Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fog on the Taedong

Just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse, along comes Jabba to provide an easy source of further ridicule. 

This time, he’s taken umbrage at the recent local press coverage given to the Time4Change march and as such has banned the Ronny Gill, the Journal and the Sunday Sun from the club. 

Ironically, it is those same publications which are often criticised for being too pally with the club, too willing to toe the party line but not anymore. 

Presumably Jabba is already starting his own Sports Direct edition of Pravda which will be available in the club shop and carry exclusive interviews and match reports in which every player is at least a 7 out of 10 and our goals are feted regardless of results. Pyongyang upon Tyne anyone? 

Press bans aren’t themselves a new thing, with the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards singled out last season over his stories of a Francophone clique in the dressing room and indeed, many years ago, I had a conversation with then Newcastle correspondent Alan Oliver who described a six-month ban during Keegan’s first reign, which he described as one of the hardest periods of his professional life. 

The reality is, for Lee Ryder et al, they are now going to have to work twice as hard to fill the voracious appetite of their readership for stories about our club. However, they can do so without fear of causing offence, which means they can report honestly about both the club and possibly also Wonga (who they had started to embrace).

Perhaps a critical approach to the club’s main sponsor might see some pressure exerted by Wonga, which in turn might see Jabba re-open the doors to the local press.

Until then it makes our owner, and by association our club, look small, petty-minded and frankly ridiculous, causes greater uncertainty and means we once again find ourselves worrying more about relegation than about bouncing back from Sunday's defeat.


You can read the text of the club's letter here and the National Union of Journalism's response can be found here.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Curse strikes Po-yet again

Sunderland 2 - 1 Newcastle Utd

We were left cursing That Bloody Man again, as for the umpteenth time we stumbled and fell heavily into the scriptwriter's trap - namely providing the obliging opposition as the Mackems claimed their first win of a comically awful season. It just had to be us, didn't it?

While the performance, though flat, wasn't embarrassing, the result certainly was - the Great Unwashed had lost all four of their previous matches at the Stadium of Shite. A bit more desire, conviction and intelligence and we would surely have made it five home defeats in a row. As it was, we were left to rue what might have been, Mackem taunts ringing in our ears.

The Silver Fox was forced into making one change to the side that took to the field against Liverpool, with MYM suspended. Hopes of a return from injury for Saylor weren't realised, which meant a first Premier League start for Toon-born Paul Dummett, partnering Mike Williamson in a makeshift central defence. Gus Poyet's team selection seemed to involve banishing as many summer signings to the bench as possible - Jozy Altidore and Andrea Dossena were the only recent recruits to make it into the starting XI.

And sure enough, five minutes in, it was experienced campaigners Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher who combined for the opening goal - and Dummett who was partially responsible. A short corner caught us napping (perhaps we need to acknowledge that, though we don't ever score from corners, other teams do...), and Geordie Johnson was allowed to float a cross to the back post, where Fletcher leant on and overpowered his marker Dummett to nod the Mackems into the lead.

It could have got worse shortly afterwards, when Fletcher's left-footed volley was parried by Tim Krul, Dummett dawdled and Altidore nipped in but could only run the ball behind for a goal kick. Such was the Mackems' control of the centre of the park that the Silver Fox decided to switch our system from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, to match them directly. That helped us to gradually gain the upper hand, but even then we were restricted to wayward free kicks from Dreamboat and HBA, the fluent and pacy attacking that characterised the impressive wins at Villa and Cardiff nowhere to be seen.

The Silver Fox's response to the half-time deficit was to throw on Papiss Cisse for Moussa Sissoko (whose one moment of note had come when he was just beaten to a header by 'keeper Keiren Westwood), but the Senegal striker's worrying Premier League goal drought continued as he, like Loic Remy and Goofy, were peripheral figures in the second period.

We did at least start to really boss the midfield, though, with skipper Mr T to the fore, and the equaliser, when it came, was deserved. HBA took aim speculatively (not for the first time in the afternoon) and his cross-shot turned into a perfect pass for Mathieu Debuchy, dashing past the dozing Johnson, to fire home at the far post. It was the French full-back's first goal for the club, and made him another in the list of Toon defenders to have found themselves improbable scorers in this fixture over the years, alongside Andy O'Brien and Nikos Dabizas.

At this point, up against a tiring team who were both defensively and psychologically brittle, the game was clearly there for the taking. In fairness, we did push for a winner, with Dreamboat, Davide Santon and substitute Big Lad (trying in vain to reprise his Mackem Slayer antics) all firing narrowly wide of Westwood's goal. Critically, though, we didn't actually test the 'keeper or create anything at close range, and indeed the best opportunity fell to Fletcher's replacement Fabio Borini, whose shot squirmed through Krul only for the Dutchman to fall on it on the line.

The Italian wasn't to be denied for long, however. A free kick was awarded after referee Lee Probert had overruled his assistant (who had signalled for a throw-in to us), a short pass eluded Dreamboat's attempt to cut it out, the industrious Altidore left the ball to Borini as the two strikers switched and the substitute lashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner. His only other Premier League goal also came at our expense, during last season's 6-0 drubbing by Liverpool - a new nemesis to file alongside his manager, perhaps?

In the five minutes of normal time and four minutes of stoppage time that remained, we resorted to lobbing the ball forwards aimlessly and artlessly, and came closest to a second equaliser when John O'Shea's header had Westwood scrambling back to prevent an own goal. Otherwise there was only a dribbled shot from Dreamboat that indicated it wasn't to be our day.

At the final whistle the Great Unwashed celebrated in the manner you might expect of a club that has now recorded back-to-back derby wins for first time since 1967. How galling to think that we've quadrupled their previous points tally and given them the psychological fillip of leapfrogging managerless Crystal Palace at the bottom of the table.

As for us, the inquest should have already begun into where exactly the requisite passion, drive and determination were. The players simply didn't look as though they appreciated it was a derby. It's a good thing that revenge is a dish best served cold - it'll be positively icy by the time the Mackems visit St James Park...

The weekend's results have only seen us drop one place, to 11th, but that's a very false comfort - just three points separate us from Norwich, currently occupying the final relegation spot, with the considerable challenge of a visit from Chelsea next in line in the league. Hardly ideal.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian (warning: report by TBW, complete with the following supremely ridiculous suggestion: "Maybe one day a parallel with Arsenal's past will be identified, with Di Canio regarded as Bruce Rioch to Poyet's Arsène Wenger")

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dan dares

The crowd at Bloomfield Road were treated to a rare sight yesterday: a goal from loanee Dan Gosling. His long-range effort in the first half was slightly lucky to find the back of the net and restore home side Blackpool's lead. It would have been the winner, too - had it not been for Gosling's team-mate Steve Davies contriving to score an own goal in the last minute.

As we've said before, good performances for his loan side are unlikely to earn him a reprieve on Tyneside, but will at least further his chances of getting a decent move.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Papal bull

So the Pope's been pictured with a Sunderland shirt. I suppose the Mackems need all the help they can get ahead of tomorrow's derby. As the Silver Fox has pointed out, though, Sideshow Bob has actually met the Pope in person and the pair bonded over a shared love of San Lorenzo in their native Argentina. Divided loyalties, then.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New deal for Dummy?

It looks as though Paul Dummett's reward for an impressive pre-season and an encouraging introduction to the first team, culminating in Saturday's goal against Liverpool, will be the offer of a new contract. That's if the Silver Fox gets his way - and you'd imagine Jabba wouldn't be inclined to quibble given that the young left back is just the sort of cost-free homegrown player he wants us to be producing.

Here's an interview Dummett gave in the summer to the Ronny Gill, in which he talks about the importance of self-confidence when you're training with your idols, the value of last season's loan spell at St Mirren and the encouragement he's received from the Silver Fox.

Dummett has said he'll be involved on Sunday whether as a player or a supporter - in truth, it looks like being the latter, with the Silver Fox saying a fit-again Saylor would "get the nod over Paul because you need experience in the derby". Saylor obviously greater experience, but you do wonder whether he's not actually the greater liability in the circumstances - a player who is just returning from injury, who is always liable to do something daft and rash (see the sending-off in his one appearance of the season so far, at Man City) and who will be given a particularly torrid time by the Mackem crowd...

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dreamboat and Dummett ensure history doesn't repeat itself

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Liverpool

For the third fixture in a row against the Reds we had a man sent off - but mercifully there was to be no repeat of last season's horrific 6-0 thrashing, thanks to a performance of encouraging spirit and resolve in the face of adversity.

Injury to skipper Sideshow Bob meant a recall for MYM, but this was largely by default and the more notable difference from the side that won at Cardiff before the international break was the selection of HBA ahead of Papiss Cisse. While it wasn't much of a shock that the Senegalese striker paid the price for his continued lack of goals, the Silver Fox did spring a surprise by stationing HBA centrally.

That decision didn't really pay off, HBA a peripheral figure for the most part, but its consequence was that Loic Remy continued to operate on the left side of the front three, the position in which he's been most dangerous. On the other flank, Goofy's work rate and effort were superb, though you wonder whether he might not have been better switched with HBA.

No matter, though - with Mr T appearing to have rediscovered his form in conjunction with being awarded the captain's armband and Dreamboat bossing midfield, we were in general control of the game. Chances were at a premium, though. Mathieu Debuchy had tried his luck from range with a shot that was comfortably smothered by ex-Mackem Simon Mignolet, but when his pal Dreamboat took aim from a similar position shortly after the half-hour, the Belgian 'keeper stood no chance of stopping his bouncing, swerving drive from finding the bottom corner.

That sparked a flurry of opportunities, with the Reds' potent strikeforce of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge starting to give Tim Krul something to do. The Dutchman was able to watch calmly, though, as headers from Martin Skrtel and Aly Cissokho sailed harmlessly over. Davide Santon was rather more perturbed by a headed effort from Suarez, clearing behind for a corner, though replays suggested it may have been drifting just wide of the post.

Not that Liverpool had started to have it all their own way, with Moussa Sissoko close to extending our lead only for Mignolet to beat away his left-footed drive. So it was a hammer blow when Sturridge chipped the ball through for Suarez, played onside by Mr T lazily jogging out from the box, and he tumbled following a slight but unmistakeable hand on the shoulder from MYM. The defender didn't make it past half-time in his last appearance, also against opposition from Merseyside, and the inevitable red card brandished by Andre Marriner meant he continued that unhappy tradition, the Silver Fox admitting he had "no qualms" about the decision. Steven Gerrard scored from the spot, his 100th goal since football began (i.e. in the Premier League...), and suddenly the game had a very different complexion.

MYM's dismissal left the Silver Fox with a dilemma: who to bring off to be able to introduce our one fit defender on the bench, Paul Dummett. The fact that Sissoko was the unlucky man was intriguing - HBA would have been a more obvious candidate, as something of a luxury player, but our original three-pronged attack was retained. There was also some surprise when rookie left-back Dummett took up position in the centre of the defence. Presumably his inexperience was taken into account but it was nevertheless felt that neither Debuchy nor Santon would have sufficient stature to partner Mike Williamson.

As it turned out, though, Dummett's most significant contribution came at the other end ten minutes into the second half. Dreamboat's free kick glanced off a defender and the substitute found himself in the perfect position at the back post to sidefoot a seasoned striker's finish past Mignolet. Not only did it break the run of Premier League goals scored by Frenchmen (13 including Dreamboat's earlier in the match), it was also the first strike from a Newcastle-born player since Wor Al's farewell spot kick against the Mackems in April 2006.

The major challenge now was to hold out - something Suarez seemed hell-bent on wrecking. First his angled shot was saved by a firm Krul right hand, and then he darted into the box and, with the Dutchman out of position, crossed for Sturridge to plant a diving header into the empty net under close attention from two defenders.

It could have been worse, had the odious Uruguayan's shot gone under the bar rather than striking it or had his stoppage-time free kick not been repelled by Krul. In truth, though, Liverpool missed the creative influence of Philippe Coutinho, outstanding in last season's demolition, as his replacement Victor Moses was largely poor. We could even potentially have snatched a winner, with Remy looking a real threat on the counter-attack as the Reds pushed forwards.

Honours even, then - and certainly a point was the least we deserved. We do now go into Sunday's derby with a central defence down to the barest of bones, but a team that has scored twice in each of the last five Premier League fixtures will fancy its chances against a porous Mackem back line that shipped another four without reply in Gus Poyet's first match in charge. With only a solitary point to their name thus far, the Great Unwashed will be desperate to get that first win of the season against us - it's our job to frustrate them and, more than that, to exact revenge for April's humiliation.

A Liverpool fan's perspective: The Liverpool Offside

Other reports: .com, BBC, Observer

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Enough's enough

Today's match will see fans protesting against Jabba's reign under the banner "Time4Change". Earlier in the week, the organisers explained the motivation behind and aims of the protest to the Ronny Gill, and it all made good sense to the pair of us here at Black & White & Read All Over, as it has to NUST and the proprietors of .com.

We're perhaps less vehemently opposed to Jabba than many supporters and recognise the positives of his period of ownership - namely getting our finances in order, removing debt (except to him) and maintaining accessibility (as evidenced by the BBC's latest Price Of Football survey results and our taking the lead in the move towards more affordable prices for away tickets).

However, those positives are outweighed by the negatives: the sackings of King Kev and Chris Hughton, the rebranding of the stadium, the sponsorship deal with Wonga, the appointment of JFK and (perhaps most significantly, as the protest's organisers point out) a lack of ambition and direction that has seen us fail to capitalise on an admittedly fortuitous fifth-placed finish. Promises of investment have been repeatedly made and repeatedly broken, with little evidence that we've learned from previous mistakes.

In last weekend's interview on Sky Sports, the Silver Fox saluted the business acumen that makes Jabba a "genius" (a questionable claim, given that Sports Direct's success is largely founded on ruthless and unethical practices such as zero hours contracts), but also said our owner "sometimes can't understand how [football] works and it confuses and upsets him, and when he is upset he does things that aren't brilliant for the football club". We can only speculate as to what Jabba made of being portrayed as some kind of baffled toddler by his employee, but when even the manager is prepared to make such a statement you know it is indeed time for change.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Cost-cutting exercise gets thumbs up

At last, some cost-cutting we can get behind. As was rumoured earlier in the week, it's now been confirmed that we can take pride at being at the forefront of the drive to reduce ticket prices for away fans. The Football Supporters' Federation have been pushing for a figure of £20, but we've actually gone further and agreed a reciprocal deal of just £15 with West Brom. We also have a £20 arrangement in place with Swansea, who've negotiated their own deal with Hull. So much for those who suggested that the FSF's recommended price was fanciful or naively idealistic.

The lustre of the good news story is dulled somewhat when you consider that Premier League clubs were handed £200,000 each to subsidise the cost of introducing reduced away tickets. If it took that - a piddling amount relative to the sums teams in the top flight splurge on transfer fees and salaries - to persuade the club to take action, then it's a bit embarrassing (though not as embarrassing as for all the other clubs who've yet to do anything at all). Nevertheless, the action that's been taken is positive, so in this instance the means by which change was brought about are irrelevant.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Richards a potential recruit?

Earlier this week we were linked with a move for Man City defender Micah Richards. While I don't want to lend too much credence to a claim made by TalkSport, it is worth pondering all the same - if only because, if true, it would suggest a recognition on the part of the powers-that-be that Mathieu Debuchy needs to be forced to drastically up his game, and perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that we were wrong to let Danny Simpson go.

As regards Richards himself and whether he'd be the man for the job, some would argue that he's lost his way in recent years and wouldn't be worth the risk. However, I'd prefer to focus on his misfortune at having the league's best right back Pablo Zabaleta in front of him at City and both Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker in front of him for England. (Incidentally, for that reason I think the article's suggestion that he might choose to move to Liverpool or Spurs is ridiculous.)

Richards' nationality is of significance too, given the Silver Fox's admission at the weekend that "we are starting to get filled up with too many foreign players". Slightly surprising, that, given previous pronouncements on the make-up of the squad. It's as though someone's reminded him of his attack on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal back in 2006, when he was manager of West Ham: "It's important that top clubs don't lose sight of the fact that it's the English Premier League and English players should be involved". Not that that seems likely to deter us from wanting to sign Loic Remy on a permanent deal, mind (see below)...

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A smashing signing?

Loic Remy might be being coy about the possibility of signing for us permanently, even though the Silver Fox has hinted that the terms of a deal with QPR are already in place (the Frenchman presumably holding out for a better move), but he's nevertheless clearly been carefully studying exactly what it takes to be a Newcastle player: with a rape charge already securely under his belt, he's now been involved in a motoring incident...

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Solano seeks Shakers shift

When visiting the in-laws in Bury, I've been known to nip off to Gigg Lane to watch the Shakers in action - so it was with some interest that I read I could in future find myself cheering on a home side managed by one Nolberto Solano. The Peruvian has apparently applied for the vacant position formerly filled by Kevin Blackwell, but would be well advised to ensure due diligence - the Shakers are something of a basket-case club currently on a collision course for successive relegations, and will need more than trumpet solos to save them...

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Allez les Bleus le Bleu

While England were busy deferring the inevitable disappointment of failure until next summer, France had to settle for a World Cup play-off despite beating Finland 3-0. Dreamboat may have scored in the 6-0 rout of Australia, but he nevertheless found himself dropped to the bench like club colleague Loic Remy - the pair joining Moussa Sissoko as onlookers, with Mathieu Debuchy somewhat inexplicably our only representative in the French starting XI.

Both Dreamboat and Remy made second-half appearances, the latter hitting the post, though it was fellow substitute Karim Benzema who scored the third. The duo have been arguably our best performers so far this season, and we'll be desperate for them to report back for club duty fit and well ahead of Saturday's visit of Liverpool. For his part, Debuchy - who set up France's second goal and almost scored himself - will need to erase the memory of last season's fixture, which we lost 6-0 and during which he was red-carded...

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Away the lads

After last week's depressing arrests stat, some more positive fan-related news on the PR front: according to the Independent, we're set to offer a pioneering arrangement whereby we charge £20 a ticket to away supporters of any club that reciprocates the offer for our own.

If this does become reality, then fair play to the club for being forward-thinking - even if they, like the rest of the top-flight clubs and the Premier League itself, are only reacting to the pressure applied by the Football Supporters' Federation's Twenty's Plenty campaign, rather than being proactive. The FSF have already hailed the potential significance of our move, one which would do much to protect that increasingly endangered species, the away supporter, by helping to ensure affordability.

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Dream return for Dreamboat

It was a good weekend for our French contingent, as Les Bleus filled their boots in a 6-0 friendly rout of Australia. Dreamboat marked his return to the team with a fine goal, his low shot swerving through a defender's legs and into the bottom corner after nice build-up play from Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery, and two minutes after half-time Mathieu Debuchy got in on the act with the fifth. Loic Remy should be pleased that his recent goalscoring exploits in black and white secured him a start, even if he'll have been disappointed not to get his name on the scoresheet as well as the teamsheet, while Moussa Sissoko came off the bench in the last ten minutes.

Elsewhere, there was also a goal for Papiss Cisse - no more than a consolation against an Ivory Coast side for whom Mr T played and was booked (naturally), but a goal nevertheless and hopefully a useful boost to his confidence.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

An arresting stat

Yesterday I concluded the monthly round-up for September by saying that as a Newcastle fan it would be nice to be able to feel pride rather than acute embarrassment. Today brought news of a stat that's hardly likely to help with that: according to Home Office figures, our supporters topped last year's Premier League arrests table, with 175 arrests over the course of the season, 30 more than our closest "rivals" Man Utd.

That said, more than 100 arrests came in the wake of the derby defeat, and Chief Supt Steve Neill of Northumbria Police suggested that many of those participating in the riots hadn't actually been at the match. So, not for the first time, a bunch of mindless yobs calling themselves supporters give the rest of us a bad name- despite what Neill said at the time.

The data is broken down by location and type of offence here.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Month Of Saturdays: September 2013

On the evidence of September, a fair way to describe Newcastle would be "cheap" - both positively and negatively.

On the one hand, the club continues to offer the cheapest day out in the Premier League (as defined in the BBC's annual Price Of Football report) - and indeed a cheaper day out than the majority of Football League outfits.

On the other, we were confirmed as the only club in the division not to spend a penny over the summer, with JFK later bemoaning a transfer window "in which the value of players was grossly over-inflated and the demands of agents likewise". Because, of course, that's never been the case before and never will be again... Our sole signing Loic Remy was a loanee, while it subsequently emerged that penny-pinching attempts to move the goalposts had scuppered a deal for fellow French striker Bafetimbi Gomis - hardly ideal when our main marksman Papiss Cisse was playing as though the goalposts genuinely were moving...

Given our track record in previous transfer windows and JFK's boasts about his football knowledge and global contacts, it was a depressingly predictable outcome. The man who had declared with characteristically foolish confidence "Judge me on my signings" lay uncharacteristically low for three weeks after the window shut, only surfacing for the Hull game on the 21st, by which time he was presumably hoping that the fans' anger would have subsided. His column in the matchday programme was a shallow and pathetic exercise in self-justification (though arguably more sincere than the earlier official statement dubiously attributed to the Silver Fox, which also avoided a grovelling apology in favour of excuses and flannel, and concluded in preposterously upbeat fashion). Damien Comolli may have argued for the value of having a director of football (albeit in a different context), but in September JFK continued to do his level best to prove him wrong.

Predictable though our failure to recruit may have been, it was nevertheless a cause for disbelief for most, including NUST, who responded with a statement of their own. But if our inability or unwillingness to plug gaps and compensate for obvious deficiencies in the squad was incredible, then the revelation that our "scouting efforts" began "in earnest" on the first weekend of the month, just days after the window had closed and the opportunity to make any signings had passed, took the proverbial biscuit. Not that those "scouting efforts" constituted much, considering that for youth players at least we had adopted a policy of deliberately looking no further than our own back yard...

While foreign flop Romain Amalfitano was shipped out to Dijon on loan, the international break proved memorable for two players who did happen to be spotted in said back yard: Paul Dummett earned a first call-up to the senior Wales squad (though didn't get any game time) and Big Lad, at the age of 31, scored his first international goal for Nigeria, for whom he was now playing with the club's apparent blessing.

The break also saw Steve Harper's testimonial take place, during which villain of the piece Paolo Di Canio got a booting from ASBO, much to the delight of the crowd. Not long after that, the Italian got a rather more significant booting from Mackem owner Ellis Short, largely thanks to results but also partly to a habit of publicly criticising senior players that caused serious friction and mutiny in the ranks.

That the Silver Fox did much the same with HBA following the victory over Fulham seemed to pass without much comment. Our mercurial Frenchman was safe in the knowledge that he'd produced the goal that had beaten the Cottagers, though, and responded to the criticism with a brilliant performance as we beat Villa in our first match of the month, prompting him to claim he was targeting the Ballon d'Or award. Ambitious, perhaps, but laudably so.

Also catching the eye at Villa Park was his compatriot Dreamboat, whose move to Arsenal had failed to materialise - something to do with some chap called Ozil, you'd suspect. Dreamboat's performance was that of a man keen to both begin rebuilding his reputation with the Newcastle fans (to whom he subsequently apologised) and force his way back into the French national squad, from which he was omitted for the September fixtures.

Of course, after such an encouraging display on the road, we were always destined to fall flat on our complacent faces when entertaining a newly promoted side that travels worse than the Titanic. Remy notched his first two goals for the club, but that was scant consolation for the atrocious defending and staggering lack of creativity that allowed Hull to win with relative ease.

Thankfully there was a marked improvement when another Yorkshire side visited St James' four days later, Leeds dumped out of the League Cup 2-0. Cisse looked stunned to have headed his first goal of the season after superb build-up play from Dummett and Little Big Lad down the left, and Goofy swept in a splendid second. The reward, if you can call it that, was a tie with Man City.

Sadly we weren't able to carry that momentum into our final league match of September, instead slipping to another worrying 3-2 defeat. On this occasion our conquerors were Everton, who ripped us apart to race into a 3-0 half-time lead. While a peach of a strike from substitute Dreamboat and a poacher's finish from Remy may have pegged the Toffees back, the damage had already been done and the goals only really served to restore some pride.

Having pride in the club generally speaking would be nice - but as long as JFK remains in situ, we'll have to make do with feeling acute embarrassment.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Quote of the day

"The fans' state of mind was due to what the club wanted to let them know. As I didn't talk and I won't give any explanation about what happened, they chose their side. That is part of a career, but I bear no grudge against no one. I accept it, it is in the past. The only person who can explain what happened is Joe Kinnear. If he is honest, he will tell it. Otherwise it will not get out of my mouth."

Some intriguing comments made by Dreamboat to French journalists. Expect the "lost in translation" excuse to follow any moment.

As .com have noted, Dreamboat's comments don't necessarily mean that we have JFK to thank for finally doing something useful and helping us to retain a player who has since underlined his considerable value to the team in the games against Villa, Everton and Cardiff. In fact, they imply that JFK was instrumental in the "official" line put out by the club that Dreamboat refused to play against Man City and West Ham as a result of the interest from Arsenal, and that the reality of the situation was actually somewhat different. Clearly it still rankles with him, despite his claim not to bear any grudges.

I think it's fair to say that supporters are well on the way to forgiving Dreamboat for his perceived misdemeanours, but it remains to be seen whether he can patch things up with JFK. Issuing a public challenge is probably not the way to go about doing so, though.

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From Paolo to Poyet

The bad news: with three weeks to go before the derby, the Mackems have appointed a new manager who, as a player with Chelsea and Spurs and as a manager for Brighton, has repeatedly proven to be our nemesis.

The good news: he's got a fucking monkey's heed, so that particular crowd favourite can be recycled.

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Loic provides the Remydy

Cardiff 1 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Not for the first time, we find ourselves asking if the real Newcastle will please stand up. Not that we're complaining on this occasion, mind, after a fine win on a ground where Man City have already been beaten. And one thing is becoming clear, at least - we have a new goalscoring saviour to salute in Papiss Cisse's stead.

After his introduction changed the game on Monday night, it was no great surprise to learn that Dreamboat had been elevated back to the starting line-up - nor that Mike Williamson had been preferred to the man he replaced at the break at Goodison Park, MYM. What were more contentious were the Silver Fox's decision to drop HBA for Cisse, as short on confidence as he is on goals, and the selection of Mr T ahead of Vurnon Anita.

Cisse's return to the side meant Loic Remy moving out to the left - not that that meant he would allow himself to be shunted out of the action. On the contrary, he was central to a first-half team display that was every bit as good as Monday's was bad, brilliantly denied early on by David Marshall. The Bluebirds 'keeper then pulled off another important fingertip save from Moussa Sissoko's rising drive, hit with his weaker left foot.

Our onslaught on the Cardiff goal was unrelenting, though, and on the half-hour mark we got the breakthrough goal. Released into space wide on the left, Remy strode forward purposefully from the halfway line, teased defenders, cut inside and buried a shot from outside the box inside Marshall's right-hand upright.

Not that he was about to rest on his laurels, either. Eight minutes later, Marshall parried Cisse's prodded shot but could perhaps done better than to present Remy with the (half-)chance to stroke a precise side-footed shot into the opposite corner from his opener.

It could have been even better for us before the break. Dreamboat, who had taken up where he'd left off against Everton, pulling strings across midfield, had supplied the incisive pass to Cisse for the second goal, but came very close indeed to extending the lead further himself, smashing a cunning wide-right free-kick against a post when Marshall and pretty much everyone else in the stadium was expecting a cross.

That poor fortune aside, it was a thoroughly satisfying half, but we knew it was bound to get tougher in the second period. That that proved to be the case was thanks in part to Malky Mackay's introduction of Jordon Mutch, the sprightly substitute stirring things up in the middle of the pitch and supplying the pass from which Peter Odemwingie (yes, him again...) reduced the arrears. Mike Williamson was at fault, beaten to a bouncing ball too easily by Aron Gunnarson in the build-up and then unable to make amends when he slid in on the line.

That, inevitably, was the cue for Cardiff to apply some sustained pressure - but thankfully they couldn't work up a very big head of steam. Indeed, we could have extended our lead, had Marshall not smothered another tremendous close-range effort from Cisse or pushed away Dreamboat's angled drive. Admittedly, there was a scare when Mutch burst behind our defence and onto a forward pass, but Krul was off his line swiftly to snuff out the danger.

Ten efforts on target to their two gives a fair indication of our dominance (and the justice of the scoreline). While Cisse's embarrassing Premier League drought continues, Remy's goals were his fourth and fifth in English football - and the first to glean any points. We've now won as many games on the road as we did in the whole of last season - and we've reached that milestone in early October, whereas it took until May last year. Reason to be optimistic and accentuate the positives, perhaps - though with a tough few fixtures coming up, I think we should just savour this victory.

Other reports: BBC, Observer

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Saturday, October 05, 2013

Gosling flies the nest

Despite our disappointing start to the campaign, it's to no one's great surprise that one of the few stars of our pre-season, Dan Gosling, hasn't had a look-in. It makes sense, then, for him to have been allowed to join short-staffed Blackpool, who were until recently perched somewhat unexpectedly at the Championship's summit. Whether he can help the Tangerines to regain top spot remains to be seen, but it's clear he has no future on Tyneside so he might as well seize the opportunity to put himself in the shop window. And you never know - the loan might help grease the wheels of a deal for Tom Ince in January...

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Friday, October 04, 2013


A couple of quick non-Toon-related links, in case you're interested...

First is my attempt to overlook Newcastle's deficiencies and offer an objective appraisal of Hull's progress in adapting to life in the Premier League over on The Two Unfortunates. Sod's law that, having helped the Tigers beat us, both Robbie Brady and James Chester are now injured, isn't it?

Second, Kitman is a charming little award-winning short documentary film made by the friend of a friend about Blyth Spartans legend Tony Kennedy. Worth watching for his wasp joke and the anecdote about putting Graham Fenton's boots in the oven...

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Damage already done

Everton 3 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Another week, another loss by the odd goal in five - though this one, away to previously unbeaten Everton, was less ignominious than last weekend's defeat at home to Hull. Much like our last trip to the north west for a Monday night fixture, we had the misfortune to encounter a hungry, high-quality side who needed no encouragement to be rampant, but got it anyway. We may have come close to staging a very improbable comeback, but ultimately paid a heavy price for a truly abysmal first half.

The Silver Fox's team selection provided an early talking point. Dreamboat was considered fit enough only for a seat on the bench, Mr T taking his place, but more significantly Papiss Cisse's reward for breaking his scoring drought against Leeds in midweek was to be dropped. That meant Goofy started wide on the right, with Loic Remy handed the responsibility for spearheading the attack.

It was Remy's opposite number who stole the show in the first half, though, as Romelu Lukaku set about showing Jose Mourinho the folly of letting him go and giving a sharp reminder to the onlooking Jabba and JFK of the calibre of player that was available in the transfer window (albeit temporarily). The Belgian had a goal disallowed for offside within three minutes, but wasn't to be denied for long. Kevin Mirallas skinned Davide Santon and crossed for his unmarked compatriot to score. Tim Krul may well feel he should have done better, but he had been hung out to dry by his defence - and it wasn't to be the last time.

With Mirallas and attack-minded full-back Seamus Coleman, Everton were terrorising us down our left; Lukaku was bullying MYM and even the experienced Sideshow Bob into looking like nervous wrecks; and, despite the presence of both Mr T and Vurnon Anita on the pitch, Ross Barkley was profiting from the lack of protection afforded to our back four.

Barkley has stepped up a notch since arriving back at Goodison after a spell on loan at Sheffield Wednesday last season. He'd already fizzed a drive wide when he was bright and sharp enough to dart onto Lukaku's perfectly timed pass and finish smartly into the bottom left-hand corner of Krul's goal.

Worse was to follow before the break. A straightforward punt from Tim Howard split our central defenders, with MYM inexplicably running away from Lukaku and Sideshow Bob forced to try to cover. One powderpuff challenge from Krul (it must have been infectious) and one failed attempt at a slide tackle from Sideshow Bob later, and Lukaku was banging the ball into an empty net from a yard. The defending was so atrocious that it set Sky pundit Jamie Carragher off making improbably high-pitched noises.

Our only real shot of the half came from HBA, who tried his luck from a similiar distance to that from which he scored a winner back in September 2010, but it was comfortably pushed away by Howard and no one was following up.

To say we faced an uphill task at half-time would be understating the case. Not only were Everton unbeaten, but they'd registered eight consecutive Premier League clean sheets at home - and now we needed to score a minimum of three times to salvage anything from the match. But with getting a result practically a lost cause, we suddenly decided we were interested.

Just as Everton had benefited from our thorough awfulness in the first period, now we benefited from their contentedness and (perhaps) complacency. The Silver Fox deserves credit. Some will suggest that he was only righting the wrongs of his own team selection (I would disagree - he had sent out a perfectly capable side that played to the worst of their ability), but he chose to make two substitutions at the break. When Mike Williamson's the answer, then you've got to wonder what exactly the question is - but MYM's confidence had looked about as shot as his positional sense had been clueless, so unceremoniously hauling him off was a justifiable move. Likewise the decision to replace HBA with Dreamboat - the former had shown occasional glimpses of quality in the opening half, but not enough to compensate for offering Santon little or no protection from the marauding Mirallas and Coleman.

The changes had an instant impact, transforming us into a side that was suddenly bold and forward-thinking with the ball and tenacious without it. When Goofy was slipped in after neat work from Anita, he cleverly lifted the ball over Howard, only for it to bounce off the inside of the far post and to safety. Everton went down the other end and very nearly extended their lead, Debuchy just doing enough to foil Leon Osman after Mirallas' shot was pushed out into the danger zone by Krul.

Instead of stretching to 4-0, though, the winning margin was then cut to two goals, Dreamboat taking aim and firing an arrow of a 25-yarder into the top right-hand corner. The way he had assumed control of midfield almost as soon as he'd entered the fray gave us some encouragement, as did some timely interceptions from Williamson and the sight of Lukaku dropping deeper and wider to pick up possession.

The Silver Fox waited until the 69th minute before calling upon Cisse to add firepower, Anita somewhat surprisingly withdrawn ahead of Mr T. But the Senegal man was once again utterly anonymous, and it was Remy who turned up the heat on the home side with a close-range finish that smacked of quick thinking and opportunism.

There was only one minute plus four of injury time in which we could conjure up an equaliser - and we came extremely close to achieving the feat, too. Had Remy's volley flashed just under Howard's crossbar, rather than narrowly whistling over the top, we would have been toasting a very unlikely result. As it turned out, though, the deficit was just too great and the Toffees hung on for a win that, after 45 minutes, had looked the very definition of "routine".

The evening's lesson is clear: play like we did in the first half against Cardiff and we'll get stuffed again; play like we did in the second half and we could be returning home with three points in the bag and one over on a certain No-Necked Text Pest...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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