Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Month Of Saturdays: June 2010

Well, this shouldn't take long...

... unlike our summer recruitment drive, which during June progressed about as fast as Big Lad ambling through treacle with ten tonne weights around his ankles. Chris Hughton described it as "an ongoing process", stressing that there was no need to be hasty and denying a whole host of rumoured targets: Kris Boyd (again), Sol Campbell (again) and Andy "Who Put The Ball In The Mackems' Net?" O'Brien.

Given the ill-judged purchases that litter our recent transfer history, caution and care are to be commended. Call us cynical if you like, though, but the suspicion persisted that the fruitlessness of our efforts was actually as much a consequence of the crippling restrictions Jabba has placed on both transfer fees and wages. The wheels may have been oiled if Hughton had been given access to the funds due from staged transfer payments of players now long gone - but, the Guardian alleged, this money was bypassing him and Jabba and going straight into the bank manager's pocket.

Meanwhile, it wasn't just the lack of incoming players that had us worried - there was also the possibility of losing the focal point of our attack to Chelsea or, worse still, one of the sides likely to be our rivals for the security of 17th.

Still, at least the World Cup was a nice distraction - and not just because we could pretend to our better halves that watching Slovakia v New Zealand was essential because we needed to "run the rule over" over rumoured target Vladimir Weiss. No, it was because it offered us the opportunity to watch one of our own, Spidermag, in action alongside Lionel Messi.

As it turned out, though, after two ropey displays and two yellow cards against Nigeria and South Korea when shoe-horned by Maradona into an unfamiliar role at right back, Spidermag had to sit out the third group stage game against Greece. He could have been forgiven for feeling harshly treated as a supposed fixture in the side when he was then omitted for the second round meeting with Mexico.

Also suffering unfairly was our former loanee Oguchi Onyewu, the USA centre-back the subject of some undeserved scorn from the usually bang-on-the-money Harry Pearson for his performances when on Tyneside. We felt sufficiently strongly to try and set the record straight - and in any case the subsequent display by England against Germany gave new definition to defensive ineptitude, even for those of us accustomed to it (hello Shay!).

In other news, Alan Thompson decided to abandon his hometown club to take up a coaching position at another former side, Celtic, while Wor Al suffered the public indignity of having a one-on-one saved at Old Trafford by Patrick sodding Kielty. Still, probably not as traumatic as the public indignity of sitting next to some of his fellow pundits in Match Of The Day's World Cup studios.

Meanwhile, with the publication of the fixture list, the prospect of our return to the top flight came to seem all the more real - and all the more daunting. We open, as we did in 2008, with a trip to Old Trafford - hopefully this time we'll once again win the battle but not lose the war. Before that, though, we meet PSV Eindhoven in a friendly to mark the first anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson's death - a fixture that should help put whatever transpires over the subsequent ten months into perspective.


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