Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Month Of Saturdays: November 2007

Apparently November was a bad month to be an England fan - something to do with getting a reprieve, blowing a glorious second chance in spectacular fashion, a wally with a brolly and missing out on an invite to the big boys' party in Switzerland and Austria next summer. Well, call me parochial, but it was pretty much a picnic in the park compared to what us Newcastle fans had to endure.

First there was the startlingly rude shock of Portsmouth, pre 'Appy 'Arry's arrest, rolling into town and deciding for once that, no, they weren't going to play their customary role of cannon fodder, instead blitzing their way to a 3-0 lead inside the first quarter of an hour and running out worthy 4-1 winners. Fortress St James's suddenly looked more like an unstable castle built on shifting sands, the remodelled defence of Cacapa and Faye providing foundations no more sturdy than Messrs Bramble, Moore and co.

Then came the pitiful 1-1 draw at the Dark Place. But for the luck which was with us when James Milner's free-kick drifted in at the far post to equalise, and again when the crossbar reverberated from old boy Michael Chopra's shot, we would have lost to the Mackems - a good thing even Fate hates them, eh? As it was, the result was humiliating enough when put into context by the 7-1 thrashing Everton dished out to the Great Unwashed on their very next Premier League encounter.

What was needed was a performance which called upon deep reserves of strength, mental resolve, courage and passion. What we got - after a fortnight of waiting while England briefly glimpsed hope before pressing self-destruct - was the phenomenally gutless 3-0 capitulation at home to Liverpool that, regardless of the quality of the opposition (and it's worth remembering quite how awful the likes of Momo Sissoko got away with being), is already shaping up to be one of the season's lowest points.

Sam Allardyce may not have sought or asked for assurances his position was safe, but circumstances were such that Chris Mort subsequently felt it necessary to give them anyway, publicly at least. As if that - and the suggestion that the funds to be made available to him in January will stretch about as far as Shola Ameobi for a half-chance - wasn't worrying enough for Big Sam, there was also the rumour of murmurings of discontent in the dressing room when he confronted the players about whether or not they liked him and his managerial methods. Lose the confidence of the board and you're in trouble; lose the confidence of the players and you're a dead man walking. The arrests which took place as part of the ongoing investigations into financial irregularities in the wake of the Stevens report may well have given a man implicated in some "uncleared" transfers additional cause for concern.

Oh, and Michael Owen got injured while on England duty - this time during an utterly meaningless friendly.

All in all, then, the sort of month that only the boo boys can have enjoyed.


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