Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bye bye Bramble and Bernard?

Rumours are rife that we could be gearing up to sell Titus Bramble in January, with both Norwich and Everton reportedly interested. I'm not sure whether I feel it would be a good move for the club, especially when we're already pretty thin on the ground as regards defenders.

To repeat what I've said ever since I first saw Bramble in a Toon shirt, very often to the amusement of friends who support other clubs and don't watch him in action regularly, he's a naturally talented defender, powerful in the tackle and in the air, as well as being quite handy with a well-judged long ball.

What he desperately needs to improve, though, is his concentration level. Time and again in his Newcastle career he's lost concentration for a split second in a league in which that invariably costs you goals. The number of times he's allowed one fatal error to blight an otherwise faultless performance... And, of course, it's the fatal errors that are remembered.

So, if he can eradicate that from his game, he'll be able to turn the potential into reality. But we've been saying that ever since he arrived from Ipswich. With there having been no marked improvement or progression in his game since then, perhaps Souness has decided we can't afford to be patient and indulge him any longer, and that our defence is crying out for the finished article.

More concerning to me than Bramble's possible departure, though, is the news that Bernard's wage demands - reportedly £30,000 a week - might possibly scupper his chances of a new contract, meaning he'd be able to leave for pastures new for absolutely nothing.

By contrast with Bramble, Bernard has matured into a consistently sound player over the last couple of seasons, since getting a regular run in the side. The attacking side of his game has never been an issue - he adds so much to the team going forwards, particularly in tandem with an in-form Robert - but he's worked very hard on his defending, learning the art of tackling hard but fair and of snuffing out danger by being alert at all times. Given the inconsistencies of his team-mates I'd be surprised if he isn't one of the first names on the team sheet these days.

All of which makes the prospect of him being allowed to leave for nowt mystifying. There are plenty of players at Newcastle who get paid more than he's asking for yet who make much less of a contribution to the team. What's more, to get in a replacement of a similar calibre would almost certainly cost a sizeable transfer fee before wages are even taken into consideration.

I just hope the board sees sense, but, as sense is generally in very short supply at St James's Park, I'm not holding my breath.


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