Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Month Of Saturdays: October 2013

Holding court on the Sky Sports sofa during October's international break, the Silver Fox was remarkably (perhaps foolishly) candid about his employer: "He loves football but he sometimes can't understand how it works and it confuses and upsets him, and when he is upset he does things that aren't brilliant for the football club". Essentially, then, the sporadic irrational and idiotic decisions that Jabba's made during his ownership of the club can all be attributed to temper tantrums.

And, as if to prove the point, Jabba promptly made another such decision, banning the Ronny Gill and its sister papers the Journal and the Sunday Sun in a fit of pique over their reporting of the Time4Change protest march which took place prior to the Liverpool home game. The objection wasn't to the coverage per se but to it allegedly being disproportionate given the relatively disappointing turnout of disgruntled supporters. All the same, to issue an outright ban was petty and childish, and once again made us look like a laughing stock and him like a ludicrous little dictator determined to try imposing his will on things beyond his control.

Jabba seems not to understand the concept of independent reporting and journalistic integrity, believing instead that the media should simply parrot the party line and pretend everything's rosy. If that's what you want, then go to the club website. There were, of course, no complaints when we garnered coverage and plaudits in the press for our pioneering work to reduce ticket prices for away fans (work which did indeed merit applause despite the fact that a Football Supporters' Federation campaign and a £200,000 sweetener from the Premier League were needed to get things moving in the right direction). You also have to wonder, if Jabba's so serious about how the club is represented, why he continues to employ the one-man PR disaster zone that is JFK - or allows players to tell the French media, in thinly veiled terms, how JFK has spun lies to both the press and supporters.

Of course, the press ban was just another embarrassment heaped on top of a second consecutive derby defeat. The Mackems needed our bogeyman in their dugout, a champion in the Vatican and a spectacular late goal from loanee substitute Fabio Borini to beat us. Divine intervention? Not from where we were sitting it wasn't - more like misery compounded by the knowledge that, with the scores level at 1-1, we had looked more likely to sentence the Great Unwashed to a fifth successive home defeat than to hand them their first three points of the season. Thankfully, at least no horses were punched and there was no repeat of April's violence on Tyneside - violence which ensured our fans finished at the summit of last season's Premier League arrests table.

It may have seemed a distant memory by this point, but the month had actually begun in encouraging fashion. A relatively comfortable win at Cardiff, the result of a supreme first-half display (not something that could have been said about our previous match, at Everton), was certainly not to be sniffed at given that Man City had already fallen victim to the now red-shirted Bluebirds.

For Loic Remy, scorer of the matchwinning brace in south Wales, October was an eventful month. Off the pitch, he ticked the box marked "Road traffic incident/offence", as all Newcastle players seem to have to do, while on it, five goals in three games secured him a start in France's friendly against Australia. Dreamboat also celebrated a return to the side, scoring in a 6-0 spanking of the Socceroos, but both players had to be content with a seat on the bench alongside club colleague Moussa Sissoko for les Bleus' final World Cup qualifier against Finland. Of our French contingent, Mathieu Debuchy was our only starter in that fixture. Just a shame for the right back that his first Toon goal was to come in the loss at the Stadium of Shite.

As well as giving an unexpected insight into Jabba's habit of lashing out, the Silver Fox's Sky Sports appearance was notable for his admission, in language not dissimilar to that of the English Defence League, that "we are starting to get filled up with too many foreign players". So it was a timely moment for a born-and-bred Geordie to score in black and white for the first time since Wor Al's penalty against the Mackems in 2006. We may not have held out for a win against high-flying Liverpool - not that surprising, given that MYM's red card left us a man light for more than half the game - but Paul Dummett's impact as a substitute was just one reason to be cheerful about a very valuable and hard-earned point. It may have resulted in the offer of a new contract on improved terms - but then came the Mackems and Dummett's partial culpability for Steven Fletcher's fifth-minute opener.

Three days after that trip to the Dark Place, a measure of pride was restored by the League Cup meeting with Man City - though the ultimate outcome was, unfortunately, still a premature exit from the competition. We took the game to our more illustrious opponents and indeed created the better opportunities, only to succumb to the sucker-punch in extra time, City returning home victorious.

They weren't the only ones making the journey from north-east to north-west in October, with forgotten man Dan Gosling swapping one Wonga-branded shirt for another when he joined Blackpool on loan. He soon set about endearing himself to the locals, too, by scoring against Blackburn in the Lancashire derby. However, the former Everton man could probably score a hat-trick every weekend between now and the end of the season and still stand less chance of forcing his way back into the frame at St James' Park than Jabba has of reading a glowing personal tribute in the Ronny Gill...

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