Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strike action

Confirmation from French newspaper L'Equipe that Hatem Ben Arfa has vowed never to play for Marseille again in a bid to force through a move to St James' Park. Like Paul, I'm growing increasingly concerned by the Frenchman's tactics - as talented as he is, would we not be better off steering clear of a player who thinks nothing of going on strike to get his way?

Meanwhile, Steven Taylor's agent Paul Stretford has made it known that our injured defender's contract talks "are not progressing as I would like them to or would expect". In the light of previous ill-judged comments on the subject of contract negotiations, Taylor himself has sensibly decided to keep schtumm.

A contract-related non-story in today's People is given the absurdly overdramatic headline "Pay shock for Newcastle stars" but actually only suggests that, after the post-relegation fiasco of a year ago, we've informed the players that across-the-board pay cuts will be needed if we fail to survive this season. Grim fatalism? No - realism, caution and (pleasingly) common sense. We simply can't afford to be so crippled by wages again.

There doesn't seem to be any fatalism among the players, at least not if Danny Guthrie's comments on the eve of the game at Old Trafford are indicative of the mood in the camp. Guthrie was presumably speaking to Sky Sports before Chelsea's 6-0 demolition of fellow promotees West Brom yesterday evening, which presaged tomorrow's game being the sort to watch from behind the sofa, so that might have blunted his bullishness - but, although we've never won at the Theatre of Nightmares in the Premier League, stranger things have happened. Still, we'd probably best fear for the worst - like suffering at the hands of the man who's pronounced himself "cool" with being a bit-part player for Taggart...

Down at the Dark Place, Ol' Cauliflower Face is allegedly planning on reuniting Agent Bramble with the No-Necked One and Charles N'Zogbia. "Zog on the Wear" doesn't have the same ring to it, but Charlie Boy has apparently done a Ben Arfa, storming out of training on Friday and being omitted from the Wigan side humiliated by Blackpool yesterday.

One ex-Toon player whom the Mackems will have been glad to see at the Stadium of Shite is Stephen Carr, who contrived to both concede a (dubious) penalty and score an own goal as the Great Unwashed kicked off their campaign with a 2-2 draw at home to Birmingham. Perhaps he's decided to show his true colours to Alec McLeish after all.

... And finally, proof that Begbie has actually been a positive influence on another player. Just a shame it wasn't one of his team-mates...


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