Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Canny news - but not canny enough?

Irked by reports in yesterday's Sun that Rocky would be out of action for another two months, we sent out a spokesman to claim otherwise: "There's no factual basis to the report. He will be out for two to three weeks as boss Alan Pardew said before the Spurs game". Positive news if indeed true, but in our haste to set the record straight, I can't help but wonder whether we've missed a trick. Could we not have done a Fergie by cannily keeping up the pretence of a long-term injury and then springing him on unsuspecting opposition, his rehabilitation apparently well ahead of schedule? What's more, allowing the rumours to disseminate unchallenged may just have helped deter potential suitors for the final week that the transfer window's open, as any buying club probably wouldn't want to shell out millions for someone who might be crocked until April...

Meanwhile, ASBO revealed to the Ronny Gill that he's in negotiations with the club over a new deal. While I feel he should have been booted out long ago and am still extremely wary of him, I can't deny he's hit a tremendous vein of form this season and, for the first time in his Toon career, is actually paying back some of the indulgence, patience and cash we've lavished on him. Without Wayne Routledge, we're short of players who can slot in on the right, and his delivery from set-pieces - arguably the most lethal in the division this season - has been one of our most potent weapons.

While Kazenga LuaLua and Tamas Kadar are both back on Tyneside after picking up injuries (at Brighton and Huddersfield respectively), the number of loanees we have dotted around the country and north of the border has increased to seven. Forward Ryan Donaldson has signed up to become an honorary Monkey Hanger, joining Wayne Routledge (QPR), Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Tozer (Northampton), Matthew Grieve (Stockport) and James Tavernier and Joan Simun Edmundsson (both Gateshead).

While Forster's stint at Celtic Park has seen him play an instrumental role in the club topping the SPL table, Grieve is suffering from sharply contrasting fortunes - the managerless Hatters are in freefall and, after losing 3-0 at second-bottom Hereford (a game in which Grieve was not involved), they then went down 3-4 at home to League Two's bottom side Lincoln at the weekend. A second successive relegation and dropping out of the Football League looks a distinct possibility unless our young defender can help stop the rot.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's curious how you seem to be against the grain in your opinion of Barton. While most are fawning over him, saying he's been our best player of the season, you still hold out reservations.

I have to say he's won me over this season, even with his indiscretions with Pedersen and Torres, especially after the treatment at Wolves. I'd be happy if the club offered him a new contract as long as it's within reason.

Just curious, what would it take for him to win you over?

1:01 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

A lot more than six injury-free months of good performances! That's the short answer.

Since signing in 2007 and the start of this season, Barton had played only a fraction of games owing to either injury, prison, suspension or internal club ban (after the red card against Liverpool), and when he did play he was a pale imitation of the player we thought we'd bought from City. His on-field influence had been negligible and his off-field influence disruptive to the team and damaging to the club's reputation - and all the while he was sitting pretty on £60,000 a week.

The transformation this season has been marked - match-winning displays on the pitch and (it seems) a galvanising presence in the dressing room. But even then, as you note, he's still had stupid lapses to his old ways. The obscene gestures at Torres were completely unnecessary and homophobic, and the equally unnecessary punch on Pedersen instantly deprived us of one of our most in-form players for three matches.

Unlike (it seems) most other Toon fans, I also hold his past against him and was uncomfortable about us signing him in the first place. I'm not prepared to defend him as a mischievous young man who made a mistake - not least because he's a recidivist and has never really seemed to learn anything (despite protestations to the contrary).

One of these days I might get round to writing a full defence of my stance on Barton, given that (as you rightly say) it's out of sync with that of the vast majority of Newcastle fans, but until then the above will have to do.

1:42 pm  

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