Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Taylor talks

"I went down back arched as if shot by a sniper because I heard the whistle and saw the ref running up. I was desperately trying to pretend the ball had hit me in the face but no deal. All I did was appear stupid. I was sitting alone in the dressing-room feeling totally gutted when the door banged open and in walked Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer. I thought one had got a red for a tackle and the other for dissent or something. I never guessed for one moment they had been fighting one another!"

Steven Taylor talks to the Chronicle about (amongst other things) last season's Villa disaster.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mickey takes the points

Newcastle 1 - 0 Man City

One man made all the difference against Man City at the weekend - and it wasn't Celestine Babayaro.

That's what £17m buys you - a matchwinning striker.

Michael Owen had previously scored several times at St James's for a variety of teams, but on Saturday he opened his account for the Toon, notching the only goal of a tight game.

Parker returned from suspension, thankfully replacing Faye rather than Clark (who must be pinching himself - from the scrapheap and the inevitable slide down the divisions to playing in a winning side with Owen and Shearer?!), and Bramble came in for the suspended Taylor in the centre of defence.

We could have been behind early on, Antoine Sibierski heading powerfully goalwards with Boumsong all at sea. Not for the first time this season Given came to the rescue, keeping the ball out with his leg.

The game's decisive moment came on 19 minutes. Shearer won a header, and when Bowyer slid the loose ball through to Owen he finished neatly with an instinctive toe-poke into the bottom left corner from just inside the box.

Owen had an excellent first half, but unfortunately his finishing wasn't quite as clinical when the opportunities came his way. Put clear again, he was unable to beat David James, and later volleyed just over from an awkward angle.

We might have come to rue those missed chances in the second half, had City had more belief about themselves - that seems to have drained away with the undeserved defeat by Bolton and the embarrassing cup exit at the hands of Doncaster. As it was, they put our fragile defence under a degree of pressure without really threatening too much. Richard Dunne headed over when he should have done better, while teenage substitute Stephen Ireland put the ball in the net but only after Joey Barton had been correctly flagged offside.

As if to illustrate that he's about more than just selfish striking instincts, Owen did brilliantly to create a great goalscoring opportunity for Ameobi, but with the last kick of the game the substitute put it past the post.

Not a particularly convincing second half display, but it'll do. Back-to-back wins (and clean sheets to boot) saw us rise to the heady heights of 11th, with the Mackems' unexpected victory over Boro yesterday lifting us up another place into the top half of the table, above the Smoggies on goal difference.

Before kick-off last Sunday we were languishing in 19th. A week certainly is a long time in football. Whether it's long enough for us to get Dyer, Emre and Solano fit for next Saturday's trip to Fratton Park is another matter, though.

A Man City fan's perspective: Bitter And Blue

Other reports: BBC, Observer

(Incidentally, compare the Observer report to this one from the Guardian - Michael Walker really has got it in for us, hasn't he? Time to get the blinkers off, Mike - we actually played quite well on Saturday, for a change.)

They're breeding...

Ahoy there! What's that on the horizon? Razz's Toon Rants, another blog focusing on the institution / circus that is Newcastle Utd.

Razz might not have been too enthusiastic about the prospect of signing Michael Owen, but I think he's coming around now...

Quote of the day

"To work with the Beckhams and Rauls of this world is unbelievable. The fact they're taking instructions from me on how to play passes is ridiculous, I have to pinch myself. But while you're doing it, you have to look authoritative".

Ex Southend and Brentford striker Andy Ansah talks about his role working on 'Goal!' to ensure the realism of the football scenes. I remember seeing him play for Southend at St James's once - utterly, utterly useless. As the article concludes: "Truly, this is fantasy football".

'Goal!' opens nationwide on Friday.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Instant karma?


Thursday's smirking post about Spurs and Man City being dumped out of the League Cup by lower league opposition could well come back to bite me in the arse now that the inevitable has happened and we've been drawn away to Spurs' conquerors Grimsby in the Third Round of the competition.

Of course we'll fully expect to put the Mariners firmly in their place, but what will be needed is professionalism rather than complacency - not exactly a given when you take into consideration our recent history and the squad of players we've got.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Match preview

Danny of Man City blog Bitter And Blue kindly invited me to write a preview of City's clash with the Toon tomorrow - click here to read it.

May the best team win...

It won't be alright on the night

After over a year of waiting around due to injury, Jonathan Woodgate finally got the chance to make his competitive debut for Real Madrid and shore up their porous defence against Athletico Bilbao.

Well, that was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was that he put through his own net with a flying header before getting sent off for a second bookable offence.

"Inauspicious" is the word you're looking for, Jonathan. At least Real won, though.

In the long term I sincerely hope that Woody does well in Spain - ridiculously injury-prone he may be, but when fit he was without doubt the finest defender I've ever seen in a black and white shirt, throwing into sharp relief the crapness of those around him. How we could do with him - injury-free of course - right now.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The waiting game

So, It seems as though we might well have to wait another week to see Nobby Solano return to action in the black and white stripes. He's said he wants to make sure he's 100% fit before making an appearance - and given the Man Utd match, when Dyer and Emre were both rushed back from injury and both broke down and had to be replaced in the first half, that makes a lot of sense.

I was dreaming about a midfield of Solano, Parker, Bowyer and N'Zogbia for the visit of Man City on Saturday, though. Shame - looks like we'll have to make do with Faye once more. Hardly the sort of player to strike fear into the heart of Joey Barton, I imagine.

On a brighter note, Parker's return to the side is all but guaranteed (unlike the rest of our first choice midfield, he was merely suspended rather than injured), and Owen will have got another week of training under his belt. Time to open his St James's Park account? Actually, Shearer's rather fond of Saturday's opposition - before the strike against Blackburn on Sunday, his last Premiership goal had come away to City in February, and a couple of seasons back he scored in all of ten seconds against them at home.

Mixed reactions

Like many a Newcastle fan, I imagine, I greeted the news that near full strength Spurs and Man City sides had been unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup by Grimsby and Doncaster respectively with a mixture of reactions.

On the one hand, Schadenfreude. Spurs had no fewer than FIVE English internationals on the pitch, one of whom was our dearly departed headless chicken JJ. A rather inauspicious start to your Spurs career, eh?

On the other, relief that we had sat the round out, and thereby avoided any danger of slumping to a similarly embarrassing defeat ourselves. Always good to see the big boys humbled by the minnows - unless, of course, that particular big boy happens to be us. And let's face it - it often is...

Anyway, congratulations to Grimsby and Doncaster. Let's just hope we don't draw either of you away in the next round.

Incidentally, what the City result means for Saturday's game is anyone's guess. A temporary aberration or the beginnings of a slide that'll mean they're ripe for a pasting at St James's? Judging by their performances this season so far, I'd imagine the former, but Doncaster's victory can only boost our confidence of notching back-to-back Premiership wins for the first time this season.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Three goals, three points, three cheers

Blackburn 0 - 3 Newcastle

When the other half of B&W&RAO emailed me on Friday to announce that he was off on holiday, I attributed his cheeriness at least in part to the thought that he'd be off enjoying himself while I was left to hold the fort and reflect on another dismal Toon performance.

Well, with that scoreline I just hope he stays away a bit longer than planned.

For much of the game a win of any sort looked unlikely, but second half goals from Shearer, Owen and N'Zogbia ultimately ensured our first three point haul of the season and allowed Souness to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Our beleaguered manager (NB it seems to be a legal requirement to describe Souness as such) opted to scrap last weekend's failed attempt to accommodate five defenders by playing Carr on the right side of midfield. Instead, Bramble dropped to the bench, Taylor and Carr played in their customary positions in the centre of defence and at right back respectively and last Saturday's goalscoring substitute N'Zogbia came into a midfield which picked itself due to the crippling injury list and Parker's suspension.

The first half was predictable enough. Blackburn gave us no time on the ball, Lucas Neill picking up a booking for a typically vicious two-footed lunge within the first two minutes. We had no coherence whatsoever in midfield, while in defence the players looked either jittery (Taylor, Boumsong) or dozy and staggeringly lackadaisical (Carr, Babayaro).

Mercifully Blackburn have, like ourselves, been firing blanks of late, and their new look attack of Toon old boy Craig Bellamy and on-loan David Bentley couldn't capitalise. Despite carrying greater threat going forwards, Given was only seriously extended by Robbie Savage's free-kick, though another dead-ball strike from winger Morten Gamst Pedersen caused a few hearts to flutter.

At the other end, despite the complete absence of anything remotely resembling quality service, Owen had a couple of sniffs of goal but dragged an early shot tamely across the face of goal and found himself crowded out on the other occasion.

It looked like more of the same in the second period, Blackburn fashioning a chance for Steven Reid barely a minute into the half thanks to some characteristic sloppiness from Babayaro.

But then, just after the hour mark, came a ray of hope. Neill climbed all over Owen on the edge of the Blackburn area, and Clark rolled the resulting free-kick to Shearer who blasted into the bottom corner through a scrum of legs to end his seven month long Premiership goal drought. If it is to be the last time he plays at his old stomping ground, it was quite a goal to sign off with.

I fully expected us to sit back and invite them to equalise and for them to accept the invitation. But we were playing with a spring in our collective step, even Faye, and when N'Zogbia turned his marker and flighted a perfect right-footed cross into the six yard area Owen leapt to head past Friedel at his near post and send the fans wild. The vocal support had been outstanding throughout, but now they really had something to cheer - Owen's first strike for the club. Hopefully the first of many...

It wasn't all plain sailing after that. Taylor, already booked for a foul on Bellamy, was red-carded for tugging the Welshman back. A typically harsh decision from referee Mike Riley, who had been fussy to the point of absurdity all afternoon. We replaced Shearer with Bramble, and Mark Hughes responded by throwing on another striker.

But in their eagerness to get back into the game, Blackburn left the back door wide open and from Babayaro's well-judged pass (a last-ditch saving tackle aside, the only decent thing he did all game) N'Zogbia showed a lovely touch of skill to fox Friedel and wrap the game up. No more than his performance deserved, and the young Frenchman is now our leading goalscorer.

The goal pulled the plug on the home crowd, but as they drained out of the stands N'Zogbia was called upon to knock substitute Matt Jansen's header off the line to preserve our clean sheet and condemn Rovers to a fourth consecutive scoreless outing.

The emphatic scoreline shouldn't disguise quite how shit we were for the first hour - a better more incisive team than Blackburn would have seen we were there for the taking and had the job done long before Shearer's strike. But the points were ours, and perhaps just about deservedly so. Of course, part of the satisfaction comes from knowing that - for once - we avoided following the obvious script that dictated that Bellamy would get the manager who gave him the boot the sack.

Forget Arsenal, West Ham, Bolton, Man Utd and Fulham. The season starts here.

A Blackburn fan's perspective: A Town Called Malice

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Top Gera

A sigh of relief and a round of applause for West Brom's Zoltan Gera, whose injury-time goal keeps the Mackems bottom of the table and extends their hilariously long run without a Premiership win. Without Gera's headed equaliser, they would have sent us bottom - and how the Great Unwashed would have loved that. So thanks to Gera for urinating all over their chips. Unlucky lads.

Of course, the fact that we could have found ourselves at the foot of the table just brings home the need for at least a point from tomorrow's game at Ewood Park.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Quote of the day

"I shook her hand and I was just looking at her tits".

Michael Owen overheard talking to Alan Shearer shortly after meeting Anna Friel at last night's premiere of 'Goal!', according to that bastion of journalistic integrity The Sun. Nice to see his clean-as-a-whistle family man image has already bitten the dust within three weeks of his arrival on Tyneside. He'll fit right in.

Fat Fred obviously seems to be pinning his hopes on the success of the film and the subsequent global exposure that'll give the club. All fine and well, but I'm still concerned it'll make us look even more ridiculous than we already do. Time to start getting things right on the pitch in reality rather than in fiction, eh lads?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The bare bones

And there I was, relieved that Nobby's suspension had been served in time for him to make his second Toon debut against Blackburn on Sunday. For Shearer and Owen to pull the trigger they need to be handed the gun, and Solano was just the man for the job. Hoorah!

Except he's only gone and declared himself unfit to play.

Not exactly the news we wanted on a day that Scott Parker decided an appeal against Saturday's red card would be in vain. Joining Nobby and Parker on the sidelines will be the creative trio of Emre, Dyer and Luque (who's hoping to return to first team action ahead of schedule). That's basically our entire first choice midfield.

Souness will have to pick four from Bowyer, N'Zogbia, Faye, Clark and Brittain - unless he again experiments (unwisely) with Carr on the right hand side. Why is it that all our talented players get hamstring injuries and yet that useless fucker Faye is always fit?

Up front we're hardly blessed with a wealth of options either. There's a chance that Chopra and Ameobi might have recovered from their respective injuries sufficiently to make the bench, but if they don't - to be honest, even if they do - we'll have to pray nothing happens to Shearer and Owen.

And with Lucas Neill and Robbie Savage likely to be lining up against them, that seems as unlikely as the Mackems picking up a point this season.

The XI That Evolution Forgot

An idea inspired by Swiss Toni's mention of ex Wolves defender John de Wolf in the comments to this post on Cheer Up Alan Shearer: The XI That Evolution Forgot.

CUAS writers and readers have suggested several players for the side, so thus far we have:

John de Wolf
Brian Kilcline
Chris Whyte
Martin Keown
Iain Dowie
Peter Beardsley
Peter Reid
Diego Simeone
Terry Hurlock

By my reckoning, that makes four defenders (all centrebacks, but they'll do), three midfielders and two strikers (if you take Beardsley as a striker). Any suggestions for a keeper and another midfielder? For the former I'd be inclined to go with Steve Ogrizovic.

Perhaps something along these lines could become a regular feature...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A new leaf?

Not so much no more Mr Nice Guy, as Mr Nice Guy for the first time methinks...

From Toon fan Mosher's blog:

"Kieron Dyer has had some shitty press the last few years (yob, bling-merchant, uncontrollable, driving Porsches into bridges and the like), but I heard a very different tale last week. Now, whether this nice stuff is never reported, whether he's turned over a new leaf or whether this was a one-off I don't know. What I can say is that it is utterly true.

Some work colleagues of a friend of mine took their son to a Japanese restaurant in Newcastle as a celebration a couple of weeks ago. He'd passed all 10 GCSEs with good grades. During the meal, Kieron Dyer and some friends came in and sat down to eat. One of the ladies with the kids approached him after a while and very politely asked if he would be kind enough to say something to the lads at the dinner table if he had the time.

Kieron couldn't have been nicer. After his meal, he spent a good 30 minutes with the kid and his friends. He posed for photos, answered questions, joked with them - the ideal ambassador. After a final shake of hands, he and his friends departed.

The two ladies then started arguing over the bill (which was about £60). Who'd had what, how to split it and so forth. They finally sorted the argument out, only to find that Dyer had paid for it on his way out.

Now... how come stories like that never make it into the papers?

Only too happy to redress the balance by publicising this wholesome tale and showing that there's a genuine caring side to some of our playing staff. And, to think, I could have sworn I read on here recently that Newcastle players are in general terrible role models and despicable human beings...

Actually, thinking about it, £60 is 0.075% of the Little Waster's weekly wage. Generosity's easy when you're creaming in over £4m a year, eh? Still, I suppose he didn't have to make the gesture.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New star fails to lift gloom

Newcastle 1 – 1 Fulham

With the eyes of the footballing world watching, and a capacity crowd hoping for great things, it was perhaps inevitable that Michael Owen's debut would prove to be something of a damp squib.

Lining up with a slightly disrupted side, with the midfield hampered by injuries and suspensions, we started with Steven Taylor moved to right back to accommodate the return of Titus Bramble, and Steven Carr featuring on the right wing of a midfield that also boasted Albert Luque, Scott Parker and Amady Faye (as the programme now spells his name).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the players looked uncomfortable from the start. Taylor looked out of place at right back, and Carr didn't seem to know what to do on the right of midfield. The biggest disappointment of the first half though was Faye, who looked incapable of passing wind or water let alone a football. His tackling was non-existent, and he contributed nothing of use to the cause, allowing Fulham far too much time and space in midfield.

Luque showed signs of promise down the left, although he was perhaps guilty of hogging the ball a bit too much at times he was at least prepared to take on his man, and the Luque nutmeg looks set to feature heavily this season. Or it did, until he crumbled in a heap, writhing in agony as his hamstring had gone with ten minutes to go before half time.

By that stage, we were already chasing the game, as a terrible backpass from the out-of-sorts Taylor fell to Fulham, who were able to calmly pass the ball across the box, past Boumsong, who slipped on the damp turf, and allowed Brian McBride the simplest of tap-ins.

On an attacking front, we lacked the creativity in midfield to really threaten the visitors; with a Shearer shot wide of the far post our only chance from open play. From set pieces we seemed incapable of getting a clear chance, and when the ball fell invitingly to Owen at the far post following one of Luque's better balls in, he was unable to control it, and it bounced harmlessly out for a goal kick. It's worth remembering that this was only Owen's second competitive game of the season, and it seems likely that with more games under his belt it could have been an even simpler finish than that enjoyed by McBride.

The second half saw the introduction of Bowyer for Steven Taylor, who had collided with the post just before half time, and with N'Zogbia having replaced the hamstrung Luque before the break, the team lined up with a revamped midfield for the second half.

Thankfully, Bowyer's dynamism galvanised his colleagues, and with Faye enjoying a marginally better second half we started to apply some pressure to the visitors defence. The service up front improved notably, and Owen was able to latch onto balls, and start to run at the defenders, winning free kicks as they lunged in.

From one such free kick, Stephen Carr blasted the ball against the cross bar, but it bounced harmlessly away. Then with less than quarter of an hour remaining, Souness finally acknowledged what we'd all witnessed with our own eyes, and replaced the quite frankly rubbish Faye with Lee Clark, who received a warm reception from both sets of fans.

Then minutes later, Owen picked up the ball on the right, and slalomed past several defenders before being felled just on the right corner of the Gallowgate penalty area. Up stepped N'Zogbia to curl a magnificent effort into the top corner and score our belated first goal of the season.

Belief now poured through the stadium on to the pitch, and Newcastle pressed hard for a winner. Unfortunately, they started to leave gaps at the back, and Fulham were able to attack on the break. With Scott Parker chasing hard on the heels of Claus Jensen the Fulham man fell to earth as if shot by the same sniper who'd had a pop at Steven Taylor at home to Villa last season, and crap ref Alan Wiley did the only thing he'd been capable of all afternoon and reached for his pocket to show Parker his second yellow card of the day and scupper any chance we had of getting a winner.

Fortunately we managed to hold out for the draw, but what had promised at one stage (before 3pm) to be a rousing debut for Michael Owen ended with a slightly streaky home draw with Fulham.

Undoubtedly, the game featured moments of real promise, and the sight of Owen running at goal in a black and white shirt promises to be a beautiful one for the months ahead. However, unless we can get some of our midfielders back fit and playing, we'll struggle to provide him and Shearer (who looks increasingly like this might be a season too far) with any sort of service, and as a result we'll fail to score sufficient goals to get the top 6 finish that Fat Fred couldn't resist mentioning when asked by the media last week.

Unfortunately for Souness, the pressure continues to grow, although there didn't seem to be any takers in the home stand when the Fulham fans started chanting "Souness Out". For the time being he looks to have our support, but unless results start to follow it could be a long hard slog for the manager, followed by a short sharp shove out the door from Fat Fred.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

You won't find any considered opinion on last night's miserable England display here - like the players, I can't be bothered. If that's what you're after, head over to Cheer Up Alan Shearer or Round And White. Or, for a Northern Irish perspective, A Wee Spot In Europe.

What I will comment on, though, is Michael Owen's display. He failed to take two presentable opportunities, one an overhead kick and one a header, but the service to him was absolutely terrible (Lampard and Gerrard particularly culpable) to the extent that he hardly saw the ball.

I had foreseen many scenarios, most of them involving Owen starting but getting crocked for the season by ex Toon defender and Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes. Thankfully from a Newcastle perspective he emerged unscathed with a full 90 minutes under his belt. However, one scenario I hadn't predicted was that England would fail to score. It won't be much fun for Owen to have to go from the shambles of last night straight into the cauldron of St James's Park, where drawing a blank has almost become a depressing inevitability. Of course we expect goals from other sources, but against Fulham on Saturday all eyes and hopes will be on Owen. Can he handle the pressure?

Quote of the day

"Another thing about our Peruvian friend is that he has a tendency to play the trumpet - he doesn't play it very well, but he is certainly happy for people to hear him. Nobby used to treat us to his music in the dressing room - it did produce some interesting reactions".

Alan Shearer, writing in his regular column for the BBC, welcomes the return of the Phantom Trumpeter Nolberto Solano. What Shearer doesn't mention is that Nobby's also very fond of leaving team-mates answerphone messages that consist entirely of trumpet-playing.

Eat up

New to the B&W&RAO menu: Big Macc, a blog dedicated to Macclesfield Town that's tastier and more nutritious than the lardy synthetic junk food after which it's named.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Our survey said...

We've been asked to publicise this survey aimed at football fans of all colours. Respondents are asked for their views on a range of issues concerning their team including stadium facilities, management, on-pitch performance and the cost of being a fan.

So, why not take the opportunity to tell your club (and others) what you think, and there's the added incentive of the chance of winning one of five replica shirts or computer games.

When the results are revealed, I'll post the views of Newcastle fans and compare them to those of other Premiership teams. Incidentally, I think you can guess my response to the "Do you think your club's players are good role models?" question...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Last of the summer whine

It seems that not everyone was so thrilled as us at our capture of St Michael:

"In attempting to sign Michael Owen, Moyes showed commendable ambition and spirit. It was sad that the player didn’t want to come, and I wonder if the astronomical wages he will pick up on his short stay in Newcastle are a consolation for European football on offer at Goodison Park? His press conference at Newcastle told enough about that decision. Faced with nowhere else to go, and offered even more money than he was on as a bench warmer at Madrid, Owen spewed out the usual platitudes, then signed his contract which, rumour has it, contains an escape clause if someone bids £12 million, some £4 million LESS than the Magpies signed him for. I hope that’s true. I despise that 'giant' of a football club with a passion. Who can remember the North East giants, with one club in the city attracting less than 9,000 in Division 2 when they were this close to being relegated under the astute tactical genius that is Ossie Ardilles" [sic] ?".

Anyone catch that unmistakeable whiff of sour grapes? Unsurprising, I guess, when even with the attraction of Champions' League European football the mighty Everton have been pipped by us in the transfer market on no fewer than three occasions this summer. Of course, our ability to offer more appealing wage packets and stump up bigger transfer fees has been a factor in the capture of Owen, Parker and Emre - but we're also able to match their ambitions, something Everton couldn't do. "Moyes showed commendable ambition and spirit"? Laughable optimism, more like.

Incidentally this is the Toffees' first European adventure for years, during which time we've routinely qualified for Europe. One swallow does not a summer make. Delusions of grandeur perchance? In any case, that "adventure" is likely to amount to little more than a couple of away days when Dinamo Bucharest finish the job Villareal started and deposit Moyes's thuggish cloggers on their overachieving backsides with nothing to look forward to except living in Liverpool's shadow for another season.

And as for the "less than 9,000" comment - as with everything else, may we kindly recommend that you reconcile yourself with facts and reality? Thank you.


I've been turning out for the opposition this weekend, putting together the first piece in a new series on the excellent Cheer Up Alan Shearer entitled My Favourite Footballer Ever Is... My subject? Mr Shearer himself, of course.

Thanks to Lord Bargain, Swiss Toni and Flash for inviting me to contribute.

A new passion and a new home

Increasingly disillusioned with the Premiership, Manchester-based Toon fan Jonathan has developed a passion for the wholesome delights and disappointments of lower league football, even going so far as to travel the breadth of the country to watch his adopted team Stockport County contrive to "snatch a draw from the jaws of certain victory" at Boston. His two-part report on the trip can be found here and here, and it's marvellous stuff. If you're a fan of Hobo Tread, you'll love it. And if you're not, why not?!

From new passions to a new home. Bank Holiday Monday saw Coventry fan Dr Migs pay his first visit to the Ricoh Arena: "Despite a building site feel to the surroundings, the important things, i.e. the view, the seats and the atmosphere, are excellent. The acoustics made a wonderfully reverberant sound that vibrated your chest during the songs and chants. I also got to touch the brick with my name on it in the Arena's wall. Cue new lucky pre-match ritual". It wasn't all good though...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Post transfer deadline signings

New additions to the B&W&RAO squad (or blogroll, as it's more often called):

A Town Called Malice (Blackburn)
The Shelf (Spurs)
United Rant (Man Utd)

Go see.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A winger and a prayer

After the signing of Michael Owen, a less trumpeted arrival. Or should that be more trumpeted?

The frantic final day of transfer activity concluded with "everyone's favourite Peruvian trumpeter" Nobby Solano rejoining the club from Aston Villa. We've reimbursed Villa the £1.5m they paid for Solano in January last year, and kindly allowed them to take James Milner on loan for the season - though if they're hoping for him to produce crosses of the same order as Nobby they're going to be in for a nasty surprise...

The deal might make us look rather foolish - after all, it's essentially an admission that we made a mistake in letting Solano go. But that's just what it was - a horrible mistake, possibly Sir Bobby's worst decision whilst at the helm. We had no-one lined up to replace him and we got just £1.5m in return.

Personally I'm delighted we've swallowed our pride and got him back, albeit now the wrong side of 30. He enjoyed a good season last year, ending up as Villa's top marksman (not that great an achievement in a shot-shy side, admittedly), but what matters the most is that we now have a pair of wingers (with Luque on the left flank) capable of supplying Messrs Shearer and Owen with the ammunition they need to put teams to the sword. Souness said last year that playing with wingers is old-fashioned - is the move an admission of error on his part too, perchance?

As for Nobby himself, in the words of David O'Blarney: "He sees what Newcastle are doing with Michael Owen and the size of the club and he wants to be a part of that. He says he wants to go to a 'bigger' club" (you can leave out the inverted commas there, Dave). He never wanted to leave in the first place and so must be delighted to renew acquaintance with some familiar faces. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off, creating and scoring goals - once he's served the remainder of his ban for elbowing Portsmouth's Richard Hughes while still clad in the claret and blue of the Villains, that is.