Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A tale of two Taylors

Friday's friendly against Olympiakos in Portugal brought a first: a penalty shoot-out in which neither side triumphed. Saylor had given us the lead with a deflected shot in the first half, only for Kostas Mitroglu to equalise ten minutes from the end of normal time. The only other points of note were an injury for Dan Gosling, a pair of yellow cards for the Greek side's Francois Modesto and Papiss Cisse hitting the post.

Our Senegalese marksman then ballooned the first spot-kick over the bar, but thankfully Haris Vuckic, Romain Amalfitano and Perchinho all held their nerve, and when Tim Krul saved Olympiakos' fifth effort, Mehdi Abeid squared it up at 4-4 and the referee - bizarrely - called a halt to proceedings.

A day later against Sporting Braga and it was Raylor who got on the scoresheet with a fine free-kick which whipped inside Beto's post and which proved to be the winner. Demba Ba scored first, following up a saved penalty after a pacy, tricky run from Sylvain Marveaux had been illegally curtailed in the box. A flowing move ended with Ruben Amorim drawing the Portuguese side level via a deflection off Sideshow Bob. Braga ended the game with ten men, while the match was also notable for a first pre-season appearance for Dreamboat, who came close to scoring when his volley into the ground was turned over the bar by Beto.

That result meant we triumphed in the three-team tournament and will bring home some silverware. The Trofeu Internacional de Futebol do Guadiana may not have been at the top of our wishlist, but everyone's got to start somewhere.



Hammer time for Rocky?

Might our pursuit of Rocky be at an end? The BBC are reporting that our former striker is on the verge of joining West Ham on loan for a fee of £2m. His club Liverpool seem to be giving out mixed messages about whether or not they want to keep him; if Rocky does feel to have been deemed surplus to requirements at Liverpool, then - despite apparently favouring a move back to Tyneside - he might decide to take whatever escape route is offered. If a loan deal has been agreed with Fat Sam's Hammers, then you'd imagine the only thing that could scupper it would be an acceptable bid for a permanent deal. The ball's in your court, Jabba, and you don't have much time to decide...

On a tangential note, sad news for another of our former strikers. Leon O'Best was unfortunate enough to sustain a serious knee injury in a recent pre-season friendly for Blackburn, one which looks likely to keep him out of action for six months. We wish him well for a swift recovery.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Taking care in the (online) community

"What's clear", I wrote of players' use of social media back in January of last year, "is that it's an issue the football authorities and football clubs need to acknowledge - and will, in all likelihood, confront." I wasn't alone - seven months later the Silver Fox, exasperated by ASBO's latest online outburst, appealed to the Premier League to step in and offer some guidelines. And now, a year on, they finally have. Long overdue, given that the guidelines have been released in the same week that overhasty and unthinking fingers have landed yet another footballer, Arsenal's Emmanuel Frimpong, in trouble, and when the memory of Rio Ferdinand's Twitter jibe at Ashley Cole in the wake of John Terry's racism trial is still fresh.

Players who can be bothered to peruse the guidelines (or, perhaps, are made to do so by their clubs) will find themselves offered advice on how to use social media to engage with fans, how to deal with abuse and how to avoid committing an offence - whether that involves using threatening or offensive language to another user, or in a more specific football sense of divulging confidential information about tactics or injuries. Avoiding the latter is a rule that's been in force on Tyneside for some time anyway in response to the ill-advised tweetings of Messrs ASBO and Enrique.

Fair play to the Premier League for not writing off Twitter and the like as nothing more than the cause of stress and headaches. Instead, chief executive Richard Scudamore acknowledged the benefits - namely, that such sites can help to spread the word about the brand (the final day of last season was a case in point) and do actually help to bring the multi-million-pound footballer a little bit closer to the public. Even if all we really learn from the feeds and pages of those we cheer on week in week out is that we don't understand the Yoof Speak of today and that most footballers seem to live in Nandos.



How to make friends and influence people

How? Simple: just host a few Olympic football games. Judging by this BBC article on the opening fixtures, international guests from as far afield as Mexico and South Korea have been falling over themselves to praise the city ("clean", apparently) and the stadium, officially back to being St James' Park for the duration of the event.

According to Swiss striker Innocent Emeghara, "[Newcastle] is a very beautiful city. It's not like London, I prefer Newcastle to London." Well said, that man - a good way to get the locals in the crowd on your side. Still, don't fancy the chances of anyone called Innocent remaining that way for long when in the vicinity of the Bigg Market...



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quote of the day

"[Reading chairman] John Madejski used to say to me about certain players, just wipe your nose and move on. And I think [Liverpool] are going to have to do that with Andy ... Whether it's £15m, £16m or £20m, if [Rodgers] uses that money and gets an uplift in the player that he brings in that's OK. And that's how you've got to look at it."

Oh, I'm liking this - the Silver Fox trying out some serious Taggart-esque mindgames on the powers that be at Liverpool, suggesting they'd better just cut their losses on Rocky and flog him off for substantially less than the fortune they forked out for him. OK, so it might rile them a bit, but it's nice to see us being a bit canny and calculating, rather than being on the receiving end, for a change.

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Loic who’s talking

According to TBW, we’re sniffing around Marseille striker Loic Remy, a player who notched 20 goals at just under a goal every two games in Ligue 1 last season.

With Leon O’Best and Peter Lovenkrands already departed, and the Lone Ranger’s prospects of a first-team return looking slimmer than a supermodel with an eating disorder, we’re effectively down to Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Big Lad as our striking options for the forthcoming season. With Ba’s contractual release clause still operative until the end of July, we’re a week away from potentially being reduced to two recognised strikers, which makes sense of our interest in Remy (particularly if he’s cheaper than re-signing Rocky from Liverpool).

With Lille lining up a right-back replacement for Matthieu Debuchy, a pre-requisite before they sanction his transfer, it could be that we also see some progress on that transfer shortly.

Also worth noting is the impending arrival of Australian defender Curtis Good from Melbourne Heart FC to bolster our ranks as our global recruitment drive continues.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teutonic travels

So, three games into our pre-season schedule, after a relatively low-key series of friendlies in Germany and Austria, and we've collected a win, a draw and a defeat.

First up were German minnows Chemnitz FC, who - it being Friday 13th - inevitably beat a youthful side with an early goal. Debutant Romain Amalfitano was lively on the left-hand side of midfield, while Gael Bigirimana also made his Magpies bow, appearing from the bench with 25 minutes to go. The closest we came to equalising was through a Little Big Lad finish, though he was ruled offside. Possibly for the best, given what happened last time he scored in an opening pre-season fixture...

Three days later we took on AS Monaco at TSV Landsberg's ground, running out 1-0 winners. Amalfitano and Bigirimana both featured again, but generally it was an older side that took on the French outfit, not least because Steve Harper was between the sticks - his shirt number indicating that Tim Krul is now literally our number 1. The goal came from Demba Ba's bonce just after the half-hour mark, while strike partner Big Lad came close to opening the scoring in the first minute, his backheel rebounding off the post. Had it been the Mackems, it would of course have gone in... Afterwards, Monaco manager Claudio Ranieri was effusive in his praise for our playing style and achievements last season, and wished us well for the forthcoming campaign.

The trio of friendlies was completed with our most challenging fixture to date, against Turkish side Fenerbahce in Ritzing, Austria. Dirk Kuyt was among those lining up for a relatively strong opposition XI, but we took the lead through substitute Mehdi Abeid. Big Lad, Little Big Lad and Papiss Cisse were all unfortunate not to double our advantage and we were punished at the death by a Cristian Baroni equaliser, a disgruntled Silver Fox muttering about us having fatally switched off and it potentially being "a valuable lesson".

Next up is a game against Olympiakos on Friday. Will we have any new faces to parade then?



All Mod cons for Fat Sam?

Nothing much of note happening on the transfer front at St James' Park, but how's about we have a quick look around for moves of interest elsewhere?

Let's begin our round-up with Fat Sam's West Ham, who've shelled out a fee just shy of £5m for the services of Modibo Maiga. Lest you forget, the Mali striker came very close to joining us in August and January, even going on strike to try and force the move through, before failing a medical for a dodgy knee. He stayed at Sochaux, Papiss Cisse was recruited from the Bundesliga instead and the rest, as they're wont to say, is history. At the time, it was intriguing that we weren't prepared to take a risk on Maiga when a previous gamble on Demba Ba was paying off handsomely. Ba, of course, was snatched away from the Hammers when they were relegated - presumably they're hoping their new African striker has much the same impact as his predecessor.

Meanwhile, it looks as though Junior Hoilett will be escaping Blackburn for west London - as long as QPR decide to continue flashing the cash. Rovers are demanding a hefty compensation fee for the young Canadian (though I doubt they'll get anything like the £6m Steve Kean's chuntering on about), while the player himself is reportedly demanding £50,000 a week. That sort of figure would put him among our top earners, so that probably gives some indication as to why we've passed up the opportunity to sign him.

Another former target who has taken up residence elsewhere is Adrian Mariappa, the Watford defender opting to join Danny Guthrie at newly promoted Reading. That leaves our only confirmed central defensive target as FC Twente's Douglas, though Fulham and West Ham are both also keen. Perhaps we could take a look at another Eredivisie defender, Feyenoord's Ron Vlaar, who has expressed his frustration at being "messed about" by Aston Villa, who is clearly open to a move to the Premier League and who seems to be available for a tasty £3.2m.

In the Championship, two old boys have teamed up, with Darren Ambrose becoming Lee Clark's fourth signing for Birmingham. The midfielder, prised away from Crystal Palace for a nominal fee, will be among those charged with supplying ammunition for Peter Lovenkrands to tuck away.

And finally, the summer weather is here at last and one player who may well be enjoying life beside the seaside is ASBO, who is training with Football League newbies Fleetwood Town having been excluded from QPR's pre-season tour of Malaysia. How the mighty have fallen, eh? It wasn't that long ago he was being linked with Arsenal...

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Monday, July 23, 2012

So good they named him twice

The friend of a friend has just started work as a vicar in Newcastle. The name of the first child they've christened? Demba Demba...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rocky road ahead?

With Leon O’Best and Peter Lovenkrands now departed, and our pursuit of Luuk de Jong scuppered by his move to Borussia Monchengladbach, it’s hardly surprising that we’re in the market for another striker.

However, the news that we’ve made an approach to bring Rocky back to the club is something of a shock. While I think he’s been unfortunate at Liverpool, one of the reasons that Rocky looks to have struggled is that the team isn’t set up to play to his strengths, but instead favours playing the ball through for Luis Suarez to run onto, rather than fire in crosses for Rocky to try and get a header on target.

Equally, in the 18 months since his departure, and particularly in the last 12 months, we’ve started to pass the ball more and play through the likes of Dreamboat and HBA, and as such Rocky’s strengths don’t appear to be particularly well suited to our more recent footballing methodology.

With that in mind, the approach for Rocky is indeed a surprising one. Still, having been rebuffed once it remains to be seen if we go back in with an improved offer, or leave it to the likes of West Ham and Fulham to battle it out for our one-time number 9’s services.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catalans come calling for Cabaye?

Yesterday's Sun carried the somewhat fanciful (you'd imagine) suggestion that Dreamboat might be interesting Barcelona.While there's no denying his performances during the Euros will have turned a few heads - those which weren't already turned by displays for us and, before that, Lille as they won the French double - I can't see the Catalan giants seriously considering a bid.

As for the player, the lure of playing at the Nou Camp would of course be strong, but surely it would be a suicidal career move to hope he might break into the midfield that has won three consecutive trophies for Spain. The Frenchman has become an integral figure off the pitch for us, helping HBA and the French-speaking recruits Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse to settle and also (apparently) putting in a good word with former Lille teammate Mathieu Debuchy, so his loss would be a major blow.

If he or any of our other star men is to leave, then the Silver Fox has warned suitors that they will have to "pay way over the odds". The boot may be on the other foot when it comes to Ajax utility man Vurnon Anita, though. We're offering £6m, the Dutch outfit are holding out for £8m and the player wants his future resolved as soon as possible.

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Dog day afternoon

With Euro 2012 done and dusted and the Premier League not kicking off for another month, how does Wor Al take a break from punditry? By heading off to the PFA Legends knockabout in Barbados and, together with Iain Dowie and Graham Fenton, spoofing an infamous YouTube video, of course. Fenton is inevitably essential to the spoof, while Dowie - Shearer's right-hand man during his brief and unsuccessful stint in the St James' Park dug-out - plays the part of the enraged dog owner with relish. Shearer, meanwhile, stands by, lamely echoing Dowie, chuckling and then, ahem, manually rearranging himself in his shorts...

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Smudger signs on for Dons

There surely can't have been many people who've gone to Milton Keynes and declared "I've come to the perfect place" - but those were the exact words of Alan Smith, who has sealed a permanent move to the MK Dons following his release by Newcastle. The goalshy striker/lumbering midfielder spent the second half of last season on loan in Buckinghamshire, coming close to helping the club into the Championships via the play-offs.

During his time on Tyneside, Smith never really came close to living up to his price tag or reputation, and his departure hardly gives cause for tears to be shed. True, he was instrumental in the dressing-room revolution that turned the club around post-demotion - but ultimately paying him £60,000 a week to be our "head cheerleader" was more than a bit excessive given the newly instilled culture of fiscal prudence. Smith was markedly better during our one-season sojourn in the Championship than he ever was in the top flight, so League One may well prove to be more his level.

Meanwhile, John Carver has been talking enthusiastically about the returns to fitness of Saylor and Sylvain Marveaux, claiming it'll be like having "two new players". Understandably, though, he stressed the importance of remaining cautious and protective of Saylor in particular - we've rushed him back into action before and it's ended badly.

One reason that Saylor is "itching" to get back into action, no doubt, is fear that the competition in his position is about to hot up. The Silver Fox, who already has Mike Williamson at his disposal, has been talking about recruiting another option to partner Sideshow Bob, with FC Twente's Douglas still the most likely candidate. Watford's Adrian Mariappa, the subject of several failed bids in January, has now been linked with Wigan, so that particular ship might be about to sail.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quote of the day

"He’s a smashing lad and we all wanted to help him and give him the best possible chance we could."

Thanks to Coventry fan Michael for pointing us in the direction of this article from local paper the Telegraph, in which the club's former education officer Keith Newbold is among those recalling Gael Bigirimana's progression through the youth ranks into the Sky Blues' first team. It seems his talents have been recognised for some time, and he's been well looked after - let's hope that he continues to be nurtured and develop now he's on Tyneside.

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Loven the first degree for Clarkie

Best of luck to Peter Lovenkrands, who has joined Birmingham following his departure from St James' Park. The Dane - Lee Clark's first signing since being appointed Blues manager - may now be 32 and lacking the sort of pace he had when marauding down the flanks at Rangers, but he retains a reasonable eye for goal and a canny footballing brain and so should still have plenty to offer at Championship level. And, if Raylor's to be believed, plenty to offer his new teammates from his washbag, too.

Another story on the BBC site to catch my eye today concerned Junior Hoilett, out of contract at Blackburn. Steve Kean is likely to be disappointed if he thinks the winger-cum-striker will stay on at Ewood Park, but if Hoilett is to leave then it's worth noting that compensation will be required due to his age. We were repeatedly linked with a move for the Canadian earlier in the year, but the trail has gone strangely cold over recent months. Might we perhaps now be hoping that the sale of Leon O'Best will help to curry favour if, as I anticipate, any move for Hoilett quickly descends into a bunfight between a clutch of rival clubs?

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Sunday, July 08, 2012

It's Seneg-all looking rosier

Two unexpected boosts for our prospects for the forthcoming season. First, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba been surprisingly omitted from the Senegalese squad to face Team GB and others in the Olympics (while Fat Sam's new West Ham signing Mohamed Diame has been selected - heh heh heh). And second, we now know that January's Africa Cup of Nations will only deprive us of either our striking pair or Mr T, not both, after Senegal were drawn against the Ivory Coast in the final qualifying round. A serious stroke of good fortune on both counts.

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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Big deal

Yesterday brought confirmation that we've completed the signing of Coventry midfielder Gael Bigirimana. The Burundi-born teenager, winner of the Football League's Apprentice of the Year award for last season, has joined for an undisclosed fee, probably in excess of £1m.

The Sky Blues' chief executive Tim Fisher described Bigirimana as a "great talent" whom they would have liked to keep, "but when the Premier League comes calling - particularly a club the size of Newcastle United - it becomes increasingly difficult to stand in the player's way". Having conducted a quick survey (by scanning a City messageboard), it seems their fans valued him more for his potential than for his current ability - which certainly suggests that he's far from the finished article and may well benefit from being sent out on loan at some point during the season. Coventry would be keen to have him back, though I suspect we might prefer him to go to the Championship, where he cut his teeth last season, rather than step down to League One.

Meanwhile, a clutch of youngsters already on our books have inked new deals. Most prominent amongst them is James Tavernier, who will be eyeing up Danny Simpson's possible departure with interest. Midfielder Michael Richardson has also signed a new contract - he might be a bit miffed at the acquisition of Bigirimana, but, after making great strides early in his Toon career and forcing his way onto the bench for first-team games, he's disappeared from view somewhat and needs to raise his game again.

Elsewhere, Jonathan Woodgate has joined hometown club the Smogs for the second time - but will those knees hold out? - and the Mackems' Asamoah Gyan has done the sensible thing and fled the Dark Place for good.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Old boy is a new Bhoy

And the departures keep on coming. To say it's been in the pipeline for a while would be a massive understatement - but Fraser Forster has finally left the club on a permanent basis, joining Celtic, the team for whom he's played on loan for the past two seasons, for a fee in the region of £2m.

The 'keeper declared: "I want to win things as a team and improve as an individual and I think I will be able to do that at Celtic." Well, Fraser, with Rangers facing up to the prospect of liquidation and life in the fourth tier of Scottish football, the traditional two-horse race will now be a one-horse procession. A succession of championship winners' medals looks certain, but the move is hardly suggestive of a player with a huge amount of ambition, as big a club Celtic feel they are.

Forster's been voicing a thinly-veiled desire to leave Tyneside for some time now; nevertheless, allowing an undeniably talented youngster to go doesn't square with our general policy, even if we've received reasonable compensation for him. With Steve Harper not getting any younger and Rob Elliott yet to convince, might we now be in the market for serious competition for Tim Krul? The general recruitment drive has stalled for a while but needs to get back into gear soon.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Month Of Saturdays: June 2012

(Image courtesy of Monica Arellano-Ongpin)

Is it just me, or did everything club-related seem to go on hold for the duration of Euro 2012? OK, so I was on holiday for the first half of the month, but Paul was holding the fort and there was precious little to report on.

One splendid bit of news that did break last month was that we announced we'd secured Graham Carr's services for a further eight years. It could well be our best - or at least most important - signing of the next few summers. As our head scout, he's has been integral to our recent success, deserving every plaudit for his role in recruiting the likes of Mr T and Papiss Cisse to play for the club closest to his heart - and indeed Chris Hughton deserves much credit for having the foresight to bring Carr to Tyneside back in February 2010.

Carr, like the rest of us, was no doubt glued to the Euro 2012 action throughout June. It remains to be seen whether anyone in particular caught his eye, but what can be said with some certainty is that one of his previous finds, Dreamboat, emerged as France's star performer. He came close to scoring against England in the opener, and then bagged one and struck the post against hosts Ukraine. After sitting out the defeat to Sweden, he was back to face Spain in the quarter-finals but couldn't help prevent the eventual winners from progressing. Nevertheless, that £4.5m looks increasingly like money well spent.

The only other individual to really impress in what was ultimately a disappointing tournament for the French was Dreamboat's former teammate at Lille, Mathieu Debuchy, who spent the group stage underlining his qualities for the benefit of Carr and other interested onlookers. Certainly, HBA made little impact, afforded one start (against Sweden) and rowing with his coach Laurent Blanc in the dressing room. But at least he got to dirty his boots - the same couldn't be said of Tim Krul or striking target Luuk de Jong, both of whom looked on from the bench as the Dutch crashed out of the tournament with three successive defeats.

De Jong has proven himself to be a fine young prospect in the Eredivisie, but closer to home Carr is rumoured to have had his eye on both out-of-contract Man Utd defender Zeki Fryers and Coventry midfielder Gael Bigirimana. Reinforcements are certainly needed, not least because June saw another departure. Danny Guthrie left in the hope of finding regular Premier League football elsewhere and wasn't kept waiting long, signing for Reading before the month was up. All told, it was an eventful month for the former Liverpool and Bolton midfielder, given the lurid tales of his less-than-fairytale wedding that were splayed all over the tabloids much as guests at the bash were on tables... (Still, when it comes to bad behaviour, that paled in comparison to what led QPR to fine ASBO six weeks' wages and strip him of the captaincy, or what led to ASBO being arrested outside a Liverpool nightspot (not for the first time).)

Guthrie's arrival at the Madejski was celebrated by Royals fan Lanterne Rouge, who took the trouble of profiling the three Premier League new boys for us - and pointed out that, strangely enough, the Silver Fox has managed them all. The publication of the fixture list revealed when he would be facing them, as well as handing us stern tests from the start (Spurs at home and Chelsea away) and over the festive period (Man Utd and Arsenal both away).

A couple of familiar faces we'll be seeing in opposition dugouts this coming campaign include Chris Hughton, newly installed at Norwich, and Steve Clarke at West Brom. And if all goes to plan, then this time next year we could be gearing up to welcome Lee Clark, Hughton's replacement at Birmingham, back to St James'.

The month ended on a sad note with the death of official Black & White & Read All Over mascot Alan the chicken, who finally succumbed to a nasty infection that destroyed her appetite and gave her a horribly high temperature. But, much like the team whose colours she sported, she was spirited to the end and certainly didn't go down without the proverbial fight. Here's hoping we approach the forthcoming season with the same mentality.



Tantrum trouble for HBA

As had been widely expected, HBA is to face disciplinary action for his dressing-room disagreement with now-departed French coach Laurent Blanc in the aftermath of les Bleus' Euro 2012 group-stage defeat to Sweden. It had been our temperamental talent's first start in the tournament, but he was evidently unhappy at being hauled off with half an hour still to play. However, he's not alone in facing the prospect of sanctions, and will be joined in the dock by Man City forward Samir Nasri as well as Jeremy Menez and Arsenal target Yann M'Vila.

Meanwhile, one of HBA's club colleagues has been on the receiving end of abuse. Danny Simpson's not the first Newcastle player to suffer such treatment on Twitter, either. Morons, pure and simple.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Bye bye O'Best

So it's farewell to Leon O'Best, who today completed his move to relegated Blackburn Rovers for a fee said to be in excess of £3m. That means we've doubled our money on the Republic of Ireland striker, signed in January 2010 as part of a posse to help get us over the promotion line - and the fee could rise higher should he help Rovers bounce back into the Premier League. Good business, arguably, for a player who's suffered with more than his fair share of injuries.

Most of us had O'Best pegged as an out-of-his-depth try-hard, even after he got off the mark for the club in spectacular fashion with a hat-trick at home to a hapless West Ham, and it's true that he probably didn't quite have the quality or finesse required of a real top-flight forward. Nevertheless, he scored skilful winners at St James' Park last season against both Fulham and QPR, and was also on the scoresheet in that phenomenal 4-4 draw with Arsenal. The writing was on the wall in February, though, when he limped off injured at home to Villa and had to watch from the sidelines as debutant Papiss Cisse pinged a left-foot scorcher into the top corner of Shay Given's net.

As a forward who made the most of somewhat limited abilities, he followed in the footsteps of Antoine Sibierski and, like the Frenchman, can leave the club with his head held high and with our best wishes to send him on his way.

Of course, O'Best's departure leaves us with fewer striking options - beyond Cisse and Demba Ba, we're now looking at Big Lad, essentially, as the Lone Ranger and Xisco are currently well out of the frame and Peter Lovenkrands has also left. So, in other words, selling the Irishman can only be considered genuinely good business if we can strengthen the squad by bringing in a superior replacement. Which is where Twente's Luuk de Jong comes in - and hopefully come in he will. His agent Louis Laros' recent comments will have given us some encouragement: "Luuk is still a Twente player. If the right club comes along then he will happily make the move. The club doesn't need to be a top club, but a good club in a big league where Luuk can play regularly and develop as a player."

The Dutch club might be trying to play hardball over the fee (as is their right, of course), but given that de Jong's agent has declared that his client "has taken the decision to move on", you do wonder whether they might come to view dispensing with a disgruntled wantaway player swiftly as the most sensible course of action.

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Monday, July 02, 2012

Picture imperfect

Amdy Faye: according to the Ronny Gill, so bad he should feature twice in our worst ever XI. Either Jean-Alain Boumsong was his nickname or their picture researcher was having an off-day...

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Double Dutch?

Sky were among those reporting on Friday that we've stepped up our bid to sign FC Twente striker Luuk de Jong. A former club colleague and current international teammate of Tim Krul, de Jong was prolific in the Eredivisie last season and would, I think, be an excellent addition to the squad, particularly as he's just 21 and therefore has plenty of potential resale value.

It doesn't promise to be plain sailing, though. Not only has manager Steve McLaren declared he's under no pressure to sell de Jong and that only an "absurd bid" could meet with any success, but according to the Star we also face competition from German outfit Borussia Moenchengladbach. Prising Douglas away from Twente looks no more straightforward, with McClaren claiming the Brazilian is "the best defender in Holland".

Meanwhile, over in France we've had the encouraging news that Mathieu Debuchy has declared his desire to leave Lille. Whether he follows Dreamboat to Tyneside hinges on a few factors - not least coach Rudi Garcia finding a suitable replacement, Lille not holding out for a hefty fee and us holding off rival suitors (Inter Milan have been mentioned).

And what of outgoing players? Danny Guthrie's wasted no time in signing for Premier League new boys Reading, where he'll be joined by Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. The two acquisitions constitute something of a statement of intent from the Royals, one which I'm sure Lanterne Rouge will be pleased to note. Let's hope lobster thermidore isn't on the menu at Guthrie's welcoming dinner...

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