Association football

What’s next for NUFC?

Will his departure change NUFC's fortunes?

Will his departure change NUFC’s fortunes?

After an extended break from updating this blog I thought the recent departure of Alan Pardew to be just cause to flex my writing fingers to give a brief update on my stance as to what this actually means for the future of Newcastle United. Not that anyone cares of course.

Let me start off by unequivocally stating that Alan Pardew’s departure will have no meaningful impact on the way Newcastle United play football, or the long-term direction the club is heading in. Anyone expecting Frank de Boer, Rafael Benitez or even Michael Laudrup to take on the top job in North East football will be bitterly disappointed when the new ‘head coach’ (Ashley is not giving the new man the top title by all accounts) comes into Toon. In different circumstances men like these, and hundreds of talented managers like them across the globe would have been delighted to take on a project such as Newcastle United, which then begs the question, why won’t they come? Anyone familiar with my line of thinking will know the answer to this – Mike Ashley. We’ll get to him in a minute.

Quite frankly I’m surprised that Pardew left the club because under Mike Ashley he had a job for life. He may not have been the flavour of the month in the fans’ eyes but he was working at the biggest club he’ll ever work for and had relative job security compared with Crystal Palace who go through more managers than I do hot dinners. My guess is that even Pardew had had enough of having his hands tied behind his back. He’d had enough of taking the flak for Mike Ashley’s constant failings at the club, and he’d probably had enough of the scripted s**t that he had to roll out every pre-match and post-match press conference about how “we was a fret” even after 90 minutes of never hitting the target. Don’t get me wrong I am not absolving Pardew of anything, this man robbed a living while he was manager of Newcastle United and will (rightly) go down as one of the worst managers we’ve had in living memory (yes, even worse than Sam Allardyce and Graeme Souness in my books) and not only that, but the very fact that he was complicit in Mike Ashley’s running of the club negates any possible sympathy that could otherwise be evoked for him. The man is charlatan, a snake oil salesman and he will be found out for the pathetic manager he is when he inevitably relegates Crystal Palace this season and I for one am delighted to see the back of him. However, nothing is going to change.

Alan Pardew’s departure from the club will not signal change for Newcastle United. You may think I am being negative with this prediction but I am afraid it will (most likely) be the case. Mike Ashley has had his fingers burned when it comes to managerial appointments in the past; he chose the popular options of Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer – these appointments did not work due to Ashley’s own failings but his own lack of control over these iconic figures played a part in that. He then chose a safe pair of hands in Chris Hughton, but the fact that Chris believed a lot in player power meant that Ashley couldn’t keep him in the job, especially when his cohorts i.e. Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique were calling for better bonuses it was clear that their respective times at the club were always going to be short-lived. Finally he appointed from within his own circle of trust in the ilk of Joe Kinnear (twice) and Alan Pardew. It is through this model that Ashley has had the most stability (despite Kinnear’s short reign as both manager and Director of Football) and don’t be surprised if it is through this model that Ashley appoints again. The list of friends Ashley has in the game is short, however, with only the like of Dennis Wise, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables of any real repute, and I’d doubt any NUFC fan would be happy with any of those appointments for a myriad of reasons.

So that leaves Ashley with another option – appoint from within the club. Save for the fact that Colo hasn’t got his coaching badges, I’d have bet my bottom dollar that he was going to be the next manager at Newcastle United. He successfully ostracised and seen off the likes of Yanga M’biwa and Hatem Ben Arfa, all the while protecting the manager and by extension, Mike Ashley. Considering that only 2 years ago he was looking a way out of the club himself, this indicates a marked turnaround and is a demonstration of how much individual power he now wields at the club. Forgetting the fact that he is now a shadow of his former self and would no longer be starting but for the fact that centre half is a position we are stricken in, Colocinni is a man to be wary of looking into Newcastle United’s near future.

The most likely candidate for the job comes down to a choice of 2; John Carver or Peter Beardsley. Carver and Beardsley represent men who were previously held in high esteem at the club, but through their association with the Ashley regime are now no more than bought and paid for stooges. If Ashley appoints either man as ‘head coach’ the majority of fans will be delighted that a “Geordie lad” has the top job, while some of us will see it for what it really is – a continuation of Alan Pardew’s sterling (!) work at NUFC. Mike Ashley wants minimal fuss and a smooth transition. He doesn’t want to indoctrinate a new man into how he does things, he wants someone who knows his model of running a football club already, which is why my money is on either of these two being the next manager.

These are worrying times for NUFC, especially considering that Ashley has been gazumped in a struggle for shares at the club formerly known as Rangers. To my fellow Newcastle United fans I say this, be careful what you wish for and beware the Ides of March.

New football force in North East?

Durham's Mike Ashley? Hope not!

Durham’s Mike Ashley? Hope not!

In the process of browsing the various media outlets for news on Newcastle United, I stumbled upon a very interesting story involving one of our former players Olivier Bernard. Bernard had 2 spells at Newcastle United and with nearly 150 appearances under his belt for the Toon wor Olivier is yet another former player who counts himself as a Newcastle United fan.

Bernard’s career outside of football has seen him regularly appear as a pundit for various television channels covering Premier League football, as well as being an ambassador for the Kick It Out campaign that aims to stamp out racism in football.

However, Bernard’s love affair with the north-east of England is set to continue with the news that he is the new owner/chairman of Durham City FC.

Durham is one of only 4 counties in England without a league club, but if Olivier is to be believed, he has very immediate plans to address this. This is what he had to say,

For the level the club is playing at, this is a fantastic stadium,” he said. “In five to seven years I want Durham to be in the Conference Premier.”

“I want to make Durham one of the best feeder clubs in this region,” he explained.

“At the moment, I don’t think the area develops enough players. I want the three big teams to see this as a place to send their youngsters.

“I’ll do everything I can to get around, bring players to Durham, and help develop them in an environment they’ll enjoy – that is the key.”

“Then a few months ago, I got introduced to people at Durham City and the idea was put to me about potentially buying it.

“I saw the facilities and looked at the size of the catchment area. This is a big place, not a little town. Durham should have a much bigger football club.”

“I had a wonderful career at Newcastle and when I retired I could have gone back to France and I didn’t want to,” he said.

“The people up here are so warm, a lot more than in Paris. People have so much time for you – I see this as a way to give back to that community that has treated me so well.

“Primarily, I want to raise the profile of Durham City to make it a successful grass-roots development project. And I will do it, I know I will.”

With Bernard’s high-profile, and strong links to Newcastle United, he should have no trouble seeing talented youngsters, being sent out to Durham on loan, and it will be interesting to see if Bernard can fulfil his vision of bringing Durham through the ranks of non-league football.

The development of grass-roots football within the North East is something that Newcastle United fans should actively take an interest in and I for one look forward to seeing how Olivier gets on with his new project and wish him all the best.

 

Ben Arfa to give 100% – That’d be a first!

'Mercurial' winger

‘Mercurial’ winger

Going through my daily routine of gobbling up the morsels of Newcastle United related news has become part of my daily ritual. Sometimes you come across reports that infuriate, interest and bore you, all in the same article. Don’t worry folks, I’m only aiming for the first two!

However, there are also times when you stumble across an article that is simply not true. Usually these articles come under the headlines of ‘Mike Ashley has ambition for Newcastle United’ or ‘Pardew believe Newcastle can finish top 6’ or ‘Toon to sign a striker this summer’ et al. In my trawling of the inter-web, I stumbled across an article entitled ‘Ben Arfa is a team player’ and I nearly spat my coffee all over myself.

Here is what wor Hatem had to say today,

 “I’ll play anywhere on the pitch if the gaffer thinks it’s best for the team.

“I’ll give 100 per cent anywhere he puts me.

“I’m a professional football player – I have to give everything on the pitch. It is the same for all the players.

“I’ll play anywhere – just not goalkeeper!”

When Ben Arfa is on form, he is unplayable. He is beautiful with a ball at his feet and on his day he can rival some of the very best in the league. However, despite the fact that he is not consistently on his game enough to be a regular asset to the team, my other major gripe is that he is single-handedly one of the laziest players I have ever had the displeasure of watching. Let me make this abundantly clear – He is a fantastic footballer. When he is good, he is brilliant. However, when he is off the boil (which is more often than not) the man is an absolute liability so much so that even Ameobi would be more useful.

Ben Arfa does not even give 100% in his regular position, so how the hell are we to believe that he will give 100% if he was played in a position that was unfamiliar and uncomfortable for him?

It would serve HBA well to look at the performances of one Yoan Gouffran and take a leaf out of his book. Gouffran is nowhere near as technically gifted as Ben Arfa, but the man is full of heart and spirit. He runs the channels and does the leg work that you would never ever see Ben Arfa do. He covers for his full back when he is away for a wander, he threatens the opposition full back with his own incisive running, and as his assist for Remy’s goal against Spurs showed, he can actually be pretty handy with the ball.

I’m not asking for 100% from Ben Arfa because we will never get that from him (part of the reason why I think we should cut our losses and move him on) but if he were to even give 75% effort, and try to become more consistent, then I would think a lot more of him.

So to summaries. Yes, he is a fantastic footballer. Yes, there are worse players than him. No, I do not think he is world-class. Yes, I do think we would be a more rounded team without him. Yes, I do think we should sell him. No, his ability is not once in a generation, and if Newcastle United were run properly we would be seeing players of his ilk coming into this club on a regular basis.