Monday, June 30, 2008

Confessions of a football player

Apparently, Porridge has now admitted a charge of assault occasioning ABH in connection with the Ousmane Dabo matter.

Presumably he'll now be sentenced, and is no doubt hoping that whatever sentence is handed down will be able to run concurrently with that which he is currently serving.

Whether this is the straw that finally breaks the camel's back, in terms of the club's relationship with Barton, we'll have to wait and see.

Lucky them

It is, in one sense, a pretty poor state of affairs when the only “news” story of any note regarding Newcastle is one in which Steven Taylor says he is close to signing a new contract.

Obviously, he hasn’t signed it yet, but he’s close. Which is good news, but hardly likely to set pulses racing.

However, this does make a pleasant change from our usual trick of being in the papers every two minutes, and (this may be wishful thinking) means we’re slowly going about our much needed recruitment drive away from the prying eyes of the press. Either that, or we’re doing nothing.

Talking about doing things in the public eye, reports are emerging that Fat Fred is trying to get his greasy little hands into Spanish football, by taking over our pre-season opponents Majorca. Lucky them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Show me the Money

To the delight of headline writers everywhere, Richard Money has been named as our new academy director.

Until resigning last year, Money was manager of Walsall, whom he took to the League Two title and on into the upper reaches of League One. His arrival on Tyneside may have been fated, though - one of his previous jobs was in charge of Australian side Newcastle United Jets. Sounds like the sort of thing we'd fear being renamed if taken over by Americans...

Money's been quoted as saying: "It's too big a job to turn down. It's a wonderful opportunity for me." An opportunity indeed, but also a significant responsibility and challenge - for too long now our academy set-up has failed in its primary objective, supplying the first team with a steady stream of talented young homegrown (or at least home-developed) players. That needs to change.

Meanwhile, today's papers once again find us linked with Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson of Spurs. While both would be reasonable signings, a lightning-fast winger who can't cross and a central defender who's pretty much the spitting image of what we already have in the form of Steven Taylor (undoubtedly promising and enthusiastic but too often rash and lacking in judgement) might not be quite what we need. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who would feel depressed about us cowering under the table of arguably our closest rivals in the hope of picking up some of their scraps to feed on...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Am shambles

Just what IS going on with Shola Ameobi?

First of all we were led to believe that a deal had been struck with Stoke as part of last season's loan and that a mouth-wateringly large fee could be on its way to Tyneside in return for his services on a permanent basis.

When that trail went cold his likely destination looked set to be Ipswich, the Tractor Boys apparently prepared to pay up to £4m for him - a great deal for us, whichever way you look at it.

Then yesterday it was rumoured their East Anglian rivals Norwich had bagged him from under their noses, the presence of Glenn Roeder and Lee Clark at Carrow Road no doubt a key factor.

And now today it's been reported he could be staying in the Premier League, as a cut-price £2m target for new boys West Brom.

Where he'll actually end up is anyone's guess. One thing seems to be for certain, though: he won't be on the payroll of his hometown club for much longer.

Meanwhile, still no news on the incoming front. The latest player to be linked with us is Argentinian centre back Fabricio Coloccini. He's an accomplished defender in one of the best (if not the best) league in the world, but I can't help wondering if our interest is only the consequence of Keegan's penchant for uncompromising central defenders with flowing locks. Think Kilcline, Venison, Peacock - hell, even Phillippe Albert had a bit of mullety tuftage going on...

Mistaken identity?

It must be a dream come true for our former coach Nigel Pearson - he saves Southampton by the skin of their teeth by virtue of the fact that they're shit but their relegation rivals are shitter, and all of a sudden he gets the call that he's wanted by Milan...

I guess Mandaric's thinking is that Pearson helped get Leicester into the mess they're in now, so the least he can do is put things right...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Going, going, gone...

Nearly a month since I posted about the possibility of Chris Mort vacating the chairman's seat after just over a year, his departure from the club has finally been confirmed. His replacement, as expected, will be Derek Llambias.

On leaving he commented: "I've enjoyed my time as chairman immensely but the time was right, with high-quality individuals recruited for each of the key management roles and the club heading in the right direction". I'm assuming "high-quality individuals" isn't a reference to Dennis Wise, or if so he's even less of a football man than we thought. I'm also a bit sceptical about whether the club really is heading in the right direction - are we, when we've sold several players without any replacements being drafted in and been linked today with players of the calibre of Fulham's Steven Davis and Birmingham's Olivier Kapo when rival clubs of a similar stature such as Spurs can splash out millions on Croatian and Brazilian talent?

All the same, Mort has at least steadied the ship behind the scenes and pleasingly kept a lower media profile than his oafish predecessor...


Fact #1: France 0 - 2 Italy. The rerun of the 2006 World Cup Final ends with the winners of that trophy once again triumphing to progress to the knockout stages and the runners-up - the team I drew in the office sweepstake at 9/1 - packing their bags for home.

Fact #2: Jean-Alain Boumsong, accurately described in the BBC match report as "former Newcastle flop Jean-Alain Boumsong ", comes off the French bench before the half-hour mark due to Eric Abidal's red card.

Coincidence, non?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Off to a stinker

Good to see the Premier League's fixtures computer has handed us a nice easy three-pointer to kick off our season, eh? Still, at least we can rest safe in the knowledge that we'll have some points on the board come the evening of Saturday 25th October...

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Judging by the size of this Facebook group, which currently has 1188 members and counting, it seems St James' Park isn't the only place that Fat Sam is unwelcome...

The Blackburn fan who set it up, fearful that Allardyce might well be appointed as Mark Hughes' successor, has referred to our old manager in not particularly glowing terms: "a bung-ridden, long-ball-dependent rotund piece of Bolton manure". Fair comment from Toon fan Michael Nee, though: "You's deserve Fat Sam for giving us Souness"...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Once, twice, but not three times a Mag

Following his surprise release by West Ham after a solitary season at Upton Park, Nobby Solano has mentioned his desire to find employment with another English club - but stressed that he's very unlikely to have the corridors of St James' Park echoing to the sound of trumpet solos for a third time.

"Everybody knows what I feel about Newcastle and those fans, but it would be difficult to ever return there. The reason I was forced to leave Newcastle was because of family reasons, and that situation has not changed."

More's the pity. Nobby might be knocking on a bit, but he could still probably do a useful job on the right flank for us if, as is rumoured, James Milner is off to Liverpool or Villa.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cut price Porridge?

According to rumours, Porridge is likely to be faced with an ultimatum, either he agrees a £30,000 per week cut in salary, or he is sacked.

Now, if this was any normal job, you’d be quickly signing on the dotted line, grateful that your employer was still even speaking to you, and you still had a place of work to return to. However, football being what it is, I’m sure that if Porridge were to suddenly find himself unemployed, there’d be a whole host of arrogant managers queuing up for his signature, and willing to offer him a comparable salary to the one which he is currently earning.

Now, I’ve previously expressed my doubts that the club would sacrifice an asset in this fashion, and I remain of the view that, no matter how unpleasant an individual he may be, simply writing off a £5 million investment is a big step for any club to take, not least because we’d then need to pay a similar sum to replace the player. So by sacking Porridge it could cost us around £12 million, which seems highly unlikely.

However, unlike fat fred, Mike Ashley might actually have some principles and certainly seems to have the cash to afford such a stance so it might still happen, but given the way the numbers stack up, I have my doubts.

You put your left leg out

On the departures front, it now appears that Shola Ameobi will be following Peter Ramage into the Championship next season, with Ipswich reportedly interested in paying somewhere in the region of £4 million for his services.

Like Ramage, it’s always slightly sad to see local lads depart, however, it’s equally clear that Shola’s inconsistent performances and the sense of frustration that he had the potential to achieve so much more than he ever managed for us means that his departure is a necessary step to the rebuilding work under Keegan.

On his day he was unplayable. Unfortunately too often he simply didn’t play, and the complete lack of urgency which he portrayed whenever on the field meant he remains a player more prone to induce frustration than adulation.

Czeching out

Confirmation from Rome that David Rozehnal has joined Lazio permanently, bringing to an end his brief sojourn on Tyneside. As far as I can see, and assuming we get something approaching the money we paid for him, there’s no loss. Disappointingly poor when it came to his strength and decision making, Rozehnal never really settled, and certainly wasn’t the assured defence recruit that we’d hoped last summer.

Following on from Emre’s recent return to Turkey, we now have no players involved in the European Championships, which hopefully means that at least everyone should be back fit and raring to go for pre-season.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Month of Saturdays: May 2008

With Ben having decided that he'd rather spend two weeks in Australia than watch the European Championships it falls to me to round up the last month in the madhouse that is St James Park, and for once it's been relatively quiet.

Of course, before Ben departed for the land of the Socceroos, there was still time for him to see us to lose our last two games of the season. Turned over by teams in loftier positions in the table who both, at the end of the day, wanted it more than we did, and unsurprisingly Chelsea and Everton can now look forward to European competition next season, whilst we contemplate a summer in which the players we want end up flirting with us before signing for Spurs.

However, the thing which really caused the press to fill their papers were a few quotes by Kevin Keegan in which he, not unreasonably, suggested that the top four this season would, in all probability, be the top four next season (and quite probably the season after that too).

Chris Mort came out and supported his manager, applauding Keegan's attempts to manage our expectations, but seemingly that wasn't enough for the press who merrily talked about crisis meetings and sought to perpetuate the story of the supposed power struggle between Keegan and Wise.

Thankfully, with the season ending, the story too seems to have died a death (at least for the moment) but what the end of the season does also signify is the imminent departure of Chris Mort, back to the London office of Freshfields, whence he came. Mort goes, with our best wishes, as the man who steadied the ship after the turbulent reign of fat fred came to an end and the wild Ashley ride began.

Heading out of the door before Mort are Stephen Carr, Peter Ramage and James Troisi. The Irishman certainly won’t be missed, apart from in the canteen, where now there will only be Viduka fulfilling the role of Oliver Twist and returning for seconds. In contrast, Troisi seemingly wasn’t able to make the cut.

The most likely to be seen again, at least on the terraces, is the now departed Ramage, who is certain to reappear to support the team he grew up with, and was fortunate enough to represent. A wholehearted performer, technically he should find his level with QPR in the Championship where his occasional error will be more likely to go unpunished, and his hard work and endeavour will serve him well.

However, the bigger concern is that with more bodies heading out the door, there’s been precious little to suggest that anyone is rushing to fill the vacant seats on the roller coaster.

Quite where that ride is going to take us over the summer is anyone's guess, but unless some new passengers arrive sooner rather than later it could prove to be a one-way ride down another dead end.

Currently kicking his heels is Joey Barton, who has had a mixed month, found not guilty of trashing a taxi he was convicted of beating someone up outside McDonalds at Christmas, and as a result he’s currently swapped the bars of the Quayside for those of Her Majesty. Whether he’s going to be allowed back on the ride once he has paid his debt to society we’re going to have to wait and wonder.

Tractors and Mags all pulling for Bobby

According to the football supporters federation, fans of Ipswich and Newcastle are trying to convince the two clubs to play an annual fixture in aid of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Any idea which helps raise money to fight cancer, and also pays tribute to the incredible hard work of our former manager has got to be a good thing.

So go, sign the petition, and maybe we'll see this fixture become a regular part of our pre-season programme.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Turking his leave

The BBC are reporting our representation at Euro 2008 is about to be further reduced, with the news that we've agreed to sell Emre to Fenerbahce. Whilst numbers are vague, the report suggests we're set to recoup £8 million, representing a doubling of the £4 million Souness splashed on the Turk three years ago.

Undoubtedly a talented player, in my opinion, he always struck me as a player who should have achieved more, given the gifts at his disposal. Finding a team to give us £8 million for him represents a very good deal .

Courtesy of his winner against the great unwashed a couple of years ago, he's always guaranteed a warm reception on Tyneside, although with the lingering sense that he should have done more.


Finally, some good news for Porridge.

Apparantly he has been found not guilty of vandalising a taxi in Liverpool. Regardless of the outcome, I'd have thought he'd probably have struggled to get picked up, but for the fact Her Majesty's Prison Service will have doubtless have arranged for a lift directly back to his current lodgings.

As far as I'm aware, the only remaining court date he has yet to face is his impending trial regarding the alleged assault on a former team mate Ousamane Dabo.

Still, one day at a time, eh Joey?