Friday, December 31, 2010

Window wonderland

As the transfer window is about to creak open, it seems an opportune moment to reflect on the state of the squad and try and identify the areas we would ideally strengthen.


With Steve Harper now fit enough to resume his duties, and Tim Krul doing a decent job in goal, I'd be astonished if Fraser Forster wasn't allowed to continue his footballing education at Parkhead.  The challenge will come in the summer, when I suspect we'll have to make a straight choice of two from three, but for now this is one position that shouldn't need too much time spending on it.


With Steven Taylor now signed on for a few more years, and Mike Williamson and Sideshow Bob generally doing well, we look OK in the centre of defence.  Certainly Sol Campbell doesn't look to have long left in him, but with Tamas Kadar also floating around, we shouldn't be rushing out and spending loads of cash on a new centre-back (and potentially should contemplate loaning out the young Hungarian to get some more experience ahead of next season).

Full-back is a slightly different story.  While Danny Simpson and Jose Enrique have carried on their good form from last year, James Perch has yet to suggest he has the quality to adapt to this level and in any event (as the recent match against Spurs showed) he's not a natural left back, meaning we could do to bring in cover.  Shane Ferguson had a good game in the League Cup, but whether the coaches seem prepared to let him learn in the first team seems doubtful and if he isn't going to step up, we need to find an alternative.


Of the central midfielders at our disposal, Tiote, ASBO and Nolan have all enjoyed an excellent first half of the season.  However, when given opportunities neither Alan Smith nor Danny Guthrie have done particularly well, meaning we're only ever a red card away from looking undermanned.  Equally, down the flanks Spidermag has done OK, but Wayne Routledge hasn't produced anything like the consistency we'd hoped (which is why ASBO has spent so much of the season down the right hand side).  Hopefully, Hatem Ben Arfa isn't too far away from a return to action, which would definitely be a boost to the cause, and rumours abound that we're looking to sign him up permanently even though he's only played a smattering of games.  Hopefully Dan Gosling might also be able to play a game in anger for us before too much longer.  However, the reality is that an extra body, particularly one with a few creative juices flowing through it, might not go amiss.


Without question, the star man of the season so far has been our number nine.  His goals and all-round physicality, allied to his touch and turn of pace, have been enough to trouble some of the finest defences in the league and seen Fabio Capello rightly give him his first senior cap.  The first challenge for Pardew is therefore to keep hold of Rocky.

However, the supporting cast isn't that impressive.  Big Lad has done quite well, but hasn't been particularly prolific, and when given his chances Lovenkrands hasn't looked threatening, so much so that Nile Ranger looks to have leapfrogged the Dane in the attacking pecking order.  However, the youngster is still very raw and needs more game time if he's to progress.

The forgotten man in all this is Leon Best, who was banging them in during pre-season, only to be injured before the campaign had begun.  He's now back fit, but looks a long way from getting a first team start.  If we're looking to raise some cash, might a striker who has form at Championship level be an asset we might part with?

What seems clear is that, with the possible exception of Best, we can't really afford to lose anyone in the window (and certainly not Rocky, ASBO or Tiote who have been our three most consistent performers to date).  We can only assume that Pardew must have sought some assurances about money for signings before he agreed to accept the manager's job (and the suspicion remains that one of the reasons Hughton was handed his marching orders was a distrust on the part of the board as to how he spent Jabba's money), but as to how much and who is available, we'll have to wait and see.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Singed by Spurs' wingers

Spurs 2 - 0 Newcastle Utd

Two goals courtesy of Spurs' flying wingers saw us finish the year with a defeat, and casting nervous glances over our shoulder at the relegation battle which is beginning behind us.

With Jose Enrique announcing to the world via Twitter that he wouldn't be playing thanks to a stiff hamstring, and Kevin Nolan suspended, Alan Pardew was forced to shuffle his pack and bring in James Perch at left back and Alan Smith into a five-man midfield.

In the first half, we coped relatively well, Perch doing a decent job on his "wrong" side and but for one moment - when Tim Krul pushed a Roman Pavlyuchenko header onto the post and then watched as it bounded along the goal line before clipping the other post and bouncing out - we looked reasonably secure at the back.

However, going forward neither Spidermag nor Spurs old boy Wayne Routledge were able to send anything decent in Rocky's direction, and our lone striker struggled to fashion a decent chance as a result.

The second half, unfortunately, demonstrated why Spurs' attacking play has seen them upwardly mobile in recent weeks, firstly when Aaron Lennon was given too much space by Perch and the winger was able to fire past Krul to give the home team the lead, and then when Gareth Bale was released on the counter-attack and he charged up field before eventually cutting inside Steven Taylor and hammering in the goal which killed off the match.

At that point, we'd been on the attack, with Rocky dispossessed on the edge of the Spurs box seconds before Bale scored at the other end, and with the home team down to ten men after Younes Kaboul had headutted Cheik Tiote (an altercation which had prompted a full and frank exchange of views between the two dug-outs).

Sadly for us, Bale's goal knocked the wind from our sails and even though we continued to plug away Spurs were able to see off the remainder of the game without too much to worry about.

Reflecting on the match, I suspect it's the last time Jose Enrique will be tweeting about his availability to play matches, and as the January transfer window beckons it served as a pointer to both new manager and Jabba as to the squad's shortcomings.  Whether that warning is heeded remains to be seen, but we're now in the bottom half and our next two games against Wigan and West Ham look to be very big ones indeed.

A Spurs fan's view: Dear Mr Levy

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stevie staying put

Like manager, like player. Alan Pardew has helped Steven Taylor - not so long ago transfer-listed and apparently an outcast at St James' - secure a new five-and-a-half-year deal. Taylor commented: "I joined the club as a boy and feel confident that I can fulfil all my professional ambitions here at my hometown club. I have never lost hope that everything could be sorted and that I could stay." Assuming your "professional ambitions" are loftier than the Championship title, Steven, I'm not quite so confident - but here's hoping, eh?

As we suggested might be the case a few days ago, bridges have clearly been rebuilt in persuading Taylor to re-sign - and for that we should be thankful to Pardew: "Steven is somebody who can be a bedrock of our defence for a long time to come, and it's great news that he's staying. I made it one of my priorities when I arrived." Of course, the development also suggests either that Chris Hughton was less concerned about Taylor's retention or that Jabba has been more inclined to trust in Pardew's judgement than that of his predecessor...

Taylor still has some rough edges that you'd hope might be smoothed off soon now he's approaching his 25th birthday, but he's a whole-hearted and passionate defender who we'd have found difficult to replace had he left us for a cut-price fee in January. His applauding all four sides of the ground after the Man City game could have been interpreted as a farewell but actually signalled his continuing commitment to the club.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Boxing Day blues

Newcastle Utd 1 - 3 Man City

Surely someone should tell the players that that riff about Christmas presents and generosity of spirit is getting a bit tired now? Careless mistakes effectively cost us the game within the first five minutes and ensured it's now nine years since we recorded a three-point post-Christmas haul.

Alan Pardew made two changes to the side that won his first game in charge a fortnight ago, with Sol Campbell and Big Lad not featuring. The former was replaced by Sideshow Bob (with Mike Williamson a bit unfortunate to have to be content with a place on the bench) and the latter with Wayne Routledge, meaning a change of formation to 4-5-1 and a combative central midfield to rival that of the visitors.

Pardew couldn't legislate for individual blunders, though, and we got off to the worst possible start. Snood-wearing sneak Carlos Tevez nipped in to steal Tim Krul's lamentably poor pass to ASBO and feed the overlapping Gareth Barry, who had a simple task to tuck the ball home unchallenged.

Three minutes later our predicament worsened. This time the normally reliable Cheik Tiote was the culprit, a lackadaisical pass again seized upon by Tevez, who knocked the ball wide to James Milner and burst forward to slice our old boy's cross cleverly across Krul and into the top corner. He celebrated by producing a dummy from his sock - but the dummies were those in black and white stood around looking at each other in disbelief.

Thankfully, we found sufficient composure and assuredness to dispel thoughts of the afternoon descending into a truly horrific massacre. Rocky, as ever, was key to our revival, once again showing that even supposedly top-class defenders can find him unplayable. Time and again the ball would be lofted in his general direction and, with Joleon Lescott or Vincent Kompany odds-on favourites to clear, his forehead would meet it first. Little wonder he's caught Roberto Mancini's eye. One diving header went to the right of the goal and a fierce shot after some decent skill flew to the left, but the most presentable chance - from a perfect Routledge cross - he planted straight at Joe Hart.

City still looked dangerous, though mostly from distance. Both goalscorers came close with shots that just cleared the crossbar, while Aleksandar Kolarov - regularly aggravated in defensive areas by Routledge, who was having one of his more effective games - also unleashed a couple of venomous long-range efforts that had Geordie hearts a-flutter.

Desperate defending early in the second half denied City a third but by and large we continued to control the game after the break. Tiote was knitting things together effectively in the centre, though neither Kevin Nolan nor ASBO were enjoying particularly good games and Spidermag's reluctance to give Jose Enrique options or to take on his marker Jerome Boateng started to irritate the home crowd. Enrique, once again superb in all areas of the pitch, should perhaps learn to trust and indulge his own attacking instincts a bit more.

City's treatment of ASBO and particularly Rocky could be described as robust and uncompromising at best, and those in black and white were dumbfounded and incensed when a blatant penalty-box shove on our number nine was ignored. Sensing that the visitors' back line could be unsettled, Pardew withdrew Routledge on the hour and sent on Nile Ranger, who had been in line for a first Premier League start but who had paid the price for an alleged attitude problem.

Sure enough, Lescott and Kompany looked even less assured as the pressure mounted and we had a vital foothold back in the game when the imperious Rocky bundled in a header from ASBO's corner. Hart raced after the referee to complain he had been blocked, only to receive a caution for his protestations and have to trudge back to his goal with the Gallowgate rejoicing in chants of "There's only one Shay Given".

With Hart visibly nervy and the momentum with us, the bumper Boxing Day crowd sensed an equaliser was within reach - and it should have arrived when Ranger did well to nod a cross across goal, only for skipper Nolan to prod wide.

That was City's cue to kill the game off. Having been playing within themselves for most of the second period, they sprung a swift counterattack that saw Newcastle-supporting substitute Adam Johnson - our conqueror in that farcical defeat in September - foiled at the last minute. Undeterred, City tried again - this time Johnson passing to Tevez, whose shot took a wicked deflection to deceive the unlucky Krul and nestle in the back of the net.

The deficit could have been narrowed at the beginning of the four minutes of stoppage time, had ASBO's excellent low free-kick not been parried behind by Hart. But, despite our industriousness and far superior number of goal attempts, we slumped to defeat. No brutal De Jong challenge or mindbogglingly awful refereeing to blame this time - just those self-inflicted wounds.

City fans' views: Bitter & Blue, The Lonesome Death Of Roy Carroll

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feliz Navidad

A belated Merry Christmas from Paul and I. Hope you and yours had a good one yesterday, and may this afternoon bring further festive cheer in the form of three points.

The official site has had a procession of players delivering their Christmas messages to fans. These brought few revelations of any interest - Rocky loved to visit the Fenwick's windows as a kid, sparring partner Steven Taylor looks forward to the first festive Coca-Cola advert, the Xisco Kid isn't a fan of wintry weather - while Jose Enrique mentioned an unusual way of paying tributes to team-mates: "I saw in Christmas at the house of Fabricio Coloccini and his family, along with my girlfriend Eva, and some of our friends, and it was great to watch the children open their presents. Colo's son, Tiago, even got a Spiderman outfit in honour of Jonas Gutierrez!"

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Quote of the day

"It was a complete surprise and there were lots of emotions. It is not a nice thing to happen to anybody, but particularly at a time when it wasn't expected. But that is part of the game and the reasons why they terminated the contract are their reasons. I have been asked on numerous occasions for my own opinion why and the reality is I can't say too much. It was a very quick conversation that the club wanted to go in a different direction.

I don't think you can afford to be bitter. It's a wonderful club and I had a fantastic time there over three years. These decisions are made, whether they are right or wrong, and they are made above your head and there is nothing you can do about it. There is no point in dwelling on it too long. What you need to do is look forward. I've had a career in the game and it is a career I want to continue.

Chris Hughton reflects on his ousting from the St James' Park hot seat. Dignified as always, even unnaturally so - who could blame him for feeling bitterness towards Jabba and Llambiarse? That said, the comment "I can't say too much" suggests Jabba's imposed a gag on him as part of his severance package - presumably because if he was to speak out it might be damaging to the stability of the club. Unlike the sacking itself, of course...



Friday, December 24, 2010

Knuckle down Nile

Interesting comments from Alan Pardew today concerning Nile Ranger. The striker was due to start at Birmingham after his cameo against Liverpool helped to unsettle the Reds' defence and ultimately win the game, but Pardew said: "At the moment, he's probably still at the stage of being an impact player to a degree. When I see a bit more of him in training, and see him on time and being disciplined, that's when I'll feel willing to put him in the first team."

What's worrying is that this isn't the first time Ranger's attitude has been questioned - clearly the problem lies with the player rather than the incoming manager, who seems to have quickly reached the same conclusion as his predecessors and other observers. Ranger would do well to heed the warnings - he may have secured himself a long-term contract, but as yet he's only shown "potential" and is some way off becoming "a consistently good player". A place alongside Rocky is probably his for the taking (and of course Rocky is a good role model - at least on the pitch...) - but it remains to be seen whether he can find the necessary discipline, desire and drive to succeed.

On the subject of attitude problems, ASBO's continued to spout off to the Journal, claiming he thrives in (self-created) adversity: "I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary inner strength. To get yourself in the shit I’ve got myself in and to come back, and the level I’m at, with everything that goes on with the media intrusion and media spotlight."

He went on to criticise the hypocritical attitudes of others: "I see a lot of people in this industry being false to themselves and being this person they want others to perceive them as. I see that every single day, there’s a load of bullshit merchants, I don’t need to name names, that’s the industry we’re in. For me I know the person I am and it’s taken me to fall off the track a couple of times to find that person, but I’m thankful I got there." Look, ASBO, I'll hold my hands up and admit your performances this season have been team-oriented and excellent, so you're finally justifying your signing three years after arriving, at least in footballing terms - but to claim you've fallen off the track "a couple of times"?! We're not goldfish. I'd rather you didn't insult our memories and instead focused on getting revenge on City.

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Emotion sensor

Let's be rash and assume the Boxing Day clash with Man City is going to go ahead and take a look at some of the stories featuring in the match build-up, shall we?

First up we have the news that ASBO's claiming that the visit of his former employers is just another game: "It's not as if I'm going to get all tear-jerky and emotional because it's not my way". You don't say! That said, you'd have thought he might be a bit emotional - after all, he is facing the club he claims he rescued...

What sentiment there is could actually be of a rather different nature, though, given goings-on during our visit to Eastlands in October. Much as we'd like Nigel De Jong to receive a taste of his own medicine, I hope Alan Pardew has a calming word in ASBO's ear beforehand. As for the injured party, according to his agent Simon Stainrod, Hatem Ben Arfa is making excellent progress in his recovery: "You can never tell 100% but hopefully he’s going to be back in the first week of February, which is just fantastic. It could be later, it could be earlier but that’s better than anyone thought".

Meanwhile, Man City's own mercurial forward Mario Balotelli has been busy claiming to be the best winner of the Golden Boy trophy aside from Lionel Messi. A bold boast, and one his manager Roberto Mancini has challenged him to live up to. Hopefully that won't start against us...

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RIP Chris Scott

Our condolences to the family of Chris Scott, an acquaintance of this half of Black & White & Read All Over who died on 14th December, aged 33. The fervent Toon fan, who had been battling cancer for the last three years, was buried in a black and white coffin and mourners sang the 'Blaydon Races' as part of the funeral service. His family encouraged donations to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation rather than flowers.

RIP Chris.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ASBO is a wanted man

Another day, another hands-off message from Alan Pardew. Yesterday it was Rocky, today it was his in-form supply line for most of the season, ASBO: "We don't want to do any business".

Time was when, if anyone had offered us anything even approaching £5m, we'd have snapped their arm off. Clearly ASBO's now seen as an integral part of our first team. I'd say "How things change!", but that new leaf in terms of conduct he keeps promising is yet to materialise. He's used to being a wanted man, but not in this sense...

Also recently subjected to Pardew's powers of persuasion has been Steven Taylor. "I have been very impressed with the new manager. Since he came in, he's been absolutely spot-on. Within a day or two of him coming in, he sat down in his office and made it clear he wants me. He just wants to get the ball rolling." By the sounds of it, then, burned bridges could yet be rebuilt. With previous first-choice central defensive pair Mike Williamson and Sideshow Bob now both suspension-free, whether he'll keep his place in the side for our next game (whenever that may be...) remains to be seen.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All of a Twitter

In recent weeks I've slowly started getting into Twitter, and as a result I've been privileged to cast my eyes over some insights in to the world of a professional footballer.

Firstly, some breaking news courtesy of our left back:

@Josenufc3: "we have new assistant manager but dont ask me the name because i don't know hem"

Secondly, some insights into our Christmas party courtesy of our right back:

@dannysimpson12: "I love my team"

Simpson has also posted a whole host of pics from the party which involved all the players dressed in red, yellow or green outfits. Is it just me, or does Cheik Tiote (great player though he is) look a prize tit?

Similarly, Rocky, in a fetching yellow number, looks somewhat the worse for wear.

Finally of course, a hearty B&W&RAO hello and happy Christmas to the Mirror's own Brian McNally, who can't be that doolally given that it turns out he's a reader of ours!

Quote of the day

"We had an offer and I said no – the boy was the future of the club. Some people agreed and some did not. At the time Carroll would have been sold, but instead I got him to sign a new contract."

Hang on a minute - you're the person solely responsible for keeping Rocky at the club? Come back Dennis, all is forgiven!

Wise was speaking on Saturday's Football Focus. The programme also featured an interview with Alan Pardew who - in between describing himself as "fortunate" but not "lucky" to be in the job and subtly reminding Jabba how much he's spent in compensation on sacking managers prematurely - revealed that assurances Rocky would be retained were key to him signing a contract. So little wonder that recent stories in the Express and elsewhere declaring that 'Appy 'Arry has his beady eyes trained on our number nine have prompted him into sending out a robust hands off message. Will Jabba be true to his word? Who knows?

Money, money, money

Following on from Pay As You Play, credit to blogger the Swiss Rambler for putting his business background to good use, poring over our finances and producing a long, informative and impressively researched post.

The gist of it you can probably imagine - we were a financial basket-case post-relegation with an alarming wage-to-turnover ratio of 83% - but what's revealing (at least to me) is the extent to which Jabba has bankrolled the club. Perhaps, were this to be better publicised and were he to not continually make fan-infuriating decisions like giving Chris Hughton the boot, then we might be more appreciative and grateful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stocking filler

With Christmas almost upon us, it's perhaps a bit late to start flagging up potential Christmas gifts for loved ones. But all the same we'd like to highlight the publication of Pay As You Play: The True Price of Success in the Premier League Era.

The premise for the book is relatively simple, with the authors using some complex maths (the sort of which Carol Vorderman would no doubt be proud) to calculate the value in today's terms of all of the transfers since the Premier League began - a number which they describe as the Current Transfer Purchase Price (CTPP).

While highlighting that the authors hate the notion that football began in 1992 (as Sky would have you believe), they had to start somewhere and 1992 and the huge influx of cash which followed seemed a reasonable point to begin the number-crunching.

With contributions from fans (including a couple of Newcastle fans not a million miles away from this blog) the book presents a comparison and critique of all managers and teams since 1992, and in Newcastle's case makes for some interesting revelations.

In 1993/94 (our inaugural Premier League season) our first XI was worth a CTPP price of £44,674,648 making it the eleventh most expensive team in the League and as we stormed through the first season they racked up 77 points to finish third in the league (at a cost of £580,190 per point).

Over the following three seasons, as Keegan sought to upgrade the playing personnel, the CTPP value of the team rose to £80,903,917 by 1995/96. That team, (the third most expensive in the league) featuring Messrs Ferdinand and Ginola picked up 78 points at a cost of £1,037,230 per point and, as we don't need reminding, just failed to win the league.

The following year, having splashed out on Alan Shearer, we watched the most expensive side in the land thrash Man Utd 5-0 at home, but again fall short of winning the league with Keegan having been replaced by Kenny Dalglish.

For his two-year reign, Kenny enjoyed managing the most expensive side in the league, but suffered diminishing returns with the team's cost per point rocketing to £1,961,106 during the 1997/98 season (when we finished 13th).

Gullit's allegedly "sexy" football followed, and Ruud took the second most expensive team in the league to the FA Cup final, but saw the cost per point climb above the £2 million mark.

With Gullit replaced by Bobby Robson early in the 1999/00 campaign, we remained one of the three most expensively assembled teams in the league, but thanks to improved performances on the pitch, the value per point again dropped below the £2 million mark and in 2002/03 our team's place as the third most expensive in the land was matched by our final league position (the first time we had equalled or bettered our position in the table of most expensive teams since the end of the 1995/96 season).

With Robson's departure, the club appointed Grim Sourness, whose miserly record had seen him manage teams whose league position had generally exceeded their place in the cost table. However, as bitter memory will recall, the football was shite and Sourness failed to add value to the squad.

What was notable in those years was that while we continued to spend big (Luque, Owen et al.) other teams were also splashing the cash, and we dropped back to fifth in the expense rank. However, an average return of £1.4 million per point (and in particular the way in which those points were gathered) wasn't enough to keep Souness in the job.

His replacement was Glenn Roeder, our former captain presiding over a club whose relative first XI value dropped (presumably the retirement of a certain sheet metal worker's son from Gosforth playing its part in that) but whose fortunes in the league were also on the slide and Roeder averaged £1.37 million per point.

Fat Sam - who, like Sourness before him, arrived with a reputation of turning lead into gold - failed to signify an improvement in fortunes with the then sixth most expensive team costing £1.4 million per point on our way to 12th in 2007/08.

The following year, our annus horribilis, saw the sixth most expensive team (costing £63,534,985) relegated from the league with a mere 34 points, each of which cost over £1.8 million.

What is interesting is firstly how our expensively assembled squad consistently failed to deliver and secondly how managers with previous reputations for good financial stewardship (Souness' Blackburn team of 2003 garnered a point for every £571,592 spent on players) singularly failed to deliver when entrusted with Fat Fred's cheque book.

The other interesting thing to note is that, in terms of underperforming, our worst period was the 1999-00 season of Gullitt and Robson which saw each of our 52 points cost a whopping £2,273,715.

Unsurprisingly, the manager with the best record (when calculated on a points per pounds basis) is Keegan (even after his figures were skewed by his more recent spell in charge). However, second in the list is Roeder, while Robson is only ahead of Gullitt at the bottom of the table.

What the statistics don't show is that, for all the money spent, the quality of football varied greatly and wasn't always reflected in the price - with Keegan in particular producing great football for relatively cheap sums. In 1993/94 and 1995/96 our league position was above that of our place in the expense rank. No other manager achieved that, with Robson only able to match the cost/league table rankings once.

For more details on the book, please see this website, with the sample chapter "The Newcastle Effect" available to read online.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Doolally McNally

So, according to the Mirror's Brian McNally, "there is absolutely no doubt that the 3-1 win over Liverpool killed any threat of a Magpie mutiny from the players stone dead." He continues: "And, despite isolated murmurings of discontent from veteran Sol Campbell and one or two others over Chris Hughton's sacking, Pardew has instantly established himself as the absolute ruler of the St James' Park dressing room." Either he's got a very well-placed source at the club, or he's blathering on making groundless assumptions. Which do you think it might be?

The comments appear in a piece entitled "Why positive-thinking Pardew is starting to win me over" - all Mirror hacks seemingly duty-bound to begin pieces with the word "Why". And what's McNally's prime reason for adopting this stance towards our new manager, just one game into his reign? His punctuality at press conferences...

Interesting too McNally's claims about supporter unrest: "The fans' revolt was also somewhat muted. The protests that were initially directed at Ashley rather than Pardew seem to have fizzled out. There is almost a weary acceptance among the Toon Army that they simply don't have the collective clout to overthrow the present regime." No there isn't, Brian - may I politely suggest you pay a visit to the NUST site.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quote of the day

"Growing up was difficult. I started playing football when I was about ten for a very local team. There were a lot of ­materials lacking. We did not even have football boots. I played for nearly five years barefoot and it teaches you how to control the ball and pass from an early age. I was 15 before I got my first pair of football boots. Now we have everything – then we certainly didn’t."

It's fair to say our midfield revelation Cheik Tiote retains a sense of perspective.

1992-3 and all that

Long before Chris Hughton performed miracles to unite a fractured team and haul us out of the second tier, King Kev did much the same - and with the odds stacked even more heavily against him. For a pleasurable trip down the memory lane that was the 1992-3 promotion season (guide = moi), click here.

(Thanks to Rob and Lloyd for inviting me to contribute to the series.)

Jabba in the frame

In case you missed it: the Guardian Gallery contributors take on Jabba. The first featured submission, with our esteemed owner cast as Henry VIII and his managers as his wives, is particularly good.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coach trip

Tuesday saw us welcome onboard goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman, the recruit from Charlton replacing the outgoing Paul Barron. Woodman worked under Alan Pardew at the Valley and at West Ham before that, and is a long-time associate from our gaffer's youth at Crystal Palace.

Meanwhile Steve Stone and Willie Donachie have been promoted to first-team coach and development coach respectively, with Peter Beardsley happy to remain as reserve team manager.

According to Pardew, that leaves room for "one other" to be named, but whoever it is it won't be old boy Gary Speed, who has taken up the position as manager of his country - no doubt to the relief of Sheffield Utd fans, judging by the Championship table.

Meanwhile, after the unsavoury crotch-grabbing provocation of Liverpool's Fernando Torres on Saturday that soured a man-of-the-match performance, ASBO has escaped with nothing more than a slapped wrist from the FA: "We will be writing to him to remind him of his responsibilities". Nice to see them assuming he's literate. Not so nice to see .com condoning the gestures by portraying him as the victim of media persecution. Once again, at the risk of repeating myself, he's not - he's a hot-headed idiot who seems destined never to learn from his mistakes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quote of the day

"We don’t know the real reason behind Chris leaving. We were told it was push the club on to the next level and a lot of us questioned Alan’s appointment.

There’s a lot of stories going round this week about our dressing room – player revolt, backlash and all that. We care too much about each other first and foremost to act so unprofessionally.

It wouldn’t happen in our dressing room because there’s such a great spirit in there. And we also know it’s not Alan’s fault that Chris got sacked. Obviously he’s come in and he’s got to pick off from where Chris left off and it’s nothing to do with him why Chris has been sacked. That was a decision made at boardroom level.

We had a meeting with the chairman on Thursday before the new manager was appointed and we all said our piece. A lot of the senior players said exactly what they thought and the reason we did is because we care greatly about this football club. We care about pulling on the shirt and going out and performing.

And obviously we're entitled to our say. Ultimately it doesn’t come down to us, the running of the football club, but as I said 'Look it’s important for us to say how we feel, let you know how we feel' and all our opinions were heard and we move on.

Interesting post-match comments from ASBO, underlining that the players certainly didn't sit back and passively accept Chris Hughton's departure, instead insisting upon what is usually euphemistically referred to as "a full and frank exchange of views" with the hierarchy.

As good as it is to know that the players were prepared to speak out in Hughton's defence, the comments raise a couple of questions. Firstly, aren't the fans - who also "care about pulling on the shirt" and support the club financially and emotionally - not only also entitled to their say but to Jabba and Llambiarse having the decency to listen, for a change? And secondly, is it just me or is ASBO bristling at suggestions he might have behaved "unprofessionally" frankly laughable given his track record charge sheet?

Sam slung out

Fat Sam last Monday: "Ha ha ha, that fat Cockney bastard's gone and done it again! Sacked a brilliant manager who had got the team playing well individually and collectively. Well I hope he gets his comeuppance and it's off to the Championship once again for the Geordies! Best be thankful I've got supportive owners behind me here, not that clueless oaf. Ha ha ha!"

Fat Sam this Monday: "I am very shocked and disappointed to be leaving Blackburn."

After the farce and turbulence of last week, surely we can't be blamed for finding our "bitter" former manager's misfortune rather funny. A defeat (Blackburn's third in a row) to another former club, Bolton, on Sunday was the final straw.

Rovers' new owners Venky's have made their money from processed chicken - so it was fitting they throttled a turkey just before Christmas. As for Fat Sam, he's none too pleased at the news if this Twitter account is to be believed (and c'mon, let's) and is presumably off to Casa St James to wait for that phone call from Real Madrid...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Protests and points

Newcastle Utd 3 - 1 Liverpool

What a week that was, and what a way to end it - vociferous anti-Jabba protests (my favourite banner labelled him "a fat slug") preceding a tremendous team performance and ultimately a thoroughly deserved victory over Liverpool.

Last time the Reds were in Toon they romped to an embarrassing 5-1 win which prompted Shay Given to announce he was sick of being made a sitting duck and put in a transfer request (three separate standing ovations clearly not being enough to persuade him to stay), and Steven Gerrard to go out for a few quiet celebratory drinks in Southport. Thankfully both Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were both missing on Saturday, but Roy Hodgson was still able to bring Fernando Torres into a side that had comprehensively beaten Villa in their previous fixture.

Meanwhile, the new man in our dug-out, Alan Pardew - introduced to a reception which could only charitably be described as "mixed" and looking a little bewildered by all the attention - sensibly brought back the suspension-free ASBO and injury-free Kevin Nolan, with Danny Guthrie and Wayne Routledge dropping to the bench.

Our returning Scouse duo were to enjoy quite an evening against their hometown side - and indeed it took them all of a quarter of an hour to make their mark. ASBO floated a central free-kick to the right edge of the six-yard box, where Rocky headed the ball into the middle of the goal for Nolan to sweep home from close range. A perfectly executed set-piece move, the likes of which we're very rarely privileged to see - though whether our captain was onside when Rocky's bonce met ASBO's ball was questionable.

We went on to have the best of the first half, with two opportunities being spurned by Rocky. For the first he fired a shot straight into Pepe Reina's midriff and for the second Spidermag's cute ball just evaded his control. Big Lad was also putting himself about usefully, while at the other end Tim Krul was rarely troubled. Jose Enrique, a dynamic force at left-back, did clear off the line from Raul Meireles, but the shot may actually have been destined to strike the foot of the post anyway.

The equaliser did come, though, within five minutes of the restart. Another poor mistake by Sol Campbell resulted in confusion with Enrique, seized upon by Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman cut inside and tried his luck with his left foot, the ball sliding agonisingly wide of Krul's dive due to a prodded deflection from the unwitting Steven Taylor. Anyone else relieved that Mike Williamson and Sideshow Bob will both be available again for Saturday's trip to St Andrews?

Liverpool then started to look dangerous, and when a lofted free-kick caught our defence napping Torres seemed certain to score, but Krul intervened with a crucial save. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Rocky's marker and Doppelganger) and David Ngog both missed presentable headers - though Rocky did too, arriving late onto ASBO's curling cross. If most of the latter's contributions were worthy of praise, then his totally unnecessary taunting and crotch-grabbing antics very definitely weren't and will in all likelihood land him with yet another ban. Jabba is certainly not the only person at the club utterly incapable of learning from his mistakes.

The key to the victory turned out to be Pardew's decision to replace Big Lad with Nile Ranger shortly after the hour mark. The youngster may be unproven and painfully raw but he immediately unnerved Martin Skrtel with his power and unpredictability, shooting wide having manufacturing himself a golden chance. And when we regained the lead Ranger was instrumental, easily outmuscling defenders for ASBO to steal in and poke an opportunist finish past Reina.

Hodgson's furious scrub of the cheeks on the sidelines was hilarious and his side proceeded to shoot themselves in the other foot in stoppage time. Lucas Leiva granted Rocky time and space 25 yards out, correctly assuming he wouldn't be able to score a header from there - and our man proved the Brazilian right but also that he's no one-trick pony, despatching a venomous drive into the bottom left corner.

The three points (and the ascent to eighth, one place behind the Mackems) were just desserts for a great team effort, but all is certainly not rosy. ASBO's dedication of the victory to Chris Hughton - scant consolation for the man celebrating his birthday, no doubt - probably rankled with his successor. Pardew spoke of needing to win the fans' trust, but I suspect he still has to win the players' trust as well, skipper Nolan looking none too pleased at being hauled off towards the end despite whatever he may have said post-match in Pardew's favour.

Meanwhile, the sight of Jabba and Llambiarse, apparently oblivious or wilfully ignorant of the venom directed at them, hugging and jigging around like a pair of drunk Ann Widdecombes on Strictly Come Dancing was stomach-turning. Regardless of this result, and whatever we achieve under Pardew, the sacking of Hughton was unjustified and they shouldn't be allowed to forget it.

Liverpool fans' verdicts: Liverpool Football Club Blog, The Tomkins Times

Other reports: BBC, Guardian (be warned - the latter's by TBW...)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Anger (at the) management

And still the flak directed at Jabba refuses to die down. The most recent batch of critics includes:

- one former manager who, like the ousted Chris Hughton, was himself treated shabbily by our esteemed owner: "The club can never go anywhere under Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias - it can't go anywhere, I promise you that."

- one preening gobshite midfielder, surprising everyone by talking some sense: "The statement which said the board were looking for 'an individual with more management experience' ... made it sound like Guus Hiuddink was on his way. Instead they brought in a guy who has spent only one full season in the Premier League. Pardew is a good manager but Ashley has made hiring him look like a sideways or backwards step".

Not sure who "Guus Hiuddink" is, mind.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quote of the day

"I think Alan Pardew may be about as popular an appointment as Margaret Thatcher as president of the coal miners association."

England spinner Graeme Swann reacts to the latest developments at St James' Park.

In a column for the Sun shortly before the Mackem match, Newcastle fan Swann began: "When I return next February after more than three months in Australia, I hope Chris Hughton is still manager of the Toon." Even more fatefully, he later added: "If Newcastle beat Sunderland on Sunday, Hughton won't have anybody after his job for ages". Little wonder, then, that he's dedicated Monday's victory in the second Ashes test to our outgoing manager.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nothing to report? If only

Just another slow news day on Tyneside, then, with us scrabbling around for stories to report on. Nothing much to mention other than Steve Harper's return to action and confirmation of Nicky Butt's decision to come out of retirement.

Oh, OK then, if I must...

Pardew was unveiled as our new manager at a St James' Park press conference this afternoon (alone, I should add - neither Jabba nor Llambiarse having the guts to deign to appear and explain themselves to the media). Below I analyse a selection of Pardew's pronouncements...

"I've had a lot of texts from managers saying 'you must be mad going there'. But it's one of the top five clubs in England. It's a daunting prospect but something I couldn't turn down".

They had a point, Alan. What have you possibly got to gain, other than a boost to your bank balance and the opportunity to add a big name to your CV?

You're going to be working for someone who has repeatedly shown himself to be spectacularly clueless when it comes to footballing matters and yet who insists on interfering. You're unwanted by the players and fans, both of whom have been fiercely critical of Chris Hughton's dismissal. And you've got to stabilise a once-again unstable club riven with tensions.

Oh, and I think it's fair to say that Spurs and Man City fans might be justified in questioning your claim that we're "one of the top five clubs in England"...

"The problem I'm going to have initially is the players. I need to get my message across quickly and with clarity so as not to get any resentment at a time when they are doing reasonably well. The battles I need to win are on the pitch. I understood what was going to happen if I took the job."

That first sentence suggests he's under no illusions, but the second contradicts it - the resentment's already there, Alan, I'm afraid. Just take a look at the public comments made by captain Kevin Nolan and Sunday's stand-in skipper Sol Campbell in the wake of Hughton's departure. Whatever Jabba could accuse Hughton of, it certainly wouldn't be having lost the dressing room - and Pardew now finds himself in the position of having lost it even before he's started.

"I wanted to be tough on the length of contract and give myself as much stability at a club that hasn't had much stability with managers. Managers have come and gone here. It doesn't bode well so I'm trying to say I will work as hard as I possibly can here to get a situation where I can bring some longevity to the job."

Bully for you for doing a Souness and securing a ludicrously long contract (five and a half years) out of a moronic hierarchy, Alan. Of course the length of the contract also underlines Jabba's disgraceful treatment of Hughton, whom he wouldn't even offer an extension - our former manager must be feeling even more disrespected today. It's also rather rich of Pardew to blather on about stability - that's exactly what we'd finally achieved with Hughton and what he allegedly helped to destroy by agreeing to secret assignations with Ashley, Llambiarse and co when Hughton was still in the job.

"The brief for me would be to consolidate and stay in the division. But there's an opportunity this year... the Premier League is so close. We're in a great position for a team that's just been promoted but we've got to kick on."

Here we go - lofty and unrealistic ambitions, just the sort of thing that probably appealed to Jabba. Hughton was a pragmatist and knew that survival was the key objective this campaign, and nothing more. The fans urging sobriety and realism while those within the club are intoxicated with absurd expectations? And to think that we're the ones forever accused of being delusional...

So, how to react now? Do we want Pardew to fail? Of course not. Are we now resigned to getting behind him (or at least him and the team), now the deed has been done? I think probably yes - very begrudgingly. The club is always more important than individuals etc etc.

But Pardew should be aware that the supporters' patience will be in far shorter supply than it was for his predecessor, and Jabba should be aware that the disgraceful treatment of Hughton won't be forgotten and that NUST's resolve to wrest ownership of the club and place into the hands of fans has been strengthened by the whole debacle.

Quote of the day

"Pardew has the experience of being sacked that we’re looking for, insists Mike Ashley"

Newsthump react to the news of Alan Pardew's appointment.

(Thanks to Olie for the link.)

Around the grounds

As news breaks that we've confirmed Alan Pardew as our new manager, I thought it might be interesting to see what fans of his former employers were saying:

Addicks Championship Diary:
"One Charlton fan went out to put a bet on a Newcastle relegation after the news was leaked. I can see his point, but let's hope they survive."

West Ham Blog:
"I think they can only go backwards from it, and on that basis, the Geordies are welcome to him....but then again, this is West Ham's luck we are talking about, so he'll probably choose now to turn into the next Jose Mourinho, let's see..."

Let's be honest, neither of those are exactly ringing endorsements. Let's hope that Jabba and Llambiarse have seen something in it that those fans haven't (other than a love of casinos).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pards on the table

According to reports, our new manager is to be Alan Pardew. That's right. The man who took Charlton down, and kept them there, who couldn't get Southampton out of League One and who didn't play Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano when he had them in his squad at West Ham.

Now, don't get me wrong, I would dearly love Pardew to prove to be a runaway success as Newcastle manager. I'd love to see him succeed in the post, and to guide us up the table and oversee strong (and ultimately fruitful) cup runs in due course.

However, what concerns me is that he is reportedly a buddy of Jabba and Llambiarse having got to know them in a casino that Llambiarse was running. Having already had our fair share of disastrous appointments as a result of cronyism (Paul Kelmsley, JFK and worst of all the Poisoned Dwarf) another decision in the same vein is a big worry.

Secondly, does anyone really think that Pardew is going to do a significantly better job than Hughton? The fact that we were reportedly talking to Pardew ten days ago, when Hughton was still in post, whilst pragmatic in one sense, remains deeply disappointing in another, showing as it does both our (and for that matter Pardew's) contempt for Hughton.

All in all, it seems a distinctly underwhelming move which is more likely to destabilise the club than it is to bring success on the field.

I can only hope that I am proven very wrong.


A supportive piece has appeared on the Telegraph website, claiming the man likely to be named as boss tomorrow is "a far better coach, far more innovative manager and has the strength of personality to thrive in the top half of the Premier League". Tell that to those who responded to yesterday's poll in the Ronny Gill - Pards polled just 2% of the votes (14) out of more than 1000 cast...

A Month Of Saturdays: November 2010

(This feels somewhat redundant or at least very out of date in the context of recent events - but for the sake of form here it is anyway...)

A forceful and muscular centre-forward renowned for bullying and bossing defenders, a local lad leading the line for club and country who wears the number nine shirt when in black and white. Remind you of anyone?

It's hardly surprising that Alan Shearer was fulsome in his praise of Rocky on at least two occasions in November. "Andy has taken up my mantle", opined Wor Al, before going on to muse about one of the only noticeable differences between the pair: "He's got more hair than me - although I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing with that ponytail! But he's had a great start to the season". And Shearer wasn't alone, with Arsene Wenger - who, as irritating, hypocritical and whiney as he can be, knows a thing or two about recognising young talent - also enthusing about his rapid development and qualities.

Once again I find myself focusing A Month Of Saturdays on Rocky's achievements (and misdeeds - to come...), but then it would be hard not to given how central he was to goings-on in November. Last time out I pondered: "Might the day yet come when Rocky picks up the phone and the voice on the other end of the line is more likely to be Capello than his solicitor?" And indeed it did, perhaps sooner than expected, with a full international debut against France. An England side looking to the future may have slumped to a disspiriting 2-0 defeat to arguably the most abject side in this summer's World Cup, but Rocky at least did his job, discomforting defenders with more caps than he's had Premier League appearances.

Though the England call-up was probably Rocky's personal highlight of the month, his contributions in black and white were certainly cause for celebration. Four goals we recorded and he scored them all, only drawing a blank in a frustrating St James' Park encounter with Fulham - though even then it certainly wasn't for want of trying.

Beginning the month at the Emirates where he left off in the demolition of 5under1and - an afternoon that, much to our amusement, continued to rankle with Ol' Caulflower Face - Rocky discomposed the Arsenal back-line and capitalised on uncertainty between defenders and 'keeper to head home on the stroke of half-time. The Gunners may have fallen well short of their usual electrifying standards, but we nevertheless performed very well collectively and secured an unexpected but warmly welcomed win without much trouble.

Also unable to beat us - thanks again to Rocky making the most of defensive miscommunication - were another bunch of preening London high-flyers, Chelsea. As the afternoon wore on, Carlo Ancelotti's side became an increasingly dominant force but ultimately could only muster a draw - and that courtesy of a shot that took a small but wicked deflection to deceive Tim Krul. Had that nice chap Ashley Cole been spotted imprinting his studs on Big Lad, he wouldn't have still been on the pitch to head Wayne Routledge's goalbound volley off the line. As if breaking Wor Cheryl's heart wasn't bad enough...

Rocky also netted in the painful home defeat to Fat Sam's Blackburn which inexplicably followed the Arsenal victory, but worse was to come in the form of the spectacularly awful performance in Lancashire, where we were torn apart by a vibrant and bang-in-form Bolton side. Not only did we defend abysmally, we also paid the full price for ill discipline, Sideshow Bob red-carded for elbowing two-goal Swede Johan Elmander and his central defensive partner Mike Williamson retrospectively banned for an illegal challenge on the same player. And all this coming after ASBO had reverted to type, undergoing trial by TV and subsequently being found guilty of violent conduct for a punch on Blackburn goalscorer Morten Gamst Pedersen... The only bright spot at the Reebok was, once again, Rocky, who scored our consolation and also hit the post while the team around him disintegrated - something that Wor Al particularly picked up on when singing his successor's praises.

But of course with Rocky we've become accustomed to taking the rough with the smooth, and there was more of the former as well as the latter in November in the shape of the lurid News Of The Screws revelations of goings-on chez Nolan following the derby victory. Safe to assume it was Mrs Nolan who imposed the strict curfew on their temporary house-guest - and so when the cat was away, the mouse and his supposedly mature and responsible guardian most definitely played. Still, by the end of the month he managed to convince the Mirror's Brian McNally that he "seems to be learning the error of his ways". Time will tell.

On the subject of learning from mistakes, it's to be hoped that January's FA Cup clash with Stevenage doesn't pan out like the last one, back in 1998 - a PR nightmare courtesy of bungling arrogance on our part. But if a club is prepared to offer Nicky Butt £200,000 a week to come out of retirement, then I guess anything's possible - including, perhaps, a new deal for Steven Taylor? While the suspensions for Williamson and Sideshow Bob saw the fit-again central defender back in the first team, the news was less good for his namesake Ryan, condemned to 12 weeks out following a training ground collision with Sol Campbell.

Also having to come to terms with a lengthy injury lay-off was Kazenga LuaLua, who sustained a broken ankle as League 1 leaders Brighton suffered a rare defeat at the hands of the Monkey Hangers. Meanwhile, fellow loanee Fraser Forster kept a clean sheet while his Celtic team-mates scored no fewer than nine times at the other end - a result that ultimately hastened ex-Toon striker Mark McGhee's ousting from the Aberdeen hot-seat.

There remained an odd but niggling managerial uncertainty closer to home, too, with Chris Hughton continuing to be kept in limbo by the club hierarchy, both over a new contract and a new assistant to replace Colin Calderwood. True to form, Hughton kept his own counsel, and it was left to one of the alleged prospective candidates for the assistant job, Faroe Islands boss Brian Kerr, to suggest that his former companion on the Republic of Ireland bench might be frustrated by the situation. As the calendar flipped into December, though, little did we know that Hughton wouldn't be in limbo for much longer.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Unfit and improper

The BBC are reporting that MPs are to "look at whether the rules requiring owners to be 'fit and proper persons' are adequate". The focus will of course be on preventing financial mismanagement by uncovering shady and unscrupulous pasts, but the events of the last two days have once again revealed our very own Jabba to be, in a wider sense, neither fit nor proper to run a football club...

The quiet man bows out

Further reaction to Chris Hughton's unceremonious dismissal:

The man himself, in a statement released through the League Managers Association: "I am immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters during my time as manager. We have built on last season’s momentum following promotion back up to the Barclays Premier League and have produced some excellent results to see us sitting midway in the table at this stage of the season. I now wish them and the club all the very best for the future."

Captain Kevin Nolan: "Chris was gutted about what had happened. You could see that. But it said so much about him that, even though he was obviously disappointed to be going, he was still telling me and Joey [Barton] that we had to make sure we had a good season. There was such dignity about the way he left, which is how he conducted himself while he was the manager."

Hughton's former assistant Colin Calderwood: "There's a great deal of shock but [it's] not unexpected because of the knowledge I had when I was there and the sort of regime that he [Hughton] was working under. It makes it difficult. You want to know the parameters of the job and they keep changing, and you're not allowed to do what you think's feasible or logical then it becomes very difficult to do your job as well as you can and at the minute the job has been done well terrifically well."

John Carver, one of Calderwood's predecessors: "I'm devastated and angry. It's another situation where you have a young coach-manager learning his stripes like he did last year in the Championship, did a fantastic job, did the job with style. He then took them into the Premier League on limited resources, brought in some decent players and this has happened."

LMA chief executive Richard Bevan: "The LMA is extremely disappointed that Newcastle have parted company with Chris given the success the club has experienced since his appointment. Not only did Chris secure promotion back to the Barclays Premier League, but achieved two club records in the process; 102 points to secure promotion and the longest sequence of unbeaten league matches (17). Throughout his time at Newcastle Chris has conducted himself with tremendous integrity and dignity, the team’s current position of 11th in the Barclays Premier League demonstrating the stabilising effect Chris has had in his role as manager during his period at Newcastle."

Former defender John Anderson: "You just wish he would get angry and come out and say what he feels, but he won't."

Newcastle fan Kevin Rawlinson in the Independent: "As Hughton held the Championship trophy aloft at St James' Park, the fans knew he had won it despite losing some very talented players the previous summer, despite spending a relatively small sum of money and despite nobody having even given him a chance of getting the job in the first place. We appreciate the air of honest professionalism, of class and of dignity he has displayed at the club. It is one which shames the board."


West Bromwich Albion 3 - 1 Newcastle Utd

I thought I'd write this in the style of Newcastle's ummm play. So, um, here goes...

Depressingly, um, we could barely, um, string, two um, passes, um, together. Our play, um, as, um, disjointed and sloppy as, um we've seen for, um, quite some, um, time.

(Nope, can't carry this on any longer - watching the match was bad enough, trying to write it up in the same style is almost as painful).

The sad reality is that, as the game which subsequent events have made Chris Hughton's epitaph, it was a desperately disappointing way to finish. As a team, we just didn't perform well. The home team were dominant in all areas, able to seemingly slice through us at will. Danny Guthrie completely failed to get to grips with the game in midfield, and both Spidermag and Wayne Routledge were too isolated on the flanks, which left Cheik Tiote with too much to do in midfield.

Up front, Big Lad and Rocky were unable to dominate the centre-backs and therefore our hopeful punts forward came to nothing, while at the back Campbell and Taylor looked like a rusty pairing with only one good set of legs between them. It was, to be frank, terrible.

The goals, when they came, were largely of our own undoing. The first, by winger Somen Tchoyi, was a result of some pretty terrible defending from a set piece. The second followed Guthrie's slip in midfield which allowed Peter Odemwingie to run through on goal, and the same player added a third late on when Campbell's pathetic attempt to play the offside trap backfired.

A goalmouth scramble at the death, which saw Peter Lovenkrands score following a blocked Rocky shot, was far too little too late - both for this match and, with hindsight, for Hughton.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Monday, December 06, 2010

Quote of the day

"This will hit the players hard. The players admired him and liked him and won't be happy now he's gone like this.

It makes no sense. Here is a guy who has done an unbelievable job. He got the club back into the Premier League and any manager would have been rewarded for that with a new contract, but Chris wasn't.

The players are sure to be asking themselves 'What the hell is going on?', that is only natural.

When we left training this morning none of the players had a clue this was coming. Yes, it has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room there is no doubt about that.

Sol Campbell risks incurring Jabba's wrath by speaking out in ousted manager Chris Hughton's defence - and emphasises the fact that our esteemed owner has at a stroke undone everything Hughton achieved in terms of stabilising the club.

Needless to say, I remain flabbergasted - and angry.

Reaction to the sacking (equally bemused and condemnatory):

The BBC's Phil McNulty: "For Newcastle, it was further proof that if there is a self-destruct button to hand, they simply cannot resist the temptation to press it".

The Guardian's Barney Ronay: "Newcastle United's decision to dispense with Chris Hughton is quite possibly the most stupid in recent footballing memory."

Jabba strikes again


Demonstrating a staggering failure to learn from past mistakes, Jabba and Llambiarse have today sacked Chris Hughton.

Admittedly the performance yesterday wasn't good (match report here), but even after the game we're still sat eleventh in our first season back in the top flight almost halfway through the season. How high did Jabba think we should be?

On a personal note, I feel desperately sorry for Hughton who has shown a level of dignity and skill under what must have been pretty unpleasant working conditions. He inherited the fractured team which had taken us down (fractured as a result of Jabba and Llambiarse's mismanagement and lies) and formed a team capable of storming back into the Premier League at the first attempt, and who were reasonably comfortably ensconced in mid-table.

All of which seemed not to matter to Jabba, who has now fired the manager. Seriously, how fucking high up the table were we supposed to be? We're currently above Liverpool, Everton and Villa amongst others. We've had some lows, but we've equally enjoyed some incredible highs (Villa and 5under1and at home stand out in particular).

Clearly the lessons of relegation haven't been learned, and we've once again thrown ourselves into turmoil midway through the season.

Looking at the bookies, current favourites are Martin O'Neill, Alan Curbishley and Alan Pardew. Can't see any of them being cheaper than Hughton, or for that matter being content to have the board dictating who they can and can't hire as their assistant manager. Reportedly the board want someone with more managerial experience.  What price the bastards re-appointing JFK? After all, they seem to take great delight in kicking us while we're down.

Farewell then Chris, you did a fantastic job under incredibly trying circumstances, and we will always be grateful.

For the owner, all I can say is: you fat cockney bastard, get out of our club!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

10 months later

A quick round of applause to the BBC, who are clearly on the pulse and reporting a story from the Mirror in today's transfer gossip. Apparently Chelsea are preparing a £9million bid for Steven Taylor.

As Ben highlighted earlier, whether he'll be going anywhere, or signing a new contract on Tyneside remains uncertain. However, it's fair to say that if he is to leave, given that he is currently transfer listed and his contract runs out in the summer, a much lower cash offer in January should secure his services.

A quick read of the Mirror story shows that it was, in fact, written on 13 February 2010, a mere 10 months ago.

In other news on the BBC website, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is contemplating when to call a General Election and the Lib Dems are pledging that should they triumph they will abolish tuition fees...

London calling?

Could we be trying to rebuild bridges with Steven Taylor? He remains on the transfer list, but the (ahem) ever-reliable Star is reporting that we've decided to offer him a whopping £40,000 a week to keep him out of 'Appy 'Arry's clutches.

Personally I can't see him staying on Tyneside. Local lad he may be (despite being born in the capital), but our previous obstinacy in contract negotiations and the blanket silence in the wake of the training ground tete-a-tete with Rocky are still likely to leave him feeling his future lies elsewhere. In fact, the figure the Star are bandying about doesn't really ring true - it would involve smashing the wage structure for someone who, as decent a player as he can be, is at the moment only a stand-in for Mike Williamson and Sideshow Bob.

In other news, the Mirror are claiming that a former Toon 'keeper's dream move could be scuppered by one of our current custodians, while Nicky Butt announced his return from retirement with an eventful debut for South China, scoring a free kick but also missing a penalty.