Tuesday, May 16, 2006

View From The Away End

In the interests of objectivity, we asked Pete of Round And White and Lord Bargain of Cheer Up Alan Shearer for their views on the season just gone and the summer ahead. (NB These pieces were also written before Roeder's appointment was confirmed and before Given signed on the dotted line.)

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Pete: "I should be a betting man given what I said back in August.

'It's not an ideal start to the season really. Sixth or seventh and a good cup run is the best I can foresee, which is unlikely to keep Souness his job, but frankly that's a good thing'.

Newcastle's season was simply about the two Gs: Graeme and Glenn. Under Graeme, they looked a miserable team, frequently lacking in inspiration and morale, while under Glenn they won 10 of their 16 Premiership and cup matches, which frankly speaks for itself. Exactly why there was such a turnaround in fortunes is beyond me, but I think it was something to do with the new manager not being Graeme Souness and playing Jean-Alain Boumsong less often.

So what's next? With Emre back from injury and Nobby settled in again, the creativity has seemingly returned to the midfield, so Glenn's summer shopping list will probably focus on a replacement for Super Al, although quite how you replace your top goalscorer of the last decade is definitely a head-scratcher.

Fingers crossed, Shay and Michael will stay, although I can't see Mickey leaving as what club would wish to spend so much for such an injury-prone player (apart from Newcastle that is)? The odd defender would be a good idea too. While Titus 'Volley King' Bramble has raised his game under Glenn, finishing in the top five on a regular basis will require more than just repeatedly relying on Shay to cover
defensive frailties.

I'm curious to see how well Glenn does next season. I never really rated him when he was at West Ham, so it'll be interesting to see who he signs over the summer and if the club continues to progress in 2006/2007 in the same fashion as it has over the last few months

Lord Bargain: "Most managers keep a team pretty much where they are expected to be. Their players perform as expected, the results they obtain are as predicted. Some managers help a team outperform. These individuals either have tactical or motivational skills that lead them to produce a side which is more than the sum of its individual parts. Think Adie Boothroyd at Watford, Phil Parkinson at Colchester - even someone like Paul Jewell at Wigan.

And then there are the managers that, for whatever reason, end up in a position where they are having a negative impact on a side. Gary Megson at Forest is a great example of this, as is Graeme Souness at Newcastle.

The second he had gone, the team started to perform again. But here is the key point. I don't think that makes Glenn Roeder a genius manager - I think Newcastle are currently performing at that 'equilibrium' level - it is just a significant improvement on the displays under Souness.

Football fans and chairmen are fickle. Go back in a time machine eighteen months and tell your mates that Peter Crouch will be leading England's assault on the World Cup and that Newcastle will be fighting the Premier League to appoint Glenn Roeder as their manager. How hard, exactly, do you anticipate they are laughing at you?

It's been a funny season for Newcastle. Bumbling around the bottom third of the league under Souness and then ending in a creditable seventh place seems like success, although would Newcastle fans have taken seventh in August? I'm not sure.

I still think Newcastle need an experienced (if not necessarily big name) manager to take them forward. Whilst Glenn has stabilised the club, I'm not, sure he is the long term answer. I still think they would progress better under the stewardship of an experienced man like O'Neill, Curbishley or even Allardyce (although I appreciate the argument that the fans wouldn't like the style of play.) I also think that with a crocked Owen that they are in desperate need of a 15-goal-a-season striker. I'm not sure Luque, Ameobi or Chopra is that man. A horse-like Dutchman is surely not daft enough to make that move, is he?

I do think that the club has slipped far enough behind others that they will struggle to better seventh place next season. The 'big 4' are streets ahead, and Spurs have probably overtaken the Toon this year also. Bear in mind that a bit of investment could revitalise sides like Everton or Villa, and that if Bolton and Blackburn spend a few bob then they could push on also, whoever gets the job will have the same uphill task in terms of silverware as their many predecessors".

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Thanks to Lord Bargain and Pete for their thoughts.


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