Wednesday, May 07, 2008

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The Stiffs' back four is set to have an altogether more aesthetically pleasing look to it next season, with the news that Stephen Carr and Peter Ramage will be accompanying Australian teenager James Troisi out of the St James's Park door in the summer.

On paper, signing Carr from Spurs back in 2004 for just £2m was something of a coup, but, as though exhausted by the move up to the North East, the Irishman suddenly seemed to decide that crossing the halfway line to support attacks in any meaningful way was too much effort. What's worse, his defending left much to be desired too. Mercifully, what with his injury problems and the splendid recent form of Habib Beye, Carr has rarely figured this season, and no one will shed a tear for his departure.

While the sight of Peter Ramage also packing his bags is unlikely to make anyone misty-eyed either, there is always a touch of disappointment when a local lad fails to make the grade. Older than Steven Taylor, with whom he came through the ranks, Ramage is leaving in search of the first-team football that King Kev has openly admitted he can't offer him. Capable of the odd outstanding display, Ramage could more often be something of a liability at the back - though in the Championship, where some defensive mistakes go unpunished and robustness of tackling is prized, he could do well.

Who might be coming in to take their places and strengthen the back line is anyone's guess. But, with the summer not even yet upon us, Chris Mort has already been voicing his concern about our inability to attract the "top-notchers" Keegan spoke about last week: "It is frustrating that Modric, like Woodgate before him, should take less money than we offered to move to the bright lights of London and European football with Tottenham next season". There you have it: to counter the not inconsiderable charms of our rivals, all we can offer is wheelbarrows full of cash. No wonder that as fans we're constantly plagued by the feeling that we're supporting a team of underachieving mercenaries...


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