Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gardner's question time

As another alleged Toon transfer target joins the Mackems from Birmingham, you have to ask the question: what's with the flood of players queuing up to sell their souls to the devils? First Seb Larsson and Keiren Westwood, then Ipswich starlet Connor Wickham, then South Korean striker Ji Dong-won earlier today, and now Gardner. I can only assume either that Brucey's busy hoodwinking potential recruits with the prospectus for a completely different club and city, or that he's got photos of them all in compromising situations.

Almost equally mystifying is the fact that we don't seem to have been linked with a French-born player for at least 72 hours...

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dim dealio*

It looks as though our bid to recruit an entire team of Taylors may have been thwarted, at least temporarily, with Swansea rejecting our bid for left-back Neil. Swans chairman Huw Jenkins has made all the usual noises in these circumstances, claiming they're keen to retain and nurture young talent. But money talks, and I wouldn't be too surprised if an increased offer met with grudging acceptance from the Premier League new boys and we see him lining up alongside namesakes Steven and Ryan for the team photo.

Even if Jose Enrique stays (though at present there doesn't seem to be any suggestion of positive developments on that front), we're in need of cover in that position. The question now, you'd assume, is whether Jabba's prepared to up the bid or whether he decides to play hard ball, as he has in recent contract negotiations, either hoping the Swans will change their minds or determinedly moving on to alternative targets.

* That's a bit of pidgin Welsh for you. We're cultured, well-travelled types around here, you know...



Monday, June 27, 2011

Seb's a Brucey bonus

Something you might have missed last week (well, we did...): our interest in free agent Sebastian Larsson has been ended by the fact that he had a lapse of judgement and signed for the Mackems. No doubt fate'll decree that he'll have a blinder when we come up against the old enemy in the second match of the season.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Pastures new

Congratulations to Chris Hughton, who has been given an opportunity to repeat his Championship-winning feat with the Blue Noses of Birmingham City. Of the two ex-Newcastle bosses now managing in the Championship, I know which one I'm hoping comes out on top.

Of course, with Hughton now back in management and seeking to get promoted, it will be interesting to see if he comes knocking on our door for any of the players who served him well at Newcastle, with the likes of Nile Ranger, Leon Best and Alan Smith all up for grabs, and with Championship scourge Wayne Routledge's move to QPR apparently dead in the water, all possibly on his shopping list. Similarly if, as expected, Ben Foster leaves Birmingham for pastures new, Hughton might also be interested in any one of our three keepers (albeit it looks like the club are unwilling to sell Fraser Forster, having rebuffed a £1.5 million bid from Celtic for the player).

One player who won't be joining him in Brum is Ben Tozer, recently released by Newcastle and now signed for Northampton Town, the team where he spend a portion of last season on loan.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Please please please let me get what I want: a move to Arsenal?

ASBO to Arsenal? Incredible, isn't it? Perhaps not quite so incredible as Micky Quinn opening his gob for that long and resisting the urge to shove a pie into it, mind...

According to the "third party" whispering into Quinny's ear, the Gunners have expressed an interest in the man seemingly destined to follow Kevin Nolan out of the door. ASBO strikes me as being about as far from a typical Arsene Wenger player as you could possibly imagine - but then perhaps, after all the talk of soft centres and a lack of steel, Wenger's decided that that's exactly what his side needs. Arsenal already have a poor disciplinary record, though, and his arrival would hardly appease fans if they end up waving goodbye to Cesc Fabregas...

As for the man himself, he's been too busy enjoying Ascot and foaming at the mouth with excitement at the prospect of being granted a personal meeting with Morrissey at Glastonbury. I'll be at the Eavis' shindig too (as usual) and will report back if I spy him in the vicinity of the cider bus looking overly refreshed...

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A Lille problem

So, one of our rivals for the signature of PSG's Mevlut Erding is Lille. Good thing the French champions aren't flush with £4m or so in cash and don't harbour any kind of grudge against us for nicking their midfield lynchpin. Eh? Oh.



Go Gone West

Now that he's back in the Championship, Kevin Nolan's once again fair game for the Two Unfortunates' Monday Profile. The Scouser might not quite be "the coup of the transfer window" that David Gold's boasted, but there's no doubt West Ham have good reason to look pleased with themselves - for the first time in quite a while, I should add.

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New boys

Perusing Twitter over the weekend, I noticed a couple of articles concerning two of our new acquisitions which I thought were interesting.

The first deals with our new target man Demba Ba, with applying an interesting statistical analysis to his time at West Ham, and comparing it to Messrs Nolan and Rocky, whose goals he will be required to replace next season. Pleasingly, at least in mathematical terms, it looks like we've picked up a decent replacement.

The second is courtesy of Football First. Then Life. which gives a good account of our new left winger (albeit written at a time when the author thought he was off to Merseyside). Heartening to note we look to have added some pace to our attack, albeit slightly injury-prone pace. Hopefully Marveaux will prove to be adept at providing the ammunition for Ba, Big Lad and co, rather than simply being a French Wayne Routledge.

Both links courtesy of @gibfootballshow

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alan's Marveaux medicine

First Yohan Cabaye, then Mehdi Abeid, then Demba Ba and now Rennes' left-sided midfielder Sylvain Marveaux. Perhaps we should just build our own Channel Tunnel?

Like Ba, Marveaux has been snaffled on a free transfer but arrives with a bit of a question mark hanging over his fitness. He's reacted angrily to reports that a move to Liverpool broke down due to failing a medical, instead citing disagreement over terms, but does have a history of thigh and groin problems which have needed surgical intervention.

Marveaux spent most of last season sidelined through injury, but the previous campaign he contributed an impressive 12 goals in 38 appearances and also supplied much of the ammunition for now-Mackem striker Asamoah Gyan.

Reacting to the signing, Alan Pardew claimed: "It's been a good couple of days for us on the transfer front." Roughly translated: who's this Kevin Nolan fella you lot keep bleating on about? According to a source blabbing away in today's News Of The Screws, Nolan "feels let down and ... furious with his former manager. Kev expected him to try harder to keep him at the club during contract talks". I think it's fairly clear who was calling the shots in the negotiations, though - and it wasn't Pardew. Just as with the sale of Rocky, Iron Mike demonstrated a willingness to ride roughshod over the wishes of his manager. Pardew could have pleaded for Nolan's retention all he wanted, but it wouldn't have made a difference.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Ba rumours: not humbug

So, while David Gold has been preoccupied hailing West Ham's capture of Kevin Nolan as "the coup of the transfer window", we've snapped up the only striker in claret and blue who can justifiably claim to have done anything much to try and keep them in the Premier League. A nifty bit of opportunism on our part, nipping in ahead of the pack to take advantage of a release clause in Demba Ba's contract.

Ba managed the not insignificant feat of looking decent in a woefully out-of-sorts side that ended up seven points adrift of 17th, and gave the impression of being a complete striker - good in the air but also very handy on the deck. Big Lad will rightly be fearing for his place. The only real cause for concern is his injury record - he has a bit of a chequered history when it comes to medicals. Still, as a free transfer he doesn't represent quite so much of a financial gamble as he might.

Interesting to read too that once again players past and present have been instrumental in selling the club to a prospective signing. This time it was Hatem Ben Arfa, born in a neighbouring area of Paris to Ba, who helped out on marketing duties. Good lad. Wonder if they're all on commission?

Meanwhile, our chances of signing Sebastian Larsson look to have shrunk, with the ex-Birmingham man claiming that, surprisingly, his former club Arsenal have shown "some kind of interest". Also unlikely to report for pre-season training with us is Kazenga LuaLua, on the verge of joining Gus Poyet's Championship new boys Brighton on a permanent deal, while Leon Best has apparently been put up for sale.

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Arse up first

Today saw the announcement of next season's Premier League fixtures (which can be viewed here).  Of course, before anyone starts making travel arrangements it's worth bearing in mind that they are at the mercy of the television companies, and our first two fixtures at home to Arsenal and away to 5under1and look ripe for a move.

The countdown to 13 August starts now...



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kev clucks off

(Paul's had his say - here's my 2p's worth...)

So, in amongst those doing the Cockney walk there'll be someone doing the chicken. Both the decision to sell Kevin Nolan and his destination are dumbfounding.

The Scouser's goals from midfield over the past two seasons have proven absolutely crucial to our revival in fortunes. One of the most significant reasons for our relegation was that, with our much-vaunted strikeforce chronically misfiring, no one from the centre of the park stepped into the breach (Nolan included). Not only does his departure place immediate pressure on Alan Pardew and his team of scouts to source an adequate replacement (who surely won't come cheap and will take time to settle), but in all likelihood it also places greater responsibility on what is, by Premier League standards, already a weak attack.

Much too has been made of Nolan's off-pitch role. While I'd stop short of claiming (as Paul did) that he's always "a strong positive influence off the field" (just think back to Orgygate, for instance), he was clearly well liked in the dressing room and was instrumental in galvanising the team for the promotion push and then top-flight survival.

However, though such endeavours may have been for the benefit of the club, Jabba seems to have taken a rather dimmer view. Our esteemed owner clearly didn't take kindly to having his actions questioned in the wake of Chris Hughton's sacking (that dismissal allegedly partly because our ex-gaffer was too pally and easily manipulated by the senior players) and appears hell-bent on dismantling the players' committee - even it means showing the door to our club captain and top scorer. We might have to start calling him Iron Mike soon.

Jabba's prime motivation was supposedly financial, of course - and you have to say that Nolan's slightly cheeky demand for a five-year contract will have only steeled the owner's will to play hard ball and handed him a ready-made excuse to dispense with him. Whatever the reasons behind the sale, one thing's for certain: it wasn't a footballing decision.

And so to the ramifications. Quite apart from the need to relieve the sudden goalscoring burden on other members of the squad, Pardew also faces trying to quell genuine mutiny, with ASBO blurting out his dismay on Twitter and intimating that he, Jose Enrique and Spidermag would be next out of the door. His subsequent retraction - full of stuff about wanting to stay and win trophies with us - was less convincing than that infamous 'tache, and even if he did fancy staying and seeing out the final year of his contract Jabba will presumably be even more inclined to boot him out as a dressing room rabble-rouser. In his determination to reassert his authority and control, our owner seems to be showing scant regard for the damage he might be inflicting on the club.

And what of Nolan's new employers? As he pointedly remarked after signing, it was nice to know he was wanted - and by Fat Sam, a former manager he already knows well. But it's still curious that a player who still clearly has a lot to offer at the highest level should have voluntarily chosen to step down into the Championship. Our loss is the Hammers' gain, and it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see them back in the top flight before long, propelled there in part by Nolan's knack for goalscoring.

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Hammer time for Kev

Confirmation then, that Kevin Nolan has been reunited with Fat Sam and signed for West Ham.

For me, the exasperating part of this is that we've flogged off a player who netted 12 goals for us from midfield last year and was reportedly a strong positive influence off the field as well as on. One who, despite a complete lack of pace, was able to do sterling work in the middle of the park for us and who was one of the reasons why the ship remained steady after the sacking of Hughton and sale of Rocky.

However, this is football and it looks as though the club were unwilling to offer the long term contract which a player approaching his 30s understandably wanted. Equally, ignoring everything else, I can roughly understand why the club might not want to invest heavily in the wages of a player whose career may slowly start to go down hill before too long (although to be fair, it's not like his he has a turn of pace to lose).

Alan Pardew (and the club) have consistently talked a good game on transfers this summer, and for once have acted early to bring in Yohan Cabaye, rather than wait until late July or August before signing anyone, which is encouraging.

Obviously, the time to judge our transfer policy this summer is after the start of the new season.  However, the loss of Nolan, and ASBO's increasingly frustrated tweets suggest he won't be far behind, together with Smith and in all probability Enrique, risks destabilising the core of players around which our team spirit was built. Failure to maintain that "team" mentality risks being far more costly than the loss of any one player.

Nolan may have done very little to keep us up after he was signed by JFK, but he did an awful lot to get us back up and keep us there last year, for which we remain grateful. He goes with our best wishes and sure of a warm reception should Fat Sam manage to guide his bunch of Hammers back to the Premier League (something his new manager certainly won't enjoy).

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As one door closes ...

... another one opens, as the saying goes. In-demand striker Kevin Gameiro's decision to choose Paris St Germain over his other suitors - ourselves foremost among the pack - came as a blow, but at the same time has actually boosted our chances of securing another of our offensive targets. Even if Mevlut Erdinc isn't deemed surplus to requirements as a result of Gameiro's arrival, it seems that PSG will at least be more likely to entertain approaches for the Turkish forward.

According to Alan Pardew, Erdinc - "a very good player" - has "always been on our radar", and indeed was apparently the subject of a bid last summer, before the current gaffer arrived at St James' Park. Pardew has also had his beady little peepers trained on Demba Ba "for a while", and the striker, impressive even as West Ham slipped to relegation, is now available on a free. We face competition for his signature, though, with Everton and the Mackems rumoured to be among those also sniffing around. If, as looks likely, Kevin Nolan is reunited with former gaffer Sam Allardyce at Upton Park, then the Hammers would owe us a favour - but the fact that Ba can walk away for nothing presumably means his current club would have no say over his destination.

In other transfer news, alleged target Gervinho - until recently a club colleague of Yohan Cabaye and an international teammate of Mr T - looks to be Arsenal-bound, while we've also been mentioned amidst the speculation over the uncertain future of Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner. Gardner was one of the Blues' few bright sparks last season and remains a saleable asset now they've dropped down to the Championship, and his chances of staying at St Andrews seem to have diminished with the departure (under a cloud) of Alex McLeish. Strangely, as far as his teammate Sebastian Larsson is concerned, the trail appears to have gone cold.



Wor Al still waiting

What a shame Wor Al won't be parking his behind on the hotseat at Cardiff - the prospect of him managing one-time strike partner turned text-messaging nemesis Craig Bellamy (if he was to stick with his home town club) would have been delicious. Our former gaffer Chris Hughton is apparently on the Bluebirds' radar (and that of similarly managerless Birmingham), though the hierarchy seem to favour Malky Mackay, much to the displeasure of the Scot's current club Watford.

Shearer may have been unsuccessful with that particular job application, but at least he can console himself with the thought that another nemesis - Ruud Gullit, the man who famously humiliated him by benching him against the Mackems - is also looking for gainful employment. The Dutchman's been given the boot by Terek Grozny after recording a paltry three wins from 13 attempts. Pulling the trigger, the club's president (and Chechen president) Ramzan Kadyrov bluntly declared that "the team have played exceptionally poorly this season". Prior to losing his final match, Gullit was criticised by the club for "thinking about bars and discotheques". Wherever he ends up next, perhaps his first signing should be compatriot Fat Pat, also a renowned lover of nightlife...

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Monday, June 13, 2011

A Month of Saturdays: May 2011

May brought with it the end of a generally successful return to the top flight of English football. An early defeat to Liverpool was countered by victory over the eventually relegated Brummies which itself ensured our survival. Subsequent draws with Chelsea and West Brom meant that we finished twelfth. Slightly below half-way, and frustratingly overtaken by 5under1and at the last, this still represented an excellent return to the top flight.

Inevitably, the end of the season prompts a degree of gazing in to the rearview mirror at times gone by. Alan Shearer was heard to reflect on his brief managerial spell, and Kevin Keegan was also found passing judgment on Jabba and Llambiarse. However, while Keegan may not be a fan, the Guardian's David Conn had a look at the club's finances and was relatively content with what he saw. And, with the final whistle blown on the season, it was left to yours truly to cast an eye back over events since last August.

Having looked back, we endeavoured to set out our thoughts on what we needed to do over the coming weeks, but recent quotes from ASBO and Jose Enrique suggested that they might not be around for that much longer. With Fat Sol and Shefki Kuqi already gone, it was inevitable that there would follow a flurry of transfer speculation, with everyone from the Zog to the Hulk linked to us. One alleged target not coming our way was Johan Elmander with the Bolton man bound for Turkey, but by the end of the month we had something to celebrate with French international Yohan Cabaye telling his team mates that he was heading for Tyneside.

In other news, it wasn't just the club with players in their sights, with Nile Ranger taking his namesake to heart a little too literally as photos taken by his girlfriend showing him posing with a replica gun hit the press. On the subject of people being undermined by their girlfriends, credit to the other half of an Arsenal fan, who not only recorded his complete breakdown as we staged the mother of all comebacks this season, but also posted it on YouTube for everyone else to see.

Still, if Ranger thought he had problems, he need only to look at Plymouth Argyle whose financial position took a precarious turn.

Better news though for NUWFC who were in discussions as to how they could link up with NUST, while Whitley Bay provided a degree of cheer with an unprecedented third consecutive win in the FA Vase.

Finally then, this was also a month in which two of our players mused on the subject of children, with ASBO keen to stress to any future kids the need to learn from his mistakes, while Kevin Nolan demonstrated his Scouse wit by suggesting that Rocky might not yet be the right man to entrust with your childcare arrangements.



Quote of the day

"I spoke to Charles N’Zogbia and David Rozehnal before joining Newcastle. They both said it was a good choice to come to Newcastle. They said I would have a great time, especially with the fans."

Interesting to learn the identities of the players who helped convince Yohan Cabaye to join the club, isn't it? Not the most obvious cheerleaders, you'd think. Rozehnal was a flop who never really looked like fitting in on Tyneside, while N'Somnia left St James' Park under something of a cloud.

Of course, the fact that Wigan's French winger appears to be talking about us in enthusiastic terms to others will only fan the flames of rumours linking him with a return to the North-East - a return which looked highly unlikely at the time he departed.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mind the (pay) gap

Wonder whether Jabba's a regular reader of the BBC's website? Their Business Editor Robert Peston's opinion piece on the results of Deloitte's review of football finances for the 2009/10 season makes for very interesting reading, and contains some sage advice: "Disproportionately low spending on players' wages is probably not a sustainable strategy ... There is a clear correlation between survival in the top rank and a willingness and ability to pay those humungous players' salaries."

As we've said before, Jabba's stubborn determination to drive down the wage bill (and rein in transfer expenditure) is laudable in that it indicates a mature and responsible acknowledgement that clubs need to live within their means rather than blithely continue frittering away money unsustainably. After decades of financial risk-taking, it's remarkable that we appear to be taking a lead and trying to set an example while others go on overstretching themselves (although, of course, internationally imposed financial regulations are going to enforce this in due course anyway).

But, as Peston suggests, the danger of this is that clubs become so hell-bent on frugality that they cut off their noses to spite their faces - unwilling to pay big wages, so unable to attract (or retain) the players who have the quality to ensure avoidance of the financial meltdown that accompanies relegation. Jabba's apparent desire to ship out senior high-earning members of the squad - ASBO, Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith - may not be exclusively motivated by economic factors but those are the terms in which the refusal to meet contract demands is being couched. With a large, loyal fanbase and significant annual turnover we're surely in a better position than many of our Premier League rivals to afford the fees and wages demanded by some of the bigger-name stars?

As I said when looking forward to the next campaign recently, it all comes down to a question of ambition, really. As unexciting as it might seem, personally I'd probably be content with another season of comfort and consolidation, and another mid-table finish - too many newly promoted sides, buoyed by finishing well clear of relegation, then get grand ideas, overstretch themselves and crash back down into the second tier in disarray. But even realising that relatively modest ambition that will demand investment, and Jabba should heed Peston's warning: generally speaking, clubs get what they pay for.



French connection

It's been confirmed today that, as reported a while back, we've signed Lille's Yohan Cabaye for around the £4.5m mark."This is a fantastic move for me". Let's hope it's a fantastic move for the club too, Yohan.

The recruitment of an international player of a good age and reputation, and for whom we've actually paid a reasonably hefty fee, will go some way towards assuaging fans' concerns about the prospect of losing both Kevin Nolan and ASBO - but, as a defensive midfielder, Cabaye won't exactly fill their boots. In any case, as has been underlined by Alan Pardew, what we need is reinforcements not replacements. It'll be interesting to see if our enthusiastic observation of the French and Dutch leagues - widely perceived as offering better value for money than elsewhere in Europe - results in any other new acquisitions.

Meanwhile, Agent Chopra is on the move, leaving beaten play-off semi-finalists Cardiff for Championship rivals Ipswich. While the Welsh side will be licking their wounds (they've also parted company with Jay Bothroyd, Chris Burke and manager Dave Jones since the season finished) and facing up to the difficulties of making the play-offs next year, bookies in Suffolk will be eagerly rubbing their hands in glee at the news of Chops' arrival...

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Race day

Today marks the 149th anniversary of the Blaydon Races, as recorded in Geordie Ridley's famous song.

Essentially the National Anthem for Geordonia (as one of my mates once dubbed the region), moves are afoot to encourage a big celebration next year to mark the 150th anniversary.

To read more about the proposals, click here and to sign a petition to support the campaign click here.



Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

So it appears to have come to pass that after successfully surviving our first season in back in the Premier League thanks to the team spirit and collective will which our close-knit band of brothers forged in the aftermath of that pre-season defeat to Leyton Orient two years ago, the club has now decided to dump pretty much all of the senior pros.

If his Twitter is to be believed, ASBO's not been offered a new contract. Now it transpires that Kevin Nolan's contract negotiations have broken down and Alan Smith has been told to seek gainful employment elsewhere.

If I was Steve Harper, I'd be seriously worried at the moment - not least because Tim Krul's elevation to the Dutch national side at the weekend suggests that with him and Forster in the squad, Harps might just be expendable.

Frustratingly as a collective approach, this looks like a terrible decision. Nolan scored 14 goals from midfield last season. ASBO created countless chances for us going forward and both have clearly had a significant impact on the club in terms of team spirit. While Smith has seen his place in the team handed to Mr T (and in a purely playing capacity that's definitely a massive improvement), off the pitch he too has played an important role.

For the club to risk throwing that away by potentially sending all three out of the door in quick succession is a terrible idea. Smith, maybe, but the other two seems foolhardy in the extreme.

On a more positive note, we appear to be in for Swansea full-back Neil Taylor with a £1 million bid apparently set to trigger a release fee in his contract. With our interest in Cheikh M'Bengue reportedly over, it will be interesting to see whether the approach for Taylor is our attempt to secure back-up for Jose Enrique, or more likely replace the Spaniard on the cheap before he heads on to pastures new.

Of course, if Enrique does also leave, then it's another departure from the band of brothers which again risks destabilising the club ahead of next season.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

High-Ho, Silver! Away!

According to the Sunday Sun, the Lone Ranger has been told to start looking for pastures new with the club seeing the player's future as lying away from St James' Park. Presumably the reported disciplinary problems, not to mention the odd indiscretion with a replica firearm, have finally seen patience exhausted.

For what it's worth, while Ranger remains a player of undoubted talent, it looks to me that he's unlikely to get the pitch time he needs to develop his game if he remains a peripheral figure at the club. Whether he gets that time on loan or employed elsewhere is a decision for Pardew and co, but presumably Ranger hasn't demonstrated sufficient determination to see them wish to keep him.

Arriving after he was released by Southampton (and Her Majesty), if we can get the reported £1m we're looking for from the player then that would represent a reasonable return on a player who may yet prove to be a star of the future, but for now looks to be another youngster wasting their huge potential.




Hearty congratulations to Ben, the other half of Black & White & Read All Over, who tied the knot with his long-term girlfriend Jenni at the weekend.

I'll resist the temptation to record the events of the day in the style of a match report, not least because it all gets a little hazy somewhere in the second half when the flavoured vodka came on as an impact sub for lager. Suffice to say it was a fantastic celebration for a lovely couple, and a blessed relief that I never again have to mangle the pronounciation of "foraminiferae" in front of a room packed to the rafters with their close friends and family.



Friday, June 03, 2011

Little waster

Little Saint Mick just can't help himself, can he?

Having previously used Twitter as a sounding board for his "poor me" rant after he was booed at St James' Park last season, he has now taken an opportunity to justify his decision to sign a one-year contract extension at Old Trafford.

Apparently the player enjoys sitting on his arse bench-warming every week more than playing week in week out. In his own words: "Prefer playing less often in a top team than every game in a poor team.. been there a didn't enjoy it" (sic).

This from a player who only a few days ago was quoted as saying he couldn't understand why he wasn't being picked for England, but who also feels the stress of being on the periphery of things at Manchester Utd.

If we have a quick look at statistics, it may help to explain to Little Saint Mick why Fabio doesn't pick him for England.

Last season, Owen made 17 appearances for his club, of which 13 of them were as a sub. In effect, he started 24% of the games he featured in. By contrast, Darren Bent started 100% of the 39 games he played, Peter Crouch started 65% of 45 games, Jermaine Defoe started 69% of 29 games and the granny botherer started all but 10% of his 40 games for his club.

It's hardly rocket science to note that Fabio is picking players who start more games than Owen, and presumably Owen's chances of being picked for England would increase if he were playing week in week out.

But apparently the player tried that and found it wasn't to his liking, despite picking up £133k per week in his final year at Newcastle. Of course, as the statistics demonstrate, Owen didn't even play all that often for Newcastle when he was here and as .com have pointed out he actually only started 58 of the 148 Premiership games we played while he was on our payroll.

Winston Bogarde was derided a few years ago for being content to pick up his wages at Chelsea while not getting anywhere near the first team - unwilling to move because nobody would pay his exorbitant salary. Whilst Owen may now be on a heavily incentivised contract, what is clear is he'd rather sit on his arse in Manchester than try and press his claims for his England place playing week in week out anywhere that will have him.

That's his choice - but when it comes down to it, the only person Little Saint Mick has to blame for not getting himself back into the England team is his greedy, lazy, ungracious self.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Another French connection

It turns out that Yohan Cabaye isn't the only French defensive midfielder to have broken the news of a move to Tyneside recently. Like Lille's Cabaye, Lens teenager Medhi Abeid has claimed the reason behind the five-year deal is a need for change and a fresh challenge.

It sounds as though we've been tracking the youngster for some time now - "I have had contact dating back some time and I visited the facilities there [St James's Park] last week. I even trained with the reserve team" - and also that Hatem Ben Arfa and Mr T have done a sterling job of selling the club abroad.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Sun had us linked with a move for Dimitar Berbatov. Not only does it seem fanciful that we might be able to recruit the Man Utd striker because he's the Premier League's joint top goalscorer - at 30 years of age and on a hefty salary he hardly fits the criteria that ASBO claims Jabba and Llambiarse are looking for.

As a child back in his native Bulgaria, Berbatov did famously sleep in a Newcastle shirt, though I suspect that may have been more out of idolising Wor Al than any serious affection for the club that may have carried through into adulthood. Of course he's a very good player, but one thing's for certain: if we were to sign him, the strikeforce he'd form with Big Lad would be the laziest-looking in memory...

Even more improbable, I assume, is the possibility of Cardiff fans getting their wish and seeing our former no-necked text pest named as their new manager. If Bellamy does ever go into management, he'd be likely to spend more time banned in the stand than on the touchline...

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Quote of the day

"That history that West Ham have I am very well aware of and we will play the West Ham way with the players we have got to achieve the ultimate, and that's winning football matches."

Now that Fat Sam has got his nose in the managerial trough at the Hammers, expect "the West Ham way" to become synonymous with teethgrindingly grim hoof-'n'-hope bludgeon. With him at the helm, you're more likely to see snow on the ball than skill.

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