause, he was at times found wanting against real quality centre halves, and with the Boumsong, Bramble and Taylor all ahead of him in the queue to start at centre-half next season already (plus Souness' chasing of Daniel Van Buyten) his departure (if it comes) will hardly shake the foundations of the team.

If he goes, it is yet another example of Souness looking to mould the club his way, and raises a bit of extra cash to add to the transfer kitty. Though once again, it's a case of one of the seemingly more level headed members of the squad departing, rather than one of those who we’d all rather now see the back of.

However, ultimately on a purely footballing level it's hardly the worst transfer from our point of view.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Courtroom drama

So, there we were, enjoying the respite of a quiet few weeks without having to read about the parlous state of Newcastle United on front and back pages day in and day out.

And then this story shatters the calm: Lee Bowyer is to appear in court charged with a public order offence following the on-pitch scrap with Kieron Dyer. Dyer has - rightly - escaped censure.

Wor Lee's no doubt taken the news in his stride, accustomed as he is to the inside of a courtroom. He's probably dusting down his trusty suit as I write.

With any luck the charming young man will be found guilty and then unceremoniously booted out on his arse. Of course, knowing us, we'll probably reward him with a new contract and a bonus.

In other news, Laurent Robert could be humping 40 yard shots into the sea and frustrating the hell out of fans on the South Coast next season, if Portsmouth manager Alain Perrin follows up his interest with a firm bid.

Though Robert has indicated his desire to leave, and even stated he's played his last game for the club, I can still see him being here at the start of the new season - Man City have allegedly already baulked at his wage demands, and we're right to be demanding a fee for a player with a year left on his contract, especially one who cost us £9.5m four years ago and can win games singlehandedly. When he can be arsed.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Back of the onion bag

With filming now finished, the first part in the forthcoming football based trilogy Goal! has now finished, and a UK release date of 30 September has been lined up.

The story is based around a Hispanic American who is spotted kicking a football in the states and signed by Newcastle United. The following two parts of the trilogy should see him move to Real Madrid and then find an Argentine passport and appear at a World Cup. (Like Nobby's Greek passport but kosher?)

As the team who first sign the youngster, we should be guaranteed a few shots of Newcastle excelling on the pitch, and pictures of team mates beating each other up mid-game should hopefully be confined to DVD extras rather than the local multiplex.

With cameos by Shearer, Dyer and Kluivert (the latter presumably down the quayside) and appearances by all and sundry connected with the club (please God everyone but Fat Freddie) it should be worth a watch, if only because as a work of fiction we might actually witness some success on the pitch.

For those of you who are interested, you can watch the trailer here.

Quite how the finished product will rank amongst the pantheon of "great" football films remains to be seen, but hopefully it will at least be better than When Saturday Comes – Newcastle winning something may be far fetched, but Sheffield United?!?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Gun for hire

After his solitary disappointing season with Newcastle, Fat Pat has jetted off back to Spain to sign a three year deal with Valencia.

No doubt he'll do an excellent job and we'll rue the decision to allow him to leave - not least if we come up against his new club in the Intertoto Cup, which is a distinct and distressing possibility.

The alternative? We sign a couple of energetic and committed strikers who actually look like they can be arsed, while Valencia's bars and Greggs outlets do a roaring trade thanks to the city's new arrival...

Go Buccs!

A football blog with a difference: Manchester Buccaneers. There's nothing quite like having fun at Man Utd's expense, is there?

(Thanks to Michael for the link.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

American adventure

Two games in the space of four days for Jermaine Jenas in what should be the close season, and he looked increasingly comfortable in a creative role at the heart of the England midfield alongside an assured and composed Michael Carrick.

Against Colombia, England's problems were at the back, with neither Glen Johnson nor Phil Neville enjoying good games, but Michael Owen stole the show and masked the defensive frailties with a hat-trick. For his part, JJ knitted play together neatly with some crisp passing, good touches and occasional bursts into the box. Not enough to convince Sven he's worthy of a place in the same midfield as Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham, but probably sufficient to remind the Swede of his qualities.

Last season saw JJ's progress and maturation stall, which was very disappointing after the form and promise of previous seasons. Of course he's still only young, and with the departure of Hughes he's one of the only level-headed professional youngsters at the club, but he needs to start delivering more on the pitch, not least in terms of goalscoring contributions - given that he was rarely employed in a defensive role, a return of just two goals wasn't really good enough.

'Appy 'Ammers

Congratulations to Kenny and Upton Lark - after a two year absence, West Ham are back in the top flight, and will be lining up alongside fellow Premiership new boys Sunderland and Wigan when the new season kicks off in August.

A solitary goal from much maligned striker Bobby Zamora was enough to see off Preston in Monday's Play-Off Final - the same player having struck twice at Portman Road to lead the Hammers to victory over Ipswich in the second leg of the semi-final.

Unlike Wigan, West Ham have a wealth of experience they can count on to help them out in their bid to survive, and the sort of infrastructure and crowds typical of a Premiership side, but any hopes they may have of avoiding the drop hinge upon Alan Pardew making some very judicious signings as well as holding onto their brightest talents.