Saturday, December 31, 2005

Goodbye 2005, and good riddance

Tottenham 2 - 0 Newcastle

Another unmitigatedly disastrous afternoon for Newcastle Utd, so tragically awful it could have been scripted by old Billy Shakespeare himself.

Our talismanic striker Michael Owen is out injured for around three months after a collision with Spurs 'keeper and England colleague Paul Robinson at the end of the first half when making a valiant effort to grab an equaliser. The curse of the metatarsal deals a blow to England again - though I'm naturally far more concerned about the immediate impact on our chances of improving things in the second half of the season.

Ramage also made way at half time, his injury compounding our problems at right-back where Carr and Taylor are both still out.

Then, in the final minute of the second half, Shay Given - as ever, one of the few players intent on putting up a fight - had his hand stood on and broke his thumb.

No wonder Steve Harper was moved to say he thinks the club is cursed.

And, to add insult to serious injury, we lost the game 2-0 to a team of whom we consider ourselves at least the equal but who now sit pretty seven places and twelve points ahead of us in the table. Old boy JJ must be wearing a massive grin tonight, unlike all those on the Toon team bus.

As protests go, it was very honourable of the players to respond to the ridiculousness of a fixture list which sent our fans to London on New Year's Eve coinciding with a strike on the Underground by simply failing to turn up. Unfortunately the fans did turn up against the odds, as did the opposition, who cantered to one of the easiest victories they'll ever enjoy.

Parker, along with Given the only Toon player to perform, tried his luck very early on, but lacking the support of his team-mates (a familiar scenario) he was unable to cope with the trio of Jenas, Edgar Davids and Michael Carrick. It was their midfield companion Teemu Tainio who gave them a deserved lead just as we thought we might make it to the break unscathed.

Luque's appearance for the second half initially roused us, but chances were still not forthcoming and the Spaniard soon reverted to form, strolling lazily and moodily around the pitch. Spurs' onloan Egyptian striker and one time Toon target Mido, who set up the first, doubled the Londoners' advantage with a mis-hit volley which bounced into the ground and over Given.

That was essentially game over, though Parker went close with a 35 yarder and Ameobi fluffed a simple chance after substitute N'Zogbia's long range shot had been parried by Robinson. By that point Spurs could have been further out of sight, Davids trying his luck on a couple of occasions and Mido looping a free header into Given's arms and then forcing the Irishman to tip the ball onto the post from an acute angle.

So, it's goodbye and good riddance to a mainly rotten 2005. But, with Owen and Given out for the immediate future, 2006 isn't looking like being too much brighter.

Other reports: BBC

Sour gripes?

"The one thing I hate about other managers is waffle that is nowhere near the truth. I would never conduct myself like that".

The words of West Ham manager Alan Pardew in the programme for Wednesday's clash with Wigan. The target of his comments? Our very own Graeme Souness, who Pardew claims referred to the Hammers' centre-backs as "scared" in the face of our attack.

OK, so it was Pardew's first opportunity to sound off in this way since the match (way back on the 17th December), but it all stinks of sour grapes.

Yes, Pardew was right to point out that his side were hardly outclassed and in fact dominated for long periods, so we were rather fortunate to emerge from the encounter 4-2 victors.

But the fact remains that Souness never actually labelled Pardew's defenders "scared", preferring the less loaded term "nervous" - and in any case, was he not justified in doing so in the aftermath of a game in which West Ham had created as many chances as us but we had demonstrated our superior fire power, the combination of Owen and Shearer proving lethal and decisive?

Pardew also wrote: "He should have known better than to criticise players on the opposite team. We will make sure we remember that when we play them again". That sounds suspiciously like a threat of retribution. The way things are going, there's every likelihood that the Hammers will get the chance to exact revenge in the league next season. We just have to steel ourselves for it.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Bow ban stands

Lee Bowyer's rash challenge on Xavi Alonso has definitely now cost him a three match ban, now that his appeal against the Boxing Day red card at Anfield has been dismissed.

Unfortunate for Bowyer perhaps, but we have the consolation of knowing that for today's game against Spurs we have the in-form Parker back to fill that central midfield role. When we’re up against the likes of Edgar Davids, Geordie Michael Carrick and old boy Jermaine Jenas, Parker’s presence is vital.

The timing of Bowyer's suspension means that it's perfectly possible that he won’t play for the club again. A cause for rejoicing or lament? Well, personally speaking I’d be very happy if he never pulled on a black and white jersey again. That he’s never reproduced his Leeds form on Tyneside has no influence over my feelings – which are that he’s an overpaid thug who we should never have signed and who has let us down time and again with his poor discipline, most blatantly last April with the on-pitch fracas with Dyer. It’ll be good riddance as far as I’m concerned.

Black and white and read all over

Amazing what a little flurry of white stuff can do: turn you into an arrogant dickhead, lead you to dye your mullet blond (Ozzy Osbourne), lose you multi-million pound modelling contracts (Kate Moss), make your septum drop out (Daniella Westbrook).

No, hang on, wrong white stuff.

The fallout from the late, late postponement of Wednesday's game has been all over the papers for a second day running, everyone seeming to blame everyone else. The Guardian gave over a whole page to the fiasco, offering Richard Scudamore of the Premier League and Malcolm Clarke, the Football Supporters' Chairman, the chance to sound off.

Suffice to say it's the fans that are being fucked over (like Clarke, for once I agree with Fat Fred on something).

If you want to read more, Inspector Sands of Charlton blog All Quiet In The East Stand (not one of the 500 personally affected by the call-off) has collected together a tonne of links here. Good work, sir.

The final word must go to Charlton Supporters' Director Sue Townsend: "As we left to return to London, Newcastle fans were coming out and they started throwing snowballs at the coaches. It was quite scary".

Soft Southerners, eh? You're havin' a larf, aintcha?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Snow show

So, the elements intervened to prevent us getting back on track after Monday's defeat. Tonight's match with Charlton was called off just 25 minutes before kick-off, the pitch playable and unfrozen (unlike those at the Reebok Stadium and Ewood Park) but the stands deemed unsafe owing to the evening's intermittent snowfall.

Spare a thought for the poor unfortunate Addicks who had made the long and ultimately futile journey up at a particularly expensive time of year? Well, not really - I'm too busy sparing a thought for the other half of B&W&RAO, who had himself travelled up from the East Midlands for the match. Well, that and returning a load of unwanted Christmas presents from his parents. The ungrateful sod.

Red mist

Liverpool 2 – 0 Newcastle

Christmas. Peace on earth. Goodwill to all men. A time for joy, merriment and celebration.

Unless you’re a Toon fan, that is.

Almost as much a part of tradition as roast turkey with all the trimmings, chestnuts roaring on an open fire, the giving and receiving of awful knitwear and the sharp rise in the number of arrests for drink driving are our festive horrorshows.

Granted, Monday’s 2-0 defeat at Anfield hardly ranks alongside the 4-0 humbling by Southend on New Year's Day 1992, but it was very poor indeed – and bafflingly so, given the recent upturn in performances. Once again, we were involved in a game which featured controversial and incorrect decisions from the man in black, though for a change not all of these went against us.

Souness made no fewer than five changes to the side that won at West Ham, only one of which was enforced, Parker missing out through an untimely suspension. Ameobi made way for Luque, Elliott for Babayaro and Taylor for Bramble. Most surprising was the fact that Bowyer’s appearance on the teamsheet was in place of Solano rather than Parker, for whom a fit-again N’Zogbia deputised. A curious decision, and that’s being charitable.

It backfired from the very first whistle. With Steven Gerrard imperious and Xavi Alonso quietly effective alongside him while Faye reverted to form, Liverpool quickly seized the initiative. Given had already made a quite incredible point-blank save from Harry Kewell when Gerrard steamed into the box unopposed and planted a firm rising shot well beyond the Irishman’s reach.

Both the Kewell chance and the Gerrard goal had been set up by the much-maligned Peter Crouch. Thanks no doubt to The Journal’s mocking references to his talents, of the same order as those that spurred Paul Scholes into hammering a hat-trick against us in the 6-2 humiliation of April 2003, Crouch turned in a match-winning performance.

He duly got on the scoresheet just before half-time, planting a firm header onto the post with Boumsong et al AWOL. Given did his best to keep it out, but Mark Halsey ruled correctly that the ball had squirmed centimetres over the line. To credit it to Given is harsh.

By this point, Given had pulled off another tremendous save, this time from a Gerrard free-kick, and our already parlous defensive situation had been dealt a further blow when Taylor left the field with a recurrence of his dislocated shoulder – another case of a player being rushed back from injury too soon. Bramble’s arrival was greeted with expectant cheers by the home fans, but in truth he did little wrong.

At half-time Souness belatedly accepted his mistake and brought Solano on for N’Zogbia (incidentally, the only player to have a shot on target for us in the first period, and that was from 30 yards), Bowyer switching into the middle.

Little changed, though, and the Scousers’ dominance should have been underlined when Morientes headed goalwards only for Solano to flap his left arm in an impromptu chicken impression to deflect the ball off the line. We can’t continue to feel sore about not getting a penalty against Everton and yet maintain Solano’s innocence here. It should have been a spot-kick.

The midfield switch had been intended to make us more combative, but, true to form, that too backfired when Bowyer slid in late on Alonso and saw red for the fourth time in a year.

Now, make a note of this, as it’s quite possibly the last time I’ll find myself defending the vicious little thug, but it was a yellow card at most, Halsey only producing the red because of the disproportionately furious response of the Liverpool players. Crouch received only a booking for shoving Bowyer over when he could have been dismissed for raising his hands, while Gerrard’s manhandling of Shearer also merited at least a caution.

Any Toon fan thinking (as I did briefly) that the sending-off had removed any possibility of us staging a miraculous recovery was deluding themselves – we had never been in the game, had shown no signs of fighting back and deserved nothing.

The game was over as a contest, though whether it could ever have been described as such is debatable, and we were well beaten by a superior side notching up their eighth successive league victory and another clean sheet to boot. No shame in the scoreline, perhaps, but there was plenty in the performance.

You may have noticed that one name has been conspicuous by its absence throughout this report, that of Michael Owen. That’s because he was conspicuous by his absence. To be fair, he didn’t have a sniff. The script may have been written for him to return to Anfield and do the damage, but for him to perform it he at least needed to be fed the cues.

Charlton are the visitors to St James’s Park tonight, and though they might not be the sitting ducks of a week ago following a spirited if ultimately futile display against Arsenal, they still represent a great opportunity to put the disappointment of Monday firmly in the past. It’ll need vast improvements all over the pitch, mind, as well as in the manager’s tactics.

A Liverpool fan’s perspective: A Matter Of Life And Death

Other reports:, BBC

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Season's greetings

Happy Christmas and best wishes from Black & White & Read All Over.

Right, we're off to dream of a black and white Christmas - or at least a black and white Boxing Day on which Shearer surpasses Wor Jackie's club goalscoring record and Owen notches a second successive hat-trick, this time against his former club...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New kid in Toon

We were recently contacted Real Life News, who are looking for people interested in writing for a new Toon blog. If you're keen, then you can contact Martin at for more information. The more black and white bloggers the merrier - that's what we say.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

That winning feeling

Chelseablog has all the hallmarks of a good football blog: it may centred on a team I don't give a toss about (in fact in many ways actively dislike - though not quite so much as some of their more bitter visitors), but it's a generally well-informed and always entertaining read.

Take, for example, the following paragraph posted by Grocer Jack in the aftermath of Sunday's victory over Arsenal:

"Our victories over Spurs year in and year out are a constant source of warmth and joy to me. These derby victories evoke in me the kind of warm self-satisfied and rather smug glow that one might wear if enjoying a rather decent glass of Rioja by the roaring fireside of a recently acquired lottery win-funded remote country cottage that you drove to in your brand new Bugatti Veyron, whilst being massaged in warm oil by Jennifer Aniston as in turn she’s lightly towelled off by a recently showered Catherine Zeta-Jones. The feeling is the same for victories over Fulham, Charlton etc., although to a lesser degree (maybe with Billie Piper and Helen Chamberlain instead)".

Some uncharitable souls (ie me on another day) might say "self-satisfied" and "smug" are adjectives becoming to a Chelsea fan, but then wouldn't you be if your team was performing like that? Anyway, that's exactly how September's victory over the Great Unwashed felt for us too. Thanks to Grocer Jack for putting it into words.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hammer Time

West Ham 2 – 4 Newcastle

Four goals away from home, a first hat-trick for the Toon by Michael Owen and one goal nearer the record for Shearer was certainly cause for some festive optimism for Graeme Souness at Upton Park on Saturday.

One goal with his left foot, one with his head (well ear/shoulder) and one with his right foot, giving Michael Owen a perfect hat-trick, and combined with his pass to Shearer for our other goal meant that Graeme Souness had reason to raise a festive cheer to our record signing.

Put simply, Owen was the difference between the two sides, and without his contribution we would have struggled to overcome a decent West Ham side. That's what 16 million quid buys, and what a difference it makes to our performances. Over the season, we've won one league game without our number 10 (against a bunch of talent-less wasters from down the road) and struggled to even threaten the opposition's goal. With him, we're a match for anyone, and provide a constant goal scoring threat.

On Saturday, we once again proved this point, taking the lead in the first five minutes, when Shearer flicked on a long clearance from Given, and Owen was able to knock the ball past the advancing Roy Carroll in the West Ham goal. In truth it was the home side that had started the brighter, without properly threatening Shay Given's goal, and it was no surprise that despite our early goal they came back at us strongly.

From one such foray up the field they were able to whip in a cross from the right, and maintaining his alarming trend of attempting to undermine our season from within, Titus belted the ball straight at Nobby, who could do nothing but raise his hands in helplessness as the ball cannoned off his shins and into the net.

Titus further enhanced his reputation as our own silent assassin by promptly clattering into Yossi Benayoun as he headed goalwards, although thankfully referee Phil Dowd waved away the home fans shouts for a penalty.

With the first half drawing to a close, West Ham conceded a foul on the left of their penalty area, and Nobby was presented with an excellent opportunity to atone for his earlier own goal. Firing over an excellent cross he picked out Owen, who, through a combination of ear and shoulder, got enough on the ball to take us back into the lead.

The second half carried on much as the first, and it was always going to be crucial for us to score again to prevent West Ham launching another come back. Combining well, Solano fed Owen, who laid the ball off for Shearer to fire goal number 199 for Newcastle, and with it provide us with a two goal cushion with which to see out the remainder of the match.

Unfortunately, Shola had other ideas, and promptly conceded one of the most pointless penalties of recent times by handling the ball when there was absolutely no need whatsoever (think JJ at Highbury a couple of years ago). Despite only taking three steps, Marlon Harewood was still able to fire the ball past Shay Given, and give the home side hope of snatching at least a point from a game which we should have been looking to simply close out.

An Owen header which Roy Carroll managed to save looked to have been the end of our goal scoring chances, as West Ham pushed more and more people forward to attack corners looking for an equaliser.

Then with time ticking down, we were able to break forward, and with Faye bursting down the right, his cut back gave Owen one of the easiest finishes of his career with Roy Carroll still not back in position after a foray forward left waiving his arm for an offside that wasn't, and crowning Owen's first hat trick for Newcastle.

Credit again to Scott Parker, who enjoyed a storming game in front of Sven, the only note of sadness being his fifth booking of the season which rules him out of our trip to Anfield on Boxing Day. However, with the re-emergence of Faye as a capable footballer, Owen going back to his former club doubtless keen to show them what they missed out on in the summer, and the inevitable jet lag which will accompany their fruitless trip to Yokahama this weekend we can go in with a degree of optimism, conscious of the fact that a few more decent results will really see us climb the table. Chelsea may be out of sight, but the rest remain eminently catchable, and a few more results like this will leave as a season to remember rather than last year's one to forget.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Monday, December 12, 2005

The IUFGN Top 20 Players In The World Today

A little while back Simon of It's Up For Grabs Now asked a number of football bloggers - including Pete of Round & White and the chaps at Cheer Up Alan Shearer as well as ourselves - to list the top ten players in world football. Well, we did - and the results are now up on the site. No prizes for guessing who everyone voted for as #1. It wasn't Nyron Nosworthy, though.

(I can't seem to link directly to it, so you'll have to scroll down a bit.)

Nob does the job*

Newcastle 1 - 0 Arsenal

Now THAT's more like it.

Not so much the first half, admittedly, but the second was something to behold.

Despite Arsenal's surprisingly poor away record coming into Saturday's game - just one win and five points all season - few of us expected it to be an ultimately enjoyable evening. But with Newcastle Utd things rarely turn out the way you expect them to.

Owen returned up front in place of Chopra, but his reappearance went unnoticed for the entire first period. Our excursions into the Gunners' half could be counted on one finger, such was our dearth of attacking ambition.

In fairness, though, our midfield were preoccupied in putting out fires closer to home as Arsenal pressed almost relentlessly. That they only seriously threatened our goal on a couple of occasions was an indication not only of their lack of ruthlessness but also of our defensive fortitude, Boumsong in particular playing better than he has done for months.

Given pulled off a marvellous lightning save to deny Thierry Henry, who had skipped onto a Cesc Fabregas cross and looked odds-on to score with a fierce close-range volley. Henry then fluffed a great chance following good play by Freddie Ljungberg - his va-va-voom obviously left at home in the garage, and not for the first time against us.

Whether or not it was Souness's doing, the team emerged for the second half re-energised and with a renewed self-belief. Owen was immediately into the action, forcing Sol Campbell to make a vital interception, before both Parker and Shearer went agonisingly close.

If the first period had proved something of a Saturday evening stroll for the Gunners, the second was a different story, as we set out to knock them out of their stride - often literally. It was physical and it was bruising, as exemplified by the muscular law-stretching challenges of Shearer and Faye, who, in his endeavour and effort, continued his redemption.

In the context, the red card for two bookable offences shown to the Brazilian Gilberto was harsh - but then the second challenge (on Boumsong) was rather foolish, and Wenger, whose post-match bleatings underlined that they're particularly sore losers, conveniently ignored the fact that the unjust dismissal of Jermaine Jenas in the reverse fixture in August cost us a richly deserved point.

We already had the game by the scruff of the neck, thanks in the main to Parker whose outstandingly committed and hard-working display was sadly curtailed by injury following a pair of bruising collisions. It was just desserts when, in the 82nd minute, Shearer - who had earlier escaped a booking for a very late challenge on Campbell - held off a pack of defenders before playing the ball wide for Solano. Nobby, sufficiently far from the madding crowd to keep his head and pick his spot, drove the ball clinically past Jens Lehmann. Barely two minutes earlier I had turned to my companion and complained about Nobby having done nothing since his return from Villa. Perhaps the Peruvian heard my mutterings and set about setting things right. If you're listening, Nobby - nice one.

There were still a few minutes of normal time and five minutes of added time (mainly due to Parker's injury) to be negotiated, but we got through it without any scares, and Owen came close with practically the only sniff of goal he had all game.

The same grit and spirit will be needed to claim at least a point at West Ham. They may be smarting after the narrow defeat to Blackburn at the weekend, but they've already shown they have more than enough skill and determination to survive in the Premiership. Let's hope it's us edging closer to the 40 point mark come 5pm on Saturday.

* Well, it was either that, or "Nobby does the jobby", which I didn't think was appropriate...

An Arsenal fan's perspective: East Lower

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Apparently, Kieron Dyer has "felt a twinge" in his hamstring again, preventing him from returning against Arsenal on Saturday.

Now, the biggest shock for me is that Dyer was even considering the prospect of a return to first team action. Surely the chance to sit on his arse as another manager falls by the wayside has its appeal for Kieron. After all, he’s becoming something of a Nero like figure at St James' – fiddling (or more specifically feeling his hamstring) whilst Newcastle’s season burns.

The difference is that Nero only did this once…

Monday, December 05, 2005

Light relief

We may have been forced to witness some absolutely awful "football" over the last couple of weeks, but when you're having a shit time of it, it's always consoling to know that there's someone else having a shitter time, isn't it?

So spare a thought for the poor Mackems. Thirteen minutes away from a very creditable draw away at high-flying Spurs, only for Michael Carrick - a Geordie, as if you didn't know - to piss on their chips and consign them to yet another miserable defeat.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Right, now back to the glum expressions to which we're more accustomed at present...

Mags v Stags

Sunday's draw for the third round of the FA Cup (the only trophy we can still harbour even vague hopes of winning) saw us provided with an opportunity to entertain League 2 side Mansfield Town. Currently 21st in the old forth division, Mansfield have struggled this season averaging just over a point a game in the league so far. Theoretically, this should provide us with a fairly comfortable start to the campaign; however the inevitable replays of "that bloody goal", in the build up to third round day should hopefully force our lot to treat the game with the respect it requires and not to underestimate the opposition.

Few Heroes: Plenty of Villains

Newcastle Utd 1 - 1 Aston Villa

With the shambolic performances from this week's Carling Cup heaping pressure on both teams, Saturday's match was never likely to be a classic.

The loss of Emre and N'Zogbia to injury (the latter to a freak training ground injury to his hand) meant that Faye returned to midfield and Titus returned to the heart of defence, allowing Robbie Elliott to move to left back. With Souness finally accepting that Luque is currently off the pace, Ameobi came in on the left of midfield, and Chopra started up front with Shearer.

The game began scrappily, with both teams seemingly intent on wither scrapping it out in midfield, or launching aimless high balls forward - a tactic seemingly devoid of inspiration or prospect of success. Our most promising moments seemed to be down the left, where makeshift winger Shola seemed to be making some headway against Aaron Hughes, and it was Shola who had our first real chance, cutting in from our left before firing his shot wide of the far post.

Slowly we began to establish a degree of superiority, and force Villa to concede possession, with Parker, and the surprisingly effective Amady Faye winning the midfield battle against hacking mackem Gavin McCann. Forcing a corner, Solano's ball in was only cleared as far as Parker, whose well struck shot caught Liam Ridgewell on the upper arm, and unlike last week's trip to Everton, referee Alan Wiley awarded us a (perhaps slightly fortuitous) penalty. With Shearer's record from the spot against Thomas Sorensen not hugely encouraging, it was heartening to see Shearer move one goal closer to Milburn's record as he slammed the ball past the diving Villa keeper, who managed to get his fingers to the ball, but couldn't stop it hitting the back of the Leazes net, and the team and crowd breath a collective sigh of relief.

The rest of the half passed without major incident, and at half time Souness was probably thinking that if we could nick a second then the game would be safe, and in all likelihood it would be David O'Bleary clearing out his office on Monday morning.

Depressingly for those watching, the second half was packed full of the aimless high balls which had filled the first, and with Chopra incapable of anticipating where any of Shearer's knockdowns would go, the goal rarely looked forthcoming.

Then, a long ball from Given deceived the Villa defence in flight and Shearer was through, bursting onto the ball and rifling a first time shot goalwards. Unfortunately, his powerful shot bounced harmlessly off the cross bar, and left us still clinging to our fragile one goal lead.

As it turned out, there was only one piece of decent football in the whole of the second half, and it was the men in claret and blue who produced it. Good work by Gareth Barry on the Villa left appeared to flummox three of our players (presumably because they hadn't witnessed anything approaching skilful play during the preceding 70 minutes) and his ball found niggly weasel Lee Hendrie breaking down the wing. In acres of space, Hendrie's cut back found Gavin McCann leaving Shola ambling in his wake, and his low drive beat Given and hit the far corner of the net giving Villa the parity that their performance probably merited, and left Souness looking the manager most likely to be out of work before Christmas.

Even then, neither side really looked like breaking the deadlock until Villa played a hopeful looking through ball for Milan Baros to run on to. Heading away from goal the Villa striker never looked like he would be able to get the shot in, but presumably in an effort to either (a) get his manager the sack or (b) prove what a cretin he can be Titus Bramble launched himself full length for the ball, missed it by about three yards, and completely flattened the Villa striker. With 1 minute left of the 90, I can't imagine what thoughts ran through Souness' mind, but Villa were only a Gareth Barry penalty away from claiming all three points.

However, unlike the horrorshow that was last year's corresponding fixture, in which he scored twice from the spot, the Villa winger skied his penalty way over the bar, and with it brought down the curtain on a pretty grim afternoon's football.

Quite where this leaves us is anyone's guess. Whilst undoubtedly better than the shambolic disgrace that was the Wigan match, we still look woefully devoid of ideas. Why we persist in having Nobby cut inside is anyone's guess, but he's never in a position to cross a ball, and as a result Shearer is left trying to flick balls on. Without Owen alongside him, he simply has nobody capable of anticipating where the ball will go (with Chopra seemingly only capable of reacting to the flick on and consequently leaving himself too much to do against Premiership defenders), and as a result the likelihood of us opening up a team and scoring a goal looks beyond us.

However, I still maintain that there is no point sacking Souness for the sake of it. Without a top class replacement lined up, we will simply be shooting ourselves in the foot again, and will inevitably be left chasing mediocre managers (Steve Bruce, et al.) who probably won't fancy the challenge anyway. We'd be much better giving Souness the chance to field his first choice team (just one match free from injuries would be a start) than chopping and changing again with no plan or purpose. Whether he gets the opportunity to field his first choice team depends on two things: firstly them getting fit sooner rather than later, and secondly Fat Fred realising that sacking another manager isn't going to lead to a quick turn around. If Souness has to go, then let's get someone decent lined up for the summer (Martin O'Neill?) rather than whoever is willing to move now: after all that's what led us to employ Souness in the first place, and look where that's got us.

Special note of praise to Amady Faye, a player I admit to thinking of as being shit for much of this season, but who had a storming game and was robbed of the man of the match award by the myopic bastards who always pick Shearer. If he keeps playing like that I'll gladly alter my opinion permanently.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A new low

Wigan 1 - 0 Newcastle

This one's going to be short. Well, if they can't be bothered, then neither can I - the difference being that I'm not getting paid thousands of pounds a week to not be bothered.

In stark contrast to Sunday's game against Everton, and indeed our visit to the JJB Stadium earlier in the season, there was no sense of injustice at the scoreline whatsoever.

Not only were we outplayed and outfought by Wigan's reserve side, we were outclassed by them. Yes, that's right - outclassed. We may have been missing a few key players, but there was still over £40m worth of "talent" on display in green and black stripes.

Utterly, utterly pathetic.

A succinct end to an unusually succinct match report: Souness out.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Talking tactics

Leaving Ben to find words other than expletives to describe last night's debacle, I thought I'd highlight this article from the Mirror about Chelsea's assessment of our strengths and weaknesses prior to our latest stuffing at Stamford Bridge.

I can't argue with any of the comments (except maybe the criticism of Given), and it's interesting to note that N’Zogbia is one of only a small handful of our players to emerge with any credit. That he's probably one of the lowest paid members of our squad speaks volumes for the overpaid wasters in the team around him.

Anyone willing to take bets that we told our players nothing more than: "They're a bit tasty, but don't seem to like it up 'em"?