Monday, July 28, 2008

Six days is a long time in football - but still not long enough for us to sign a quality defender, it seems

Six days without a post? You must excuse us. How's about I make it up to you with a news splurge? OK then, here goes...

Inevitably, the day's big story is Porridge's release from the Big House, having served two months of his six month sentence for assault and affray. Sadly, the player now once again known round these parts as ASBO is heading back to Tyneside with his clear plastic HM Prisons bag, Kevin Keegan having vowed "to give him another chance and back him". Sorry Kev, but I'm hoping Mike Ashley feels differently.

A good thing ASBO wasn't available for the weekend's pre-season match at Doncaster Rovers, having been responsible for stirring things up with a characteristically, er, robust tackle when his Man City side played them in a 2004 "friendly". The "angry" City manager on that occasion, who said "I have a problem with any player who just wants to go out and be physical all the time. There is no future in that"? One Kevin Keegan...

Without ASBO for Saturday's game, inevitably, there was no fight at all, particularly up front (where Alan Smith and Shola Ameobi, lining up opposite his brother Tomi, wandered about to no effect whatsoever), and we were sunk by a late goal by Stuart Elliott. That defensive triallist Sebastien Bassong looked half-decent was more a reflection on what he was surrounded by than by his own qualities.

One player who missed out on an appearance at the Keepmoat Stadium for reasons other than injury, imprisonment or registration issues (Gutierrez, again) was Obafemi Martins, who's back in Nigeria following the death of his mother. Understandably, Keegan's given him as long as he needs away.

Back at home, negotiations are continuing with his strike partner Michael Owen - as are the mind games. Clearly desperate for him to stay, Keegan has insisted he'll be club captain for the forthcoming season, and gently put pressure on him to commit: "I know he wants to stay and know we want to keep him, they are two things in our favour". Personally I'm of the view that it might be more complicated than that (as is suggested by the protracted nature of the negotiations) - unlike Shearer, Little Saint Mick won't have his judgement clouded by sentiment and won't be prepared to take the significant pay cut that's been rumoured. Whether anyone else would come in for him is uncertain, though - Arsenal, perhaps, or Spurs, who now have £20m of Liverpool's money and a Robbie Keane sized hole to fill.

Today's transfer rumours have seen us linked with Real Madrid's former Arsenal loanee, burly Brazilian striker Julio Baptista, in the Torygraph and with Blackburn's ex-Liverpool left back Stephen Warnock in the Independent (a deal involving Damien Duff going the other way, that one).

Still no official word that we've signed Plymouth's 15-year-old prospect Aaron Spear, and with Arsenal sniffing around that gives some cause for concern. Securing Spear's services would be a clear indication that new Academy director Richard Money's recent quotes about ensuring "we get the best young players we can get, and we will continue to recruit from around Europe and around the country" aren't just empty promises. Spear's English, at least, though not from the local area, and "getting Newcastle people in the Newcastle team has to be our number one goal". It's almost as if he read the last Month Of Saturdays...

Meanwhile, our old friend Nobby Solano is reportedly at the centre of a tug-of-war between Ruud Gullit (manager of LA Galaxy) and Temuri Ketsbaia (manager of Anorthosis Famagusta). More surprisingly, that waste-of-space Celestine Babayaro - a Souness signing, of course - is also in demand, enjoying trials with Portsmouth. 'Appy 'Arry may be complaining his squad's too small, but surely he's not that desperate?

And finally, in one of those rare moments of perfect synergie, El-Hadji Diouf - the only person to come close to rivalling ASBO for the title of Most Loathsome Player In The Premier League - has signed for the Most Loathsome Team In The Premier League (at least until next May, whereafter they'll be the Most Loathsome Team In The Championship). As if he wasn't guaranteed a warm reception at St James's Park already...


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