Monday, July 23, 2007

That joke isn't funny anymore

Oh for fuck's sake. May as well start the season as it'll no doubt go on, I suppose. Barton went under the knife today, and is expected to be out for around six weeks, thus ruling him out of our opening fixtures. Does anyone remember the time before we'd ever heard of bloody metatarsals? Halcyon days...

Barton picked up his toeknack in a friendly against Carlisle at Brunton Park, a game in which we trailed 1-0 going into the last minute and only salvaged some pride thanks to a brilliant volleyed finish from Nobby Solano. Michael Owen didn't even start thanks to a thigh strain...

The old familiar injury curse might continue to plague us, but some things are changing. Nobby has revealed that Fat Sam's assessment of the players' fitness goes as far as monitoring their heart rate. A far cry from the days of Graeme Souness, no doubt. Nobby may have complained that this is proving to be "the hardest pre-season" he's experienced on Tyneside, but he's also eagerly taking notes: "I'll definitely keep a lot of these ideas for when I move into management".

Meanwhile, latest signing Geremi has spoken in glowing (and hopefully not ingenuous) terms about his decision to leave the Chelsea bench behind: "As soon as I heard that Newcastle were interested, I said yes straight away because it's such a big club. Newcastle United have always had huge ambition and amazing fans, a factor I have always appreciated whenever I have played at St James' Park".

Fat Sam's been thwarted in his recent attempts to bring in more new faces, moaning on Saturday that "unfortunately, everything this week progressed to a certain level and has fallen on stony ground". At least he's under no illusions about what's needed - "it is the most important thing for me to strengthen the squad we have at the moment, and particularly the defensive area" - and has expressed his hope that we might have another three or four players in by the time the season kicks off on 11th August.

One current member of the squad who may well not be part of it for much longer - at least if the papers are to be believed - is Kieron Dyer. West Ham might not be quite so enthusiastic about signing the Little Waster now that they've persuaded Freddie Ljungberg to move across London, but Spurs and Man City are both also being credited with an interest. Fat Sam has hardly dampened the speculation - quite the opposite, in fact, commenting with a wink and a nudge that "sometimes there is no smoke without fire" - suggesting he'd be happy for Dyer to move on. And we all know quite how fond Sven-Goran Eriksson is him, given his recurrent inclusion in England squads for no good reason whatsoever.

But I can't ignore my gut feeling that if an offer is forthcoming and we do decide to cash in, he'll butterfly into the player we've always known he could be and leave us looking a bit foolish...


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