Fabricio Coloccini

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.

Defeat, injury, suspension. Good day at the office…

Poor result for NUFC

Poor result for NUFC

Following our recent sparkling run of form, I awoke on this bright new year with an optimistic approach to today’s away fixture. Our 2 recent away wins to Crystal Palace and Manchester United, coupled with our recent impressive performances, had me in buoyant mood about our chances. Needless to say then that the rather toothless display from our boys today in their 1-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion – a team who had failed to win in their last 10 outings before today – was a bitter pill to swallow.

However, it wasn’t our inability to string 3 passes together that overly worried me. Nor was I overly annoyed by the lack of cutting edge we showed today. Of course these were issues that need addressing in training, but what really concerns me about today’s game is the injury to Fabricio Coloccini, and the 3 match suspension that will be dished out to Mathieu Debuchy.

Debuchy, rightfully, got sent off for a 2 footed lunge in the 63rd minute and a few short minutes afterwards, Coloccini had to be withdrawn with a knee injury that will supposedly keep him out for 4-6 weeks.

In my recent articles, I highlighted the need for investment in January as a means to keeping up our fine start to the season. I did concede, however, that we could still have a very good season with the current squad, so long as we avoided injuries and suspensions. Lo and behold, on the first day of the January transfer window, we have suffered both in 1 game. Surely, this is the wake up call that Mike Ashley needs. When Debuchy was last suspended, M’biwa slotted in at right back, and we coped very well in our win at home to Norwich with a make shift back four. In our next 3 games we are faced with a bit of a dilemma. Do we stick M’biwa at right back and slot Steven Taylor – a man who has not played for months, and is frankly not good enough – at centre half? Do we move Santon over to right back, Haidara to left back and M’biwa in for Colo? What’s more, what happens if another of our centre halves suffer an injury? Do we have the resources to cope?

Also, while I did say that I was not overly concerned by our lack of cutting edge today, I was worried about how ineffective Shola Ameobi, Loic Remy, Yoan Gouffran and Hatem Ben Arfa were today. I do feel that we need more attacking options in order to provide stiffer competition for the players we currently have.

I would hope that today’s result, injury and suspension will alert Mike Ashley to how exposed we can be if we were to suffer any more casualties, but I am not holding my breath. Also, I would like to make the point that we are 8th following 20 games, which is where I think a club like Newcastle United should be at this stage (if not higher) and while I am content with where we are currently, I should hope that our league form does not suffer following today’s casualties.

What do you think? Are you concerned following the loss of Debuchy and Coloccini? What signings would you sanction if you were Mike Ashley? (perish the thought!)

The REAL United triumph at Old Trafford

Wor Yohan!

Wor Yohan!

United put in a triumphant display at Old Trafford yesterday and deservedly ran out winners. What’s that? You think I am talking about Manchester United? Since when did ‘United’ become a universal symbol for Manchester United? The REAL United – without any plastic fans, or whingers who leave the ground 10 minutes early because their team is 1-0 down, won out in the end yesterday and that real United is, of course, Newcastle United.

Manchester United fans demonstrated how lacking in credibility they are, and how undeserving of the moniker ‘United’ they are by ashamedly walking out on their side before the final whistle, while Newcastle United fans made the most of our first victory at Old Trafford in 41 years by singing loud and proud well after the final whistle had blown. There are times when I am incredibly proud to be a UNITED fan and today was one of them.

UNITED showed their resilience by defending well as a team, with the back four of Williamson, Coloccini, Santon and in particular Debuchy impressing for the entire 90 minutes. Much must be said for the imperious midfield performance of a certain Cheick Tiote whom I had previously said was no longer good enough for our club. Please accept my most heartfelt apologies Mr Tiote, as you have displayed today, and in recent weeks, that you are pretty much back to your best.

Credit must also go to the mastermind of UNITED’s victory – Alan Pardew. He got his tactics spot on from the first minute to the last. We dominated the midfield battle from start to finish, got the goal we so desperately needed, and defended with the right balance of caution and expression that saw Santon and Debuchy not only nullify the wing presence of Nani and Januzaj, but also saw them be a thorn in the backside of Evra and Rafael with their marauding runs up-field. UNITED didn’t sit back on their 1 goal lead, and thanks to some smart substitutions and tactical awareness from UNITED’s manager Alan Pardew, not only did we hang on for a famous victory, but we finished as the stronger side. Well done.

So what is next for UNITED? Well without trying to put a dampener on our achievements, I would just like to point out that we still have been incredibly lucky regarding injuries and suspensions, and provided that we do not suffer from either from now until the end of the season, I genuinely think we could push the top 6, which, admittedly, is a revision of my pre-season predictions. However, as most teams do suffer from said injuries/suspensions, I would reckon that it would be remiss of Mike Ashley not to capitalise on the capabilities of this team by not investing in the January transfer window. UNITED’s recent excellent run of form has posed Mr Ashley with a problem – do I gamble on this squad not suffering any injuries and sign no one thus demonstrating my lack of ambition for this club? Or do I sign the players that we need in order to ensure we finish in the top 6, challenging for the Europa League?

Either way, one thing is for certain, us fans will remain UNITED behind this wonderful club. It is time we reclaimed this famous moniker for our club, and let those plastic fans in the North West call themselves something else. What rhymes with Mancers…

 

Lack of Investment Could Prove Costly

Who will replace him?

Who will replace him?

In the last number of days we have been fed with the notion that our season is up and running and we will finally kick on and ‘attack the top of the table’ as our manager himself was quoted as saying. However, one topic of conversation that has also crept in this week is one of who will replace Debuchy following his 5th yellow card of the season forcing him to miss out in our next game, at home to Norwich following the international break.

Mathieu Debuchy has enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks after suffering from a rather sluggish start to life in the North East of England, and has proven to be one of our key performers in the excellent victories against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs. Debuchy’s absence leaves a gaping hole in our back four and the question as to who will fill that hole is not easily answered. Why? Because there is no other natural right back in our entire squad.

That’s right people. A Premier League team, with millions of pounds at its disposal can only afford one player who can play right back. We have Anita who can play at full back, but he is much more adept at playing in central midfield, and given how well he has played this season, surely deserves a run out in his favoured position? We have Santon who can switch from left back to right back, but frankly, the quicker we see Santon shifted from left back to the bench the better. We also have M’biwa who could shift over and plug one of the full-back slots and allow Coloccini back into the side, but M’biwa and Williamson have formed a solid pairing and it would be a shame to tinker with that.

This is where any positives from Newcastle United on the field, are being undone by mediocrity off the field. With a properly equipped squad we would have someone – either a fringe player like James Perch or a proficient youngster – ready to step into the breach and do a job. Instead, we could see a severe weakening of our defence which stood so firm against two of the top sides in the league. Surely our defence, even minus Debuchy should be able to withstand anything Norwich City have to offer but my point is that we shouldn’t be taking these sorts of chances.

We have been rather fortunate with regards injuries, with only Remy at the start of the season, and Coloccini in recent weeks being two of the major first team casualties to effect us this season. However, if we were to see an accumulation of injuries or suspensions in either defence of attack, we would be in quite serious trouble.

Personally, I was delighted with the two wins in the last couple of weeks, mainly as they offset some shocking results earlier in the season and has put us really where I expected we would be. However, given how the club has next to no interest in actually pushing for European football, silverware or anything that a fan would call ‘success’, supporting this club has become increasingly futile. Let’s just hope some of our better players don’t start feeling the same.

Should I be more bouncy and optimistic? After all, it’s only Norwich City. Santon isn’t that bad, he’s a tricky footballer, and is better than I make out. Williamson has come on leaps and bounds and is now good enough for Newcastle United. Who needs more strikers, we have Remy on a loan deal and when that runs out, then let us worry about it then.

If you find yourself entertaining any of the above excuses, then I do feel sorry for you.

Lack of investment showing ahead of derby

Yes Joe, we did need at least 2 more players

Yes Joe, we did need at least 2 more players

With the news that Steven Taylor is apparently doubtful for this weekend’s crunch game against local rivals Sunderland following a possible recurrence of the hamstring injury that has been keeping him out of the season thus far the spot light seems to have shone back on Newcastle United’s transfer policy. By that I mean, our lack of one.

Add this to the news that Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini will be out until at least Christmas, Newcastle United’s defensive options look worrying bleak, which would make one wonder, what exactly was Kinnear thinking when he was devising his strategy for signings over the summer? This is a man who facilitated the sale of utility man James Perch – who often covered at centre half, and vetoed the free signing of the then FC Twente defender Douglas, both of whom would have seen us look a lot stronger in this essential position.

Back in June, Joe Kinnear was brought in as Director of Football in a midst of self-praise about how he could pick up the phone to “any manager in world football” and attract some of the world’s finest players. He then went to ‘answer’ his critics by saying “judge me on my signings” – a fair enough request – one that most Newcastle fans seemed to abide by. For those of you with short memories, let me just remind you that Kinnear did not bring in a single solitary permanent signing over the summer. Not one. His only signing was the loan capture of Loic Remy, who admittedly is proving quite popular on Tyneside. So it is fair to say that if one were to judge Kinnear on his signings, then one could determine that he has been an unmitigated failure.

Many fans have defended the strategy of Ashley’s right hand man by claiming that our squad is deep enough. It isn’t. As much as I like Paul Dummett, the lad is not a centre half. Williamson puts in a shift, but is quite frankly not good enough to be a week in week out starter, and M’biwa, while talented, makes too many mistakes and hasn’t quite got up to speed. Anyone looking at our options at centre half, cannot possibly think we have enough depth here, not just in numbers, but in quality.

Add to the widespread belief that we needed to bolster our attacking options considerably in the summer, it would appear that we do not have depth in any area other than in midfield. If the likes of Remy, Ben Arfa or Gouffran were to suffer an injury, then we would be stuck with Shola or Cisse, neither of whom have inspired much confidence in the Newcastle United faithful.

The common retort to this is, ‘if any side suffers injuries, it will have an effect them’ which is true of course. However, what differs with Newcastle is the degree to which we are affected. Arsenal for example, have the most amount of injuries of all Premier League teams this year (7) yet still find themselves atop the Premier League table. Why? Because they have true squad depth. While we do not have the resources that Arsenal do, we do have the requisite resources to ensure that when injury strikes, we have men waiting in the wing to slot straight in. It is how a football club, when run correctly, operates.

It’s not Kinnear’s fault really. I know that may seem confusing to some of you. It’s supposedly Kinnear’s job to go out and sign players, we didn’t sign players so surely it is Kinnear who has to carry the can right? Wrong. Just like Pardew, Kinnear is a product of the owner. The only reason either man is there is down to the whims of one man. Mike Ashley. Kinnear probably failed to some degree in carrying out his job because, let’s face it, he’s an idiot, but to another degree, he was most likely prevented from carrying out his job down to Mike’s insistence on putting balance sheets before trophies, and stability over success (the latter breeds the former by the way). So who is really to blame for us not signing players? I’ll leave that one for you to ponder.

Games against our fierce rivals have now been used as a gauge of how our season is going. We are heading into these derbies no longer feeling that it is a given that we will take all 3 points, and that is not good enough in my opinion. Not only that, but we had to suffer the ignominy of Sunderland coming to St James’ Park to, not only beat for the 1st time in 5 years, and the 1st time at St James’ Park in 13 years, but they also humiliated us. Sunday is an opportunity to put that right. To claim back some pride again and come home with 3 points. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, not having Coloccini, M’biwa and possibly Steven Taylor will have on our defensive performance.

If we lose, I know my anger will be directed at one person and I’ll give you a clue as to who that might be – it’s not Pardew or Kinnear.

What do you think? Now that injuries are beginning to show, is our squad deep enough? Was it Kinnear’s fault for not bringing in more players, or does it go higher than him? Should Pardew be getting more from the players he has or is his hands tied? I’d love to hear your views.

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Do we stand a chance without Colo?

Newcastle United's captain

Newcastle United’s captain

It has been one of our Achilles heels for a long time. Newcastle United have rarely had a very stable defence. However, in recent seasons, when we have looked assured at the back, it has usually been down to the exploits of one man – Fabricio Coloccini. While I may slate many players in our squad as not being good enough, this man escapes all criticisms as far as I am concerned. He is a man mountain. He may be losing his pace a little, and has made some uncharacteristic errors this season, he is far and away our most assured defender. When Coloccini is playing, our defensive unit looks more solid. When he isn’t, well, you get the picture.

Colo was withdrawn from international duty with Argentina, with the Argentinians claiming he was suffering from a calf strain. Reports stating that it may only have been a precautionary measure is the only solace Newcastle United fans can take. We will probably not know the full extent of Coloccini’s injury until later on today when he gets assessed by our own physios, but I don’t even want to consider the possibility of lining up on Saturday without our man main marshalling the defence.

I know I harp on about it from time to time, but this patently shows that we have a serious lack of depth in the squad. If Coloccini is injured, we have 3 other centre halves to choose from. On first inspection, that seems pretty decent. M’biwa should be a nailed on starter so it is a matter of who we decide to partner him with.  Steven Taylor has only recently recovered from his own injury and is not up to match speed. Throwing him in at the deep end could be disastrous given the speed and sharpness of the Liverpool attack. Which would only leave Mike Williamson as our other recognised centre half. Some people think he steadied the ship against Everton, and while there may be some truth in that, he also shown his lack of ability when he was largely at fault for Cardiff’s goal in our last game.

The sad fact is, a situation has developed where Mike Williamson isn’t the best option, but is the only option. Not so long ago, Pardew was referring to Williamson as “the other guy” and now he is seemingly relying on him? Only at Newcastle United. With better investment we would have more options to choose from and while he was unspectacular, James Perch was an excellent utility player who gave us an added option at centre half – once more exposing the lack of foresight from our illustrious Director of Football Joe Kinnear.

To tie up the article by pulling it back to the question – do we stand a chance without Colo? I’d have said we were in for a tough time with Coloccini. Without him we are facing a mammoth task. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

What do you think? How important is Coloccini to our defence? Are you content with Taylor or Williamson stepping in for him? Maybe you’d play them both and drop M’biwa? I’d love to hear your views.

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Pardew names unchanged side for Hull visit

Keeping the status quo

Keeping the status quo

As expected, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has made no changes to the side that beat Aston Villa last weekend for today’s match at home to Hull City.

Given how impressive, and much more complete the team performance was in large spells of the game, this really comes as no surprise. Although it is refreshing to see the manager pick players based on form, instead of sticking Tiote right back into the side, which could potentially imbalance the Newcastle midfield.

It is important to note that Steven Taylor and Jonas are not back to full fitness, but it would appear that the Newcastle United manager is beginning to drop certain nailed on starters from the side, which we hope he continues to do.

This is the side that Alan Pardew has named to face Hull City this afternoon,

Newcastle United (4-3-3): Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye; Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Loic Remy

Substitutes: Rob Elliot, Paul Dummett, Williamson, Cheick Tiote, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Yoan Gouffran

We’re impressed that Alan Pardew has at least shown some willingness to change his ethos from last season, however the same reservations about squad depth are around. Here’s hoping for a positive performance and 3 points please!

What do you think about this line up? Would you have chosen differently? Is Pardew beginning to learn or should he revert to another tactic? I’d love to hear your views.

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