Friday, July 30, 2010

Kind to Krul*

Tim Krul's reward for patience and working hard is a new four-year deal. Reacting to the news, Steve Harper was among those he thanked - but he also made it clear he's got his sights set on becoming first choice. Hard to believe, but the Dutchman's now been at St James' Park for five years - "and it feels like home".

Less good news from elsewhere in the camp, though, with confirmation that Steven Taylor's rehabilitation period will last up to three months. Good thing we got Sol Campbell in, then - though I wouldn't be surprised if we're still mulling over recruiting additional defenders.

* Well, .com beat us to "Krul intentions"...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cam in, number five

Given that our courting of Sol Campbell allegedly began more than five years ago, with eyelashes being fluttered again in 2006 and 2009, it could rank as the longest-running transfer saga ever - but today we confirmed that we've finally got our man.

OK so he's past his prime and it's a shame his arrival couldn't have come sooner, but I agree with Paul's views on the merits of the deal - he proved he could still cut it at the highest level for Arsenal last year, and, as Chris Hughton commented, his "experience, quality, calm assurance and leadership" will be invaluable. The rumoured £35,000-a-week salary (£1000 for each birthday he's had...) is steep and indicates that our wage ceiling is not inflexible, but we're only committed to a year so if it doesn't work out then we won't find ourselves financially hamstrung.

While it's a bit of a surprise that he plumped for us ahead of re-signing for the Gunners (or even joining Celtic or the Mackems), we have to be thankful to his new bride Fiona Barratt - no doubt his marriage to a Geordie lass will have helped sway the decision. "At this stage of my career I couldn't have wished for a better move", he said. "To join a club such as Newcastle, with its proud tradition, heritage and magnificent support, is absolutely tremendous for me." Well, you've got off to a good start there, Sol.

Campbell has been handed the vacant number five shirt and labelled as "captain material" by old boy Rob Lee in the Ronny Gill. Lee's former teammate and chum John Beresford was equally enthusiastic about the signing.

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed that Peter Beardsley and Steve Stone have taken over responsibility for the reserve team in the wake of Alan Thompson's departure for Celtic.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quote of the day

"Ludicrous, totally without substance and grossly misleading".

Everton take exception to claims made in the press by Dan Gosling's agent David Hodgson about the circumstances surrounding his departure from Goodison Park. If the Scousers are to be believed, the pair's actions have been devious and ungentlemanly - but the facts remain that he's now our player and it was decreed that Everton's failure to deliver a written contract offer means we don't have to pay a penny in compensation.

Of course, what the club statement (and the degree of anger expressed) also underlines is that Everton were desperate to hang on to him - something that Toffees fans coming on here to rubbish him would do well to note.

He's a Sol man

According to the BBC, Sol Campbell has returned from his honeymoon and gone straight off to have a medical before signing a contract to joining Newcastle Utd.

With a shortage of defenders, let alone ones with top flight experience, Campbell looks a decent acquisition by Chris Hughton. He may not be the youngest or quickest player out there, but what Campbell will be able to add is all his experience. If he can pass that on to Messrs Taylor, Williamson, Kadar, Perch, Simpson and Enrique whilst also trying to plug the holes in our defence which Norwich managed to expose at the weekend, then he'll be worth his weight in gold.

Having just married a local lass, it always seemed likely that a player nearing the end of his playing career would want to stay local and as Ol' Cauliflower Face has just added Agent Bramble to his rabble, we looked to be Sol's best hope of a commutable top flight employer.

On a free, albeit probably on pretty tidy wages, Campbell still looks a decent short term signing - if we can use his experience to keep us up this season, then this could prove to be the best signing we make all summer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Given Arfa chance...

The last couple of days have seen us linked with Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa, thanks largely to comments made by his agent (the club has maintained its now-familiar stony silence).

The French youngster looked a great prospect when he broke into the Lyon first team but, like fellow graduate of the Stade de Gerland Karim Benzema, he appears to have lost his way a little since leaving. Still, at only 23 it would be rather premature to write him off as a golden boy who's lost his Midas touch.

Of course, whether we should be devoting our attentions to signing a winger when we're in the depths of our customary pre-season defensive crisis is another matter. On the one hand it's right that we should be sniffing out any opportunities to sign decent players who become available on the cheap - but on the other we're most desperately in need of defensive reinforcements and should probably just back off and let AC Milan, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg, Paris St Germain, Everton et al squabble amongst themselves.

And it was all yellow...

... well, not quite - but given that both of Norwich's goals in Saturday's 2-1 defeat were scored by Chris Martin, the facts were never going to get in the way of a good headline.

With our defensive woes exacerbated by the news that Steven Taylor will be up on bricks for ten weeks following the operation on his dislocated shoulder, our display at Carrow Road hardly gave much cause for optimism ahead of the daunting trip to Old Trafford. Danny Simpson, James Perch and Tamas Kadar were also all missing through injury, and reserve team right-back James Tavernier found himself playing in a central role alongside Fabricio Coloccini.

Our fellow promotees looked brighter and sharper, though we could have left with a draw had Nile Ranger's effort not been dubiously disallowed for offside. Our goal came courtesy of Big Lad, who'd been on the pitch all of two minutes before putting the finishing touches to a move involving fellow new arrivals Wayne Routledge and the Xisco Kid.

With injury denying Fraser Forster the opportunity to appear against the side he helped to the League One title, Tim Krul endured a poor afternoon by his own standards.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Play it again Bram

Look who's just signed for the Mackems: Agent Bramble! Maybe Ol' Cauliflower Face isn't a plastic Geordie after all...

All joking aside (for the time being), during his time at Wigan Bramble proved - as we'd feared might be the case - that he could very often (if not always) be an excellent defender, and indeed he took the opportunity to do so against us.

Earlier this week I was asked what sort of reception he might get when he appears back at St James'. I ventured that it probably wouldn't be any worse than for any other Mackem - the standard response to his customary cock-ups when wearing black and white being bemusement and a shake of the head rather that outright anger, largely because his promise and effort were at least evident, even if his concentration span was shorter than ASBO's temper. But I'd forgotten about both his post-departure slating of the fans and scoring a late, late goal that was a contributory factor to our relegation.

So here's hoping Titus' return to the North East means he'll be back to being on the ball for 89 minutes and wondering what he's having for his tea for the rest - especially when he's up against us.

Meanwhile, another ex-Newcastle player who turned to the Dark Side has been making waves at his current club. The original subversive, Agent Chopra, has threatened to quit beaten Championship play-off finalists Cardiff if they don't strengthen the squad before the new season kicks off.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jimbo jet-set on leaving Villa

Today brought the first indication that James Milner will be on the move this summer after all, with Villa manager Martin O'Neill revealing that our old boy handed in a transfer request prior to the World Cup. Man City had a £20m bid rejected around that time, but will surely be encouraged by Milner's apparent desire to be reunited with England colleague Gareth Barry.

Of course, we're familiar with Milner's tactics, having experienced exactly the same situation back in August 2008. And what's in the move for us? Nothing, as it's claimed that a proposed sell-on clause was removed by Jabba and Dennis Wise to tempt Villa into meeting our asking price. Which would mean City won't be inadvertently topping up Chris Hughton's piggy bank. Shame.

Golden goose lands at last

After what seems like an eternity, Chris Hughton has finally got his man, with confirmation that former Everton starlet Dan Gosling has signed a four-year deal with the club.

Due to Everton's failure to make a written contract offer to Gosling before his contract expired, he's been cleared to sign for us on what is effectively a Bosman transfer.

As a promising young English midfielder, Gosling's signature looks to represent an excellent addition to the squad. Hughton described him as a box-to-box midfielder, and whilst he's not the defensive midfielder I think we all recognise we need, Gosling adds depth to the squad and has the benefit of boasting Premier League experience. If Hughton can continue to pick up players in this vein, then he'll have done very well.

The only draw back is that whilst Gosling has described it as "a brilliant move" and that he "can't wait to get started", the reality is that he will have to wait while he recovers from a knee injury picked up against Wolves in March. Assuming he can come back from that (and there's no reason why he shouldn't) then hopefully he'll be competing for a place in the squad in the autumn.

'Mini role?

With Nicky Butt having retired and Alan Smith knocking on (and, lest we forget, hopelessly out of his depth last time we were in the Premier League), it's fairly certain that Chris Hughton will be looking to invest some of our loose change in a defensive midfielder - and Wednesday brought two intriguing links.

First, Setanta claimed we're vying with Villa for Milan's Mathieu Flamini. The French international isn't quite out of favour in Italy so much as reportedly sick of being played out of position. While he didn't exactly boss the Arsenal midfield in the manner of a Vieira or Petit during his time in North London, and never really looked like the sort of player who would stroll into the Rossoneri team, he did at least show enough to suggest he'd be a quality acquisition for a Premier League side in our position, whether on loan or a permanent deal.

Second, the Independent reported comments made by the agent of Real Madrid and Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarra which suggest that, while new manager Jose Mourinho is keen to retain his services, we're waiting in the wings should the situation change. Of course, it's another matter whether we could afford a player who cost the Spanish side an eyewatering £22m four years ago - though the fact that he'll be out of contract next summer might mean a fee that doesn't bring Jabba out in a cold sweat...

Cash to splash invest prudently and cautiously

Maybe not money to burn, but money to jingle at least. That's the message from Chris Hughton, who claims that - contrary to what that infamous statement might have suggested - there are transfer funds available to him. Jabba's been rummaging around down the back of the sofa, it seems.

The cash appears to have been handed out in the manner of a patronising father to his impetuous son - "Don't spend it all at once, now..." - with Hughton toeing Jabba's party line and making plain: "The sums we had to spend then are not there any more. We have to be careful and get value for money." Fair enough.

But, indulging in some more expectation management, he also said: "I have to be realistic. One year ago we were plying our trade in a lower division. It has to be a growing progress. We have to become a steady member of the top flight." Well, yes, but to do that we'd probably have to spend a decent amount of money in order to get the players to ensure survival, first and foremost. THAT's realism, I fear.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cloud 9 for Carroll

Confirmation today that our new No 9 is last season's top scorer Andy Carroll. Bigger Lad becomes the latest in a long line of players to be afforded the opportunity to wear the shirt once sported by the Lion of Gosforth, Sir Les, SuperMac and Wor Jackie to name but a few.

Hopefully he'll now go on to acquire a nickname born of his prolific goalscoring form, and will also accept the responsibilities which come from being a local icon, and steer clear of further Bigg Market trouble.

Without wanting to get too wrapped up in the cult of the No 9, it is true that, much as the No 7 shirts at Anfield and Old Trafford, there is something a little bit special about being given the No 9 shirt at Newcastle, more so since the days of squad numbering meant that the No 9 doesn't automatically go to whoever is playing up front each week. To that end, it is an honour, and one which, in light of his performances last term and the potential which he shows, Bigger Lad deserves.

"I'm immensely proud. It's an unbelievable feeling", he said. "Alan Shearer was my idol as a young lad and who would have thought I'd be following in his footsteps?"

The challenge for him now is to show enough to earn the right to keep the shirt and try and carve his own piece of history. Wor Andy, anyone?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quote of the day

"For me, first and foremost I want to do well for Newcastle United. But watching some of the performances in the World Cup over the summer I think, that on form, I’m as good as anybody in this country."

Guess who's been spouting off to the Ronny Gill? Yes, ASBO - so what you're saying is that, on form, you're as good as that shower that represented England in South Africa last month? If so, then I wouldn't want to see what you're like out of form. Oh, actually, hang on...

Gently does it

In the wake of his goal against Carlisle on Saturday, Chris Hughton has been speaking about Haris Vuckic's promise - but the manager's comments imply the Slovenian will only be eased into the first team picture gradually. Interesting to note that there doesn't seem to be any plan to farm the teenager out as a way of gaining experience - so he finds himself in a different situation to Ben Tozer, whose temporary move to Leyton Orient may actually be a trial rather than a loan (it's all rather unclear at the moment).

One development that might ensure Vuckic would be eased in rather more gradually than he'd hope would be the arrival of Dan Gosling - imminent, according to Sky Sports...

Sol to tie the knot?

Well, as I suspected, it was only a matter of time. But I wonder whether the Express' claim that we're in for Sol Campbell has anything to do with the fact that he was in the North East and in the limelight over the weekend courtesy of his wedding to Fiona Barratt in Corbridge?

If we have rekindled our interest (in the face of competition from West Ham and the Mackems, amongst others), then while he might be prove a useful short-term signing I'd be sceptical that his pay demands would sit very comfortably within our wage structure. Suppose we should congratulate Ms Barratt, really - she's beaten us all to his signature...

The Express article also ventures to suggest - without any evidence and almost in passing, it should be said - that we're pursuing one of last season's unsung Championship stars, Scunthorpe's Gary Hooper. The 22-year-old bagged 30 goals in all competitions during the Iron's promotion season of 2008-9, and followed that up with 19 league goals at the higher level - two more than either Kevin Nolan or Bigger Lad. The partnership he struck up with Paul Hayes, which was key to Scunny's survival, has been dissolved with Hayes' departure for Preston North End, so it's possible they might choose to let him go too. Still, the Premier League might be a step too far and too soon.

And finally, the award for Backpedaller Of The Day goes to Burnley manager Brian Laws, who suddenly seems rather less confident of securing Fraser Forster's signature. I guess that's what a public knuckle-rapping from Chris Hughton does to you...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brunton body blow

Our first pre-season friendly may have ended up in a comfortable 3-0 win over Carlisle at Brunton Park, but it wasn't without unfortunate incident.

With the game goalless at half-time, Chris Hughton sent out an entirely different XI after the break and Leon Best took just two minutes to break his Magpies duck. Nile Ranger and Haris Vuckic both also went on to beat the Cumbrians' former Toon 'keeper Adam Collin.

But there was to be a late kick in the crown jewels, as Steven Taylor's injury comeback was curtailed ten minutes before the final whistle courtesy of another shoulder injury. With Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson striking up a promising partnership towards the end of last season, there was no guarantee that Taylor would start at Old Trafford in any case - but it may be that he's not even able to take up a place on the bench.

Meanwhile, Hughton has denied public claims made by Burnley boss Brian Laws that Fraser Forster is to join the Clarets on loan: "Fraser hasn't gone to Burnley and they haven't reached an agreement with us. We're conscious of the fact Burnley want him and there has been communication, but we haven't made a decision on whether he will go there".

Forster, who didn't appear during Saturday's game, is also wanted by Burnley's Championship rivals Norwich, and according to Hughton we're doing a Fergie and insisting that any loanees start out as first choice: "It's important he goes somewhere where he is playing football matches and I think that is the same with anyone we let go out on loan this season. We want them to be put in a starting position when they go there. If it doesn't work out and they lose their place, that's different".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hands off Harps, Hoops

With Artur Boruc on the verge of jumping ship for Fiorentina, Celtic have allegedly reaffirmed their interest in Steve Harper - only to be rebuffed. Hardly surprising, really, when you consider that Chris Hughton's planning to allow one of Tim Krul and Fraser Forster to go out on loan.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether our longest-serving player would actually welcome the chance to move north of the border, even if given the opportunity. After so many years of waiting in the wings, he's at last looking forward to a full season as first choice in the Premier League. Celtic have stature, sure, but they're hardly in the best shape - and when Scotland internationals are flocking to join an underachieving Championship club, it hardly suggests a league in the rudest of health...

Monday, July 12, 2010

No strings attached

The Mirror are among those claiming that, despite rival interest, we've won the race to Dan Gosling's signature. But there could be a catch: if Everton appeal successfully, we could be liable to pay a hefty transfer fee for the midfielder. No such thing as a free lunch and all that...

Meanwhile, if that prospect is preoccupying Jabba and Llambiarse, Chris Hughton's got a bit of a dilemma as regards who'll be Steve Harper's understudy for the start of the forthcoming campaign. You'd expect it would be Tim Krul, and Norwich have made very public their eagerness to re-sign Fraser Forster on loan. But Hughton has admitted that the Dutchman is also in demand and so is contemplating allowing him to be the one who experiences a change of scenery: "We’ve had interest in both of them and they are both two very good young goalkeepers. We are trying to assess all our different options and we shall see what the best offer is. You have to take a lot of factors into consideration. What is the best deal for the club and what is going to be the best option for the player. We have to think about their development and what they are going to take the most benefit from. We shall work with all three of the goalkeepers in Ireland and they will be very much a part of that, but we will have to make a decision before the season begins. At this moment in time, no decision has been made.".

Definitely on the move are Nobby Solano, who has followed our ex-caretaker manager Nigel Pearson from Leicester to Championship rivals Hull, and Obafemi Martins, who, after a disappointing season in Germany with Wolfsburg capped by an awful World Cup, is to flee the clutches of former Smog and England boss Steve McLaren by signing for Russian outfit Rubin Kazan.

One old boy who seems set to stay put, however, is Gary Speed - against his will, it's been alleged. Our former midfielder has now been approached twice about the managerial vacancy at Swansea only for his current employers Sheffield Utd to veto any move.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's a steal?

According to today's News Of The Screws, the Mackems fancy muscling in on our attempts to strike a deal with Dan Gosling. We're already competing with West Ham, and losing out to either the Hammers or the light-fingered Great Unwashed would be a bit of a blow, especially given the enthusiastic groundwork we've put in since news broke of his departure from Goodison Park.

The Mackems are also reported to be keen on another free agent, Sol Campbell, though again they're not alone. It's a bit surprising we haven't been mentioned this time around, given that the former Arsenal defensive mainstay has in the past openly admitted that a move to St James' Park would appeal.

Gosling's Everton exit was prompted at least in part by a desire for assurances of regular football - assurances that another target, Jack Wilshere, has also sought. The News Of The Screws suggests that we've now "dropped our interest", though - because we're expecting Gosling to sign, perhaps?

Meanwhile, the Daily Heil claims that a guarantee of first-team action made by Roberto Mancini to the returning Joe Hart means Shay Given will be twiddling his thumbs on Man City's bench when the new season kicks off. What odds a move back to Tyneside? Longer than the odds of us seeing Gosling in a black and white shirt, I'd guess...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dan's the man?

Fingers are crossed for a second signing of the summer, following hot on the heels of our capture of James Perch. The Daily Heil has reported that we're battling West Ham for the signature of former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling but are "confident" of sealing the deal having held talks on Tuesday.

Gosling is, somewhat surprisingly, a free agent after apparently reneging on a gentleman's agreement to sign a new contract at Goodison Park - a move which it seems has left David Moyes with bulgier eyes and more steam coming out of his ears than usual. Given that he's rumoured to have rejected the Toffees' offer of a £15,000-a-week deal largely on the grounds of wanting assurances about first-team football, you assume that we must have come up with something preferable.

The rather contentious and unsavoury manner of his Everton departure aside, Gosling is exactly the sort of player we should be pursuing: young, gifted, with some experience in one of the division's top teams but hungry for first-team football. If we can bag him ahead of the Hammers (and it's still an if), you have to wonder what it might mean for our pursuit of the likes of Jack Wilshere and Vladimir Weiss, both of whom are very similar players.

Quote of the day

"It was a get-rich-quick thing, but didn’t interest me. I have two young kids and the missus to think about. It’s more important that you’re a father to them. Coming here, we’ll still be together."

Former Rangers striker and long-time Toon target Kris Boyd explains that his decision to turn down a £50,000-a-week move to Turkish outfit Kayserispor was motivated by concern for his family. So why exactly has he chosen to join the Smogs then?

Meanwhile, someone else who's been offered "a get-rich-quick thing" and instead jumped at the chance is old boy Roy Aitken, who's decided to swap a coaching role at Birmingham for one at Al Ahli in Dubai. Can't see how you can blame him - sunshine, a fat pay packet and seeing a World-Cup-winning captain in Fabio Cannavaro in training every day (even a Fabio Cannavaro in the very twilight of his career) probably outweighs having to work with David O'Blarney...

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.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Pilgrims go ape

Just in case it escaped your attention: after his ill-fated sojourn in Thailand (ahem), the latest venue on the Simian Mobile Disco world tour is Home Park, where Monkey's Heed will be assisted in his efforts to get Plymouth back up into the Championship by John Carver. But might League One prove a serious banana skin?

Monday, July 05, 2010

In profile

Our Spotlight on Spidermag series of posts may have come to an end with Argentina's elimination from the World Cup, but our winger is still the subject of my Monday Profile piece over on The Two Unfortunates.

Perch hooked

With pre-season training officially starting today for all but a handful of our players, it's inevitably time for our attentions to turn towards next season which, lest we forget, starts at Old Trafford in 42 days time (subject to TV buggeration factor).

It's pleasing then to see our first new signing of the summer arrive, and it's a permanent addition at that. Step forward James Perch, a player we unsuccessfully tried to pick up in January, but who now makes the journey up from Nottingham Forest in time to start running along Longsands Beach with his new colleagues.

From what I saw of him last season, Perch looked a solid, committed defender - one whom Billy Davies was keen to hold onto, and who played a blinder when we beat Forest in March. He should provide cover both at centre-back and right-back, which gives us some cover for Danny Simpson who is due to miss the early part of the season as he struggles to recover from his summer op. He can also allegedly play in central midfield - so presumably provides limited cover for Alan Smith as a midfield anchor.

Of course, whether a player who had limited opportunities at Forest last season is going to be good enough to become a fixture in our side as we battle for Premier League survival is open to question, but at least it's another body through the door on presumably modest wages (that's modest in a football sense - not in a real world sense, obviously). It does though mean we've added at least some of the defensive cover I identified as a priority back in May, although if we think one player can cover three of the gaps I noted in our squad, then we're in for a long, hard season.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Spotlight on Spidermag: Argentina v Germany

Today saw Argentina and their dazzling array of strikers crash out of the World Cup, pummelled 4-0 by Germany - a result which sets England's defeat last Sunday in a rather better light. And so Spidermag's involvement in the tournament has also come to an end - though in truth he only actually featured in the first two of his country's fixtures.

Our dashing winger missed out on making an appearance in the final group game against Greece by virtue of having collected yellow cards in the two previous matches and never recovered his starting place. Instead the right-back berth was filled by Nicolas Otamendi, who today turned in a display of such haplessness that at least two of the Germans' goals could be directly attributed to his errors. Spidermag might have looked uncomfortable as part of a back four against Nigeria, but Otamendi's allegedly a defender by trade...

Meanwhile, in other World Cup related news: Oba Martins could find himself out of international action for, well, forever unless the Nigerian government overturns its frankly incredible two-year ban placed on the national side for its performance in the tournament; and a word of advice to the Mackems - please, please, please make John Mensah your nominated penalty-taker next season...

East Anglian Angling Club

So Norwich are fishing for Fraser Forster on loan again. Hardly surprising, given that during his 38 games between the sticks for the Canaries he was instrumental in their promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking - or that they don't have anyone else with any reasonable experience at the club.

All the same, manager Paul Lambert's comments - "I've spoken to Newcastle's manager Chris Hughton numerous times but we'll have to wait and see" - suggest a reluctance on our part to let him go out on loan again. You have to wonder why this might be, with Steve Harper almost certain to be first choice and a very able deputy in Tim Krul waiting in the wings - but perhaps Hughton feels we need to have significant cover in case of injury.

What seems certain, though, is that we won't be selling Forster - and, in view of his performances for the Carrow Road outfit last season, that seems like a sensible course of action.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Damn and blast the current drought of decent, substantial Toon-related news stories, for leaving us with far too much time to cast envious glances elsewhere.

In the direction of the Reebok, for instance, where Bolton can't believe their luck to have pinched Bulgarian international winger Martin Petrov on a free transfer, following his release by Man City. The Trotters' understandably delighted manager Owen Coyle has declared Petrov "probably one of the best Bosman transfers available", and he's not wrong.

It's a deal that makes our own conspicuous lack of activity all the more concerning - not least because Bolton are one of the sides we'll be expecting to be battling against down towards the lower reaches of the table. Still, I suppose we could try to look on the bright side: it might mean they're less inclined to attempt to lure City's Vladimir Weiss back on loan...

In other news: our new kit has been unveiled amidst the usual platitudinous guff about Puma and the club having developed "a way of thinking that is fan-centric" (.cock's story comes complete with a photo of Steve Harper pulling a smile as though forced to express appreciation for a present of a Christmas jumper from his nan at gunpoint); rumours suggest that we're pursuing PSG's Turkish striker Mevlut Erding (and for a sizeable fee, too); and Stevie Watson has declared confidence in our ability to stay up next season and therefore probably put the kiss of death on our prospects of survival.