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.

Labels: ,



Post a Comment

<< Home