Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Foresight and sore eyes

At times, I wonder whether our luck might change, and then Newcastle find another way to hamper their chances to turn a situation around.

Not only has Kieron Dyer suffered an eye injury caused by his running into a training pole, ruling him out for another two weeks, but it has also come to light that Shola Ameobi has probably kicked his last ball this season, following the news that he is due to have surgery on his troublesome hip.

Those of you with long memories will recall that Shola has been suffering from a hip problem for several seasons now, and throughout that time some bright spark has maintained that he'd manage without the operation and an injection would do. Apparently, that is no longer the case, and Shola joins Michael Owen on the long-term sick list.

Surely it doesn't take a genius to realise that he should have had the operation years ago, rather than wit until now. Unfortunately, we don't seem to employ anyone with that degree of foresight.


Newcastle Utd 0 - 0 Charlton Athletic

Broadly speaking I'm an optimist, and despite years of evidence to the contrary, and countless heartbreaks along the way, my support for Newcastle tends to focus on the positives.

So for the purposes of this report, I shall not be mentioning the fact we are now 17th in the table, that we've scored a paltry seven goals so far this season, that our form is absolutely shocking, and despite dominating a Charlton side propping up the table, we still couldn't score the single goal which would have won this game.

Instead, I shall talk about how we dominated a game, creating several excellent chances (the majority of which fell to makeshift forward Damien Duff), hit the woodwork (courtesy of Giuseppe Rossi), and kept a clean sheet (despite the inevitable loss of concentration by Titus Bramble). It was heartening to see Nobby Solano enjoy a good game down the right, and for both Butt and Parker to look solid in midfield (in Parker's case despite an early knock).

As has been the story of our season so far, if we'd had a strike force on form, we'd have romped away with this game, and have had it all sown up before half time. However, we are currently struggling to even have a strike force (let alone one in form) and as a result we simply aren't scoring the goals to put teams away, which is why we find ourselves at the wrong end of the table. It says something for Albert Luque that Roeder prefers Duff up front, and refuses to bring the Spaniard on despite the Irishman's poor form in front of goal.

As it was, the Irishman managed to find his way into several decent positions, and also might have won a penalty, only to miss out due to a combination of poor finishing and some last ditch defending by a Charlton side who scrapped and scrabbled in defence.

With Rossi ineligible on Thursday, and with Martins joining Ameobi on the sidelines, it may be that the Spaniard gets a chance in the UEFA Cup, but even if he does get a game, I don't hold out much hope that he'll bust a gut to add to his meagre goals tally for the club. The problem is that unless someone finds some form in front of goal, things might start looking really bleak (even through my black and white tinted spectacles.)

Charlton fans' views: All Quiet In The East Stand, Addick's Premiership Diary

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Friday, October 27, 2006

The money pit

It's been revealed today that last year we made a loss of £12m, having actually made a (relatively) small profit the previous year. Not entirely unexpected, given the substantial outlay for Michael Owen, Albert Luque, Scott Parker, Emre and Nobby Solano and the subsequent early exit from Europe at the hands of Deportivo La Coruna.

Fat Fred has come out with the usual platitudes and guff, euphemistically labelling the season one of "transition" and commenting: "The board believe that the investment it has made in all areas of the club will deliver long-term benefits and will continue to take every step necessary to maximise potential for success both on and off the pitch". Long-term foresight is complete anathema at St James' Park, so forgive us if we'll reserve judgement on that score.

Shepherd has also put a brave face on this season so far, pointing to our qualification for the group stage of the UEFA Cup as a moneyspinner. Well, yes, it is - and that's pretty much all it is. And even then surely he's concerned about the size of the crowd that turned up for the Fenerbahce match - will the fixture against Celta Vigo draw more fans? It seems it's even more imperative now that this disturbing drop in attendances is arrested, and fast - otherwise we could be staring at real trouble.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Past imperfect - present less so?

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Portsmouth

Well, that was a bit of a turn-up for the books - Newcastle comprehensively beating a high-flying Pompey team stuffed full of old boys to march into the last sixteen of the League Cup and an away tie against Watford.

Glenn Roeder opted to make several alterations to the side that lost at Middlesbrough. Steven Taylor started at right back with Craig Moore and Titus Bramble in the middle and the returning Celestine Babayaro at left back. In Emre's absence Charles N'Zogbia started in the middle, with Nobby Solano and James Milner on the flanks. Giuseppe Rossi was the beneficiary of Antoine Sibierski's injury and Shola Ameobi's shortage of fitness, pairing up with Obafemi Martins for the first time.

The most significant change probably came in the Portsmouth ranks, though. Rather than facing Sol Campbell, who has rediscovered his best form this season and contributed to numerous shut-outs, our forwards were faced with Andy O'Brien. And presumably rubbing their hands. Also returning to St James' were Lomano Lua Lua and Andy Cole. The headlines were there written and just waiting to be put on the page - but thankfully our back four held firm and we could breathe a huge sigh of relief with what was in the end a comfortable win.

Pompey started the better of the two teams, though, with Matt Taylor, Niko Krancjar and Sean Davis all trying their luck from distance on the skiddy surface. A sharper and more incisive side might have made us pay, but we survived and gradually came into the game, shading the last twenty minutes of the first half. Martins lofted a shot onto the roof of the net, while Milner also had a decent effort.

It took only two minutes of the second half for us to get our noses in front - and Rossi it was who gave Roeder a selection headache by seizing on a loose ball and finishing neatly into the bottom corner. One start, one goal - will that (and a good overall performance) be enough for him to keep his place for the visit of Charlton on Saturday?

We doubled our lead five minutes later, half-time sub Damien Duff (on for Martins) crossing for Solano to power a header past David James. That was the cue for Roeder to reintroduce Kieron Dyer from the bench, and the Little Waster actually looked quite useful, going close barely two minutes after his arrival. Perhaps we might yet consider his return fortuitous given Emre's injury.

Our defence's clean sheet was not posted without wobbles, the ball being bundled over the line at one point only for Lua Lua to be ruled offside, but it held firm and we even added a third goal in injury time, Solano profiting from some pinball in the six yard area to notch his second following excellent work from Milner.

So, Watford await us in the next round. Winning is far from a certainty, but we have to consider ourselves fortunate to have missed some of the other sides left in the competition and should be eager to capitalise on it.

What this display means for Saturday's crunch Premiership game is unclear. It's always nice to win and win well, but we were unable to take heart and momentum from last Thursday's sound Cup performance, losing to the Smogs - let's hope this time it works out differently. That might put paid to the poor attendances - significantly shy of 26,000 tonight...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Someone old, someone new, someone borrowed, someone blue?

Taking the "someone new" first, I'd like to wish a hearty welcome to Nigel Pearson, the latest addition to Newcastle's paltry coaching team. Pearson appears to meet all the criteria for a good quality coach, having previously found employment with West Brom, Stoke City and Carlisle. To be honest, anyone who can bring some extra ideas to the team, and help them take them onto the pitch is most welcome.

Personally, I'd like to see us bring in another body, to take some of the pressure off Roeder, but at least Pearson can take on the work load which was presumably done by erstwhile assistant Kevin Bond (e.g. answering the phone...)

In other news, Henry Winter has concluded that Newcastle's problems stem from the boardroom, not the pitch. In his article, Winter firmly points the finger at Fat Fred and his years of self-centred mis-management. Can't say I disagree with him, although I'm surprised it took him so long to come to this conclusion - most of us have held this belief for several years.

Glenn Roeder has apparently confirmed that Giuseppe Rossi will make his first start for the club in tomorrow night's Carling Cup game against Portsmouth.

Oh, and Ipswich might be interested in taking Titus Bramble back to Portman Road when his contract runs out next summer. Seemingly, some people never learn.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dark clouds overhead

Middlesbrough 1 - 0 Newcastle Utd

Smogland, so often a happy hunting ground for us, proved far less accommodating yesterday, as the story of our season so far was once again repeated. As has so often been the case, we were left to rue many missed opportunities as a solitary goal enabled the home side to claim all three points.

This time it was alleged one time target Aiyegbeni Yakubu who rose to meet a Stewart Downing corner and head the smoggy winner five minutes from time. By that stage, the game should have been beyond the home team, as we wasted several excellent opportunities to register an away win.

The first half saw us dominate, with Martins hitting the bar with out best chance when through one-on-one with Schwarzer. As a team, our pace was unsettling Boro, and despite the loss of our European goal scorer Sibierski, we looked a better bet for a goal.

At the back, Moore returned to the centre to partner Taylor, and push Ramage back out to the left. For Ramage it must have been slightly galling that he was the one to move to full back, despite enjoying a much better game than his heavily lauded counterpart.

Nil-nil at half time, and despite Boro seeking to alter their team, it was Newcastle who once again looked the more likely scorers, with both Milner and Duff going close. However, as the game wore on, and our inability to score became increasingly chronic, the home team started to find their way into the game, with Stewart Downing enjoying more and more space down the smoggy left. It was his corner that led to the goal, but the nagging feeling is that had we taken our chances, this would have been nothing more than the consolation strike of a beaten team.

Next week's game against Charlton has "must win" written all over it. The consequences otherwise are not worth considering.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Friday, October 20, 2006

Zut alors!*

Newcastle Utd 1 - 0 Fenerbahce

Would you believe it? Just when we were beginning to give up all hope of ever seeing another consistently good Toon performance for the full 90 minutes, we got one - and with it a richly deserved win which has got our bid to qualify from the UEFA Cup's group of death off to a great start.

Frankly, given our woeful displays of late and the quality of the opposition, it came as a very pleasant surprise - as did the starring performances from three of our most maligned players.

Alarm bells were ringing before the game, Glenn Roeder having opted to drop Titus Bramble and Craig Moore to the bench in favour of a Steven Taylor / Peter Ramage central defensive partnership so green you could see the grass growing on them. Even more alarming was the decision to play Damien Duff at left back, with Charles N'Zogbia coming into his normal position on the left side of midfield. Also winning recalls were James Milner and Antoine Sibierski, in place of Nobby Solano and Shola Ameobi. The latter may still be suffering from his hip problem, but to rest him along with Solano and Moore in particular looked potentially foolish - especially against a side boasting perennial thorn in our side Mateja Kezman, Ghana's dynamic skipper Stephen Appiah and a clutch of Brazilians.

We got off to a good start, though, pushing the Turkish side back and putting them under some early pressure. In many ways, though, that played into Fenerbahce's hands, and they served warning of their counterattacking prowess early on too.

Nearly half an hour had elapsed before we had our first decent effort, N'Zogbia hitting the side netting. Obafemi Martins sent a low drive whistling past the post from distance soon after, and Stephen Carr, getting a lot of joy on the right, swung in a deep cross which N'Zogbia headed onto the arm of Fenerbahce defender Onder Turaci - the award of a spot-kick would have been very harsh.

Our Nigerian striker was then very unlucky to see the ball nicked off his toes inside the six yard box after the persistent Milner outwitted his marker. The best chance of the half, though, fell to Taylor, who ran onto Emre's perfectly flighted (for once...) corner and bulleted a header just over the bar when he should have hit the target.

Aside from a couple of nervy moments from Taylor, our youthful central defence had done very well, though the threat from those in yellow and black was ever present, and early in the second period it was they who had us on the back foot. Appiah, who always looks like he has time on the ball, had wrested control of the midfield from a slightly subdued Scott Parker, with Tuncay Sanli and Alex providing the cut and thrust. Kezman had a couple of moments of joy against Taylor but the Turks never created any real opportunities.

We survived that gearchange (though Emre was a casualty, replaced by Nicky Butt against the team he loathed as a youngster) and went back on the offensive ourselves. From N'Zogbia's excellent curling right-foot cross, Martins planted a header firmly goalwards which Turkish international 'keeper Rustu Recber did well to get down to. More good football shortly afterwards saw Martins cut inside but hit his shot straight at Rustu. There was no shortage of effort from Martins, but once again several aspects of his game gave cause for concern: his sense of balance, his inability to judge where the ball would drop or be passed to, the ease with which he was dispossessed.

Even still, it was something of a surprise when he was withdrawn for Ameobi given that Sibierski, who - though he had held the ball up well and shown some nice touches - had been on the receiving end of some uncompromising tackling from Fenerbahce's South American central defensive duo of Lugano and Edu. In the event, Roeder's decision was vindicated. From a corner Rustu failed to deal convincingly with a Taylor shot and the Frenchman prodded home, celebrating enthusiastically with the home fans rather than hoofing seven shades of shite out of the advertising hoardings like the last bald forward we had in our ranks.

We'd left ourselves with just ten minutes to hold out, but, with the memory of the Fulham game playing on our minds, it promised to be seriously stressful. Yet for once we were moderately professional in closing the game out. It's vital we win our home games in this group, and this was a great start, particularly with Palermo away to come next.

So, a good all-round team performance but the plaudits should go to Sibierski, Ramage (who was impeccable) and Carr (who made up for his awful display on Sunday). It wasn't perfect, though - we were too open at times, inviting Fenerbahce to hurt us, and there was little sense of connection and partnership between the front two. It'll be interesting to see what Roeder does now for the Smoggies on Sunday. Sibierski can probably expect to be dropped in favour of Ameobi (and consider himself unlucky too), but Taylor and Ramage might well have done enough to convince Roeder to stick with them for the trip to Smogside.

A final word about the crowd: very disappointing, even taking into account the number of home fixtures of late. A shame so few were there to witness a genuinely encouraging display. Hopefully Fat Fred will have taken note and will drop prices for the visit of Celta Vigo.

* Well, it was a European fixture, so we thought we'd dazzle you by showing off our comprehensive knowledge of foreign lingo, like...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian (Michael Walker in particularly miserable form)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

'Keeper crisis?

Just what we needed given our current form and the quality of tomorrow night's opposition: a potential 'keeper crisis.

Glenn Roeder confirmed today that Steve Harper has a "minor" injury. Fingers crossed it won't keep him out of our first UEFA Cup group game against Fenerbahce - we're already without Shay Given through injury and short-term recruit Pavel Srnicek is unavailable.

Harper's absence would leave us with rookies Tim Krul and Fraser Forster in the side and on the bench respectively - hardly ideal. Young Dutchman Krul is an excellent prospect, but I think we'd all rather he wasn't pitched in at the deep end so soon and forced to swim...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not good enough

Newcastle Utd 1 - 2 Bolton Wanderers

Leading at home against Bolton thanks to a Shola Ameobi penalty, Newcastle once again allowed basic defensive errors to deprive us of any points at home to Bolton yesterday.

That we dominated the first hour of the match, but could only create a handful of meaningful chances (the best falling to stand in left-back Peter Ramage who blazed over from six yards) says much for the current attacking threat we pose, however the most galling aspect of yesterday's game was the way we went from a position of dominance to one of abject incompetence. Our defence proving incapable of dealing with two high balls in the space of two minutes, and from then on our prospects of getting something out of the match were nil, such was our inability to string some passes together.

The goals, for what it's worth, both came as the result of sloppy work - firstly Carr allowed Anelka to receive a high ball and get goal side of him. The Frenchman's cross should have been dealt with but it was El Hadj-Diouf who got to the ball first to score.

The second, moments later, saw our defence rush towards the near post - only for the ball to go square to the now unmarked Diouf to score his second. Crucially, our three defenders followed two Bolton players (and the ball), with Titus seemingly the man at fault.

Basic errors which our team seem incapable of correcting, and that despite what should be hours and hours on the training pitch. Either that means the coaching isn't happening, isn't good enough or the players are simply incompetent. Hopefully, we can pick up some better players in January (replacements for Bramble and Carr becoming more urgent with each passing game), but we knew this was the area most in need of strengthening in the summer, and yet still nothing was done. In any event, we've got to hope that our season still has anything more than a relegation battle to worry about - but if we can't even do the basics right then the prospects of surviving the UEFA Cup look decidedly remote.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quote of the day

Nothing whatsoever to do with Newcastle, but worth quoting all the same:

"What a lucky chap to be able to dictate when he's going to get a woman pregnant! Most of us have got to wait for the old nod if you know what I mean.".

Plymouth Argyle's gaffer on Rod Stewart, of course. The man's wasted in football.

Thank fuck the BBC have seen sense and opted to balance out the idiocy of giving Kevin Nolan his own column by affording Holloway the same platform...

And how's about a quote from last week's column, just for good measure? OK then...

"I want to try and spread the support with my Bristol connection. Rovers are in the bottom division so why can't I try and convert some of them into Argyle fans? We're in the West Country so it's not that far away. Only two and a half hours away in a slow car, an hour and a half in a fast one - or 10 minutes in a rocket! As long as you aimed it right, you'd be down here really quickly. Don't land it on the pitch, though, because you'd ruin it!".

New signings

A warm welcome to the B&W&RAO blogroll to Left Back, a new general football blog whose author has recently been pondering a taxing Spot The Difference dilemma.

Also new to our sidebar: NonStopFootball, a forum for fans to discuss the English game as well as the Spanish, Italian, German...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Parker the pariah?

Can I be the last person to I-told-you-so Gary fucking Neville by saying you should never hit a backpass on target? Thank you.

Anyway, this is a blog dedicated to Newcastle, not England, so let's consider for a moment what last night's calamitous defeat to Croatia might mean for our captain Scott Parker, who made his first full start for the national team.

The tabloid scapegoat may have been Paul Robinson (predictably but ridiculously so - the second goal was a freak and the fault of Neville if anyone (see above), and aside from being a bit far off his line for the first goal he did very little wrong, pulling off a number of great saves), but I fear that in the longer term it'll be Parker who gets it in the neck. Without ever being spectacular, he was solid, quietly efficient and certainly superior to the vast majority of his teammates - but I'm worried that unfortunately he'll forever more be associated in the mind of Steve McLaren with that ill-fated 3-5-2 formation and a very poor defeat in Zagreb.

No matter that Parker could do an excellent job in what we're slowly coming to terms with calling "the Hargreaves role" in a 4-4-2 - I imagine he'll have to get used to being overlooked again.

I just hope for his sake that I'm proved wrong - but sod's law that'll happen and then he'll pick up a long-term injury on England duty. Still, there's always the possibility of squeezing compensation out of the FA...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More red card misery

Steven Taylor and James Milner both lined up for England U21s tonight as they squeezed to a 2-0 win over their German counterparts, a result which guaranteed qualification for the European Championship finals. Substitute Theo Walcott scored both goals, but unfortunately for Taylor he played a rather less supportive role, getting himself sent off with just over half an hour to play. This is the same player who was fortunate to get away with a handball in the penalty area against Man Utd.

What with Titus Bramble's recent red against Everton and Craig Moore's troubles with Australia, it's not been the happiest of times for our centre backs. At least Taylor's suspension will not hit his club where it hurts.

In other news, speculation is mounting that Scott Parker could feature for England during tomorrow evening's match in Croatia. Parker looks set to get his chance because of Steven Gerrard's suspension, but I feel he would have been a better bet than Michael Carrick anyway, particularly with Steve McLaren calling for "pride, passion, attitude and character" and adding of Parker specifically: "He epitomises what the English game is all about: he can play, he can pass, he can tackle and he's got character and attitude".

Alan Shearer has lent his pre-emptive backing to Parker too: "Scott has been fantastic for Newcastle, with his energy, his drive and his enthusiasm. If he does play, he won't let down England".

Away from the international scene, Glenn Roeder has suggested that Kieron Dyer is close to full fitness and should be back making Premiership appearances by the end of this month. It's not surprising, though, given Dyer's injury record, that Roeder has (as the BBC Football site claims) done nothing more than "pencil in" his comeback. History teaches us that to write it in anything more permanent would be a very risky business indeed...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Setting a precedent

Having posted something on Friday about our purported attempt to claim compensation from the FA, I've now had slightly longer to think about the implications of the case.

If the club prove successful, it will have a massive impact upon the cost of international matches to each individual Football Association, as their insurance premiums will go through the roof. This in turn will mean more money having to be spent on this insurance, inevitably diverting it away from grass roots football.

In terms of it's impact, if Newcastle are successful, the names of the club and Michael Owen could well be mentioned in the same breath as Jean-Marc Bosman, having dramatically changed the nature of international football by giving even more power to the clubs who supply international teams with their players (and therefore giving more power and control to those elite clubs.)

It's no wonder the G14 are quite so interested in the outcome.

Round up

Quick round up of the weekend's action from our point of view:

Scott Parker didn't play as England failed to hit a cow's arse with a banjo against Macedonia, whilst messers Duff and O'Brien both featured as the Republic of Ireland got hammered by Cyprus.

Elsewhere, old boys Boumsong and Bellamy were both on the wrong end of results against Scotland and Slovakia respectively. Sadly for Bellamy, his dreams of captaining his country turned sour as the Welsh defence leaked five goals.

In other news, Bellamy's one time textual friend Alan Shearer had a penalty saved whilst on a promotional tour of New Zealand. Sadly, the fourteen year old keeper broke his wrist in the process.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Where there's a blame

Apparently, the club are about to sue the FA in order to try and recoup some of the losses caused by our having to pay Michael Owen's wages during his current spell on the sidelines. Whilst I hope for the club's sake that we win, I suspect that FIFA, UEFA et al will be desperately keen to ensure we don't - as it would clearly set a very costly precedent. A fact acknowledged by Arsenal's David Dein, newly appointed head of the G14, who will be watching the outcome with interest.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Eur havin' a laugh

Oh well, there goes this season's already very remote prospect of lifting the UEFA Cup.

This lunchtime's draw has landed us in a group with Palermo, who dispatched West Ham with consummate ease in the previous round, as well as Celta Vigo, Fenerbahce and Eintracht Frankfurt - none of them names that would be out of place in the group stages of the Champions League. Taking a look at their squads, we've got plenty to fear.

Our only consolation is that we don't need to win every game - third or better in the group will be good enough to qualify. The optimist in me suggests that I shouldn't write us off just yet, but drowning him out is the pessimist's voice, which says we don't stand a chance of even finishing third given the way we're currently playing.

But hey, at least we'll get to take a closer look at Eintracht Frankfurt defender (yes, DEFENDER! Hallelujah!) Alex Vasoki in whom today's Mirror claims we are interested.

The Mighty Quinn

After yesterday's horrorshow, something to bring a much-needed smile to the faces of us Toon fans...

My brother, who recently went to a talk-in with semi-legendary number nine and fat bastard Micky Quinn, reports:

"He did a Q&A session afterwards, and the best question was from some guy in front of us who asked, 'Mick, Grimsby away 1993, you were defending a near post corner and I threw a pie at you – what flavour was it?' Obviously it was steak and kidney!"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Depressingly inevitable

Manchester Utd 2 - 0 Newcastle Utd

The most depressing thing about Sunday's defeat at the hands of Man Utd was its inevitability. At no point did I think we were ever going to get anything out of the game, and in truth that belief seemed to be one shared by the players. Lining up with only Ameobi up front, and five in midfield suggested that Roeder also had some doubts about our chances.

The goals came on the back of a strong display for the home side by Christiano Ronaldo. Having stifled the home side for much of the first half, we allowed Ronaldo to crack a shot off the post, only for the ball to fall kindly for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to score. In one second, our game plan was shot - the likelihood of us achieving a result already disappearing over the horizon.

Unable to contain them at the break, Roeder introduced N'Zogbia for Milner (arguably our most attacking player in the first half) but the five man midfield continued to fail to provide a decent chance for the patently unfit Ameobi up front. As it was a shot by Patrice Evra which deflected off Solskjaer and over Harper killed any chance of us getting back into the game less than five minutes in to the second half.

Roeder brought Martins on for Butt, and later Pattison on for Emre (who looked like he had picked up a knock), but to no avail. Perhaps we might have threatened more if Martins had started up front in a 4-4-2, but as it was the only things to take from the game were Harper's good work in keeping the score respectable, and another cracking handball/dive from Steven Taylor who managed to get away with it this time. By that stage, the game was already beyond us, and the lack of protests from Man Utd suggested they knew it as much as we did.

Roeder needs to use the international break to try and get some players fit, because without a competent left back (Ramage tries hard, but isn't playing well and isn't a left back) and a fit pair of strikers, we've got a long struggle ahead of us.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian, NUFC.com

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fuming Fergie

According to today's People, Alex Ferguson is furious that Guiseppe Rossi has not been getting regular first-team football on Tyneside. Good to know that we've been the cause of making Fergie even redder in the face than normal.

Of course, unless we made some kind of promise that Rossi would be a fixture in the side (which is unlikely - that would have been stupid even by our own standards), then Fergie has absolutely no grounds for complaint. How dare he suggest that we should essentially be providing a service to Man Utd, giving one of their brightest prospects Premiership experience? Rossi is currently our player and Roeder will pick him as and when he feels fit. Any attempt on Fergie's part to pressurise us into selecting him more regularly should be resisted.

So, to put it simply: FUCK OFF FERGIE.