Football

Toon’s season to get up and running!

Pre-season ends now...apparently!

Pre-season ends now…apparently!

What can we say that hasn’t already been said about our calamitous start to the season? Propping up the rest of the league Newcastle United finds itself in an unenviable position. With Macca all but conceding that the pre-season targets of a cup run and 8th place finish all but extinguished, sights are now set on maintaining our Premier League status – and that’s only after 8 games!

For what it’s worth, I think we will stay up this season, and that the long trail to survival begins in earnest this weekend with a much needed win against Norwich. 3 points against Alex Neil’s impressive newly promoted Norwich side would provide a welcome tonic for what has been a rubbish few months which have culminated in the crushing news that first choice keeper Krul will be sidelined until the end of the season. Whilst a win won’t suddenly get Krul back between the sticks, it would certainly create breathing room and provide a platform from which we can launch our revival.

With fellow strugglers Sunderland and West Brom facing off against each other tomorrow this would be an opportune time to take maximum points and heap the pressure on one (or both) of these two teams who will most likely be facing a relegation scrap themselves. If Sunderland were to take the full 3 points this weekend, not only does the pressure to beat Norwich mount, but so does the importance of the derby game next weekend increase (even more so!) –  effectively making it be a relegation 6 pointer.

Those that know me know that I am not one for optimism when it comes to Newcastle United. I generally think we will lose most games, and that our chances for any semblance of something resembling success are zero until we rid our club of Mike Ashley. However I genuinely do think we will win this weekend. There have been glimpses of positive play from our lads with Mitrovic, Perez, Mbemba and Mbabu particularly impressing against Chelsea, and the 1st half away to City. Furthermore, Norwich are fairly poor defensively meaning that the need to start with 2 up top, or at least both Mitrovic and Perez on the field, is paramount.

If, on the other hand, we fail to win (or worse) tomorrow, then the Sunderland game becomes a “must win”, and given our recent form against the Mackems, as well as the Sam Allardyce factor, I am not putting my money on it. A defeat against Norwich would be horrendous. Defeats against Norwich and Sunderland would be catastrophic.

Tomorrow’s game against Norwich has not quite reached “must win” level just yet. However, we must not lose this one!

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.

End of season (almost) review

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

Well the season  is, thankfully, almost over. In years gone by, no matter how poorly we had performed, how disappointing our cup runs had been, or how pathetic our league finish was, I always mourned the passing of the Premier League season, and looked forward to the next one with gusto. I must admit that this is the 2nd year running that I am longing for the end of the season and willing the start of the next one to never come.

To some this will seem like an alien concept that is quite unfathomable, to others I will be putting words to how they already feel, but genuinely I am going to try to be as objective in my analysis of our season as I possibly can…who am I kidding? It was shite. Even the times when we weren’t quite as shite as we are now, we were still relatively shite. We relied heavily on 2 key players; Cabaye and Remy, neither of whom will be lining out in black and white next season, and without them, the true nature of how shite we are was exposed.

Amidst the plethora of pathetic performances we did manage to nab some excellent results and even some half-decent performances, so I will pay lip service to those now before launching back into my tirade – Liverpool at home, Chelsea at home, Spurs away, Manchester United away, Hull away (despite Nut-Gate) are all results worth mentioning. While we escaped from White Hart Lane following a miraculous Tim Krul master-class, and nicked 3 pts at Old Trafford in a season when even the likes of West Brom and Sunderland are winning there, the shine is taken off it somewhat. The reality is, we’ve had a mediocre season, and have been saved by the mediocrity of others coupled with performances from players who are either no longer here, or will no longer be here. Not exactly the stuff of dreams now is it?

There are some who will look at me and think I am on a different planet, “But we’re 9th in the league! How can that be a bad season?” To them I say it is not about where we have finished in the league, rather it is more about how we’ve finished there. At the start of this season, following our horror show last time out, would I have accepted 9th? I would have thought it an improvement yes. However, when one considers that at Christmas Newcastle United were sitting on 30 points – 6 points behind Liverpool, level with Spurs, 2 points ahead of Manchester United and a massive 20 points ahead of Sunderland – it becomes quite clear where the source of frustration comes from. An opportunity was missed in January to kick on and turn what has been a relatively bland season into a great season. The sale of Yohan Cabaye was an apt demonstration of what Mike Ashley intends to do with our club; secure safety before January, if that has been achieved then flog your best player and muddle on through to the end of the season. So yes, we are 9th in the league. So what? 9th isn’t a trophy. 9th hasn’t excited the fans. 9th couldn’t keep Yohan Cabaye from wanting more. What exactly is 9th? Nothing. Interesting to note, that with one game left we could still finish 10th. Top 10 means bugger all to me.

I’m not going to dissect the god awful run of form Newcastle United have been on since Boxing Day, we’ve all experienced it, and got riled up about it so I’m not going to raise it to the fore. Nor am I going to mention the blatant stupidity of Pardew for nutting David Meyler other than to say it is testament to the lack of class the man has as well as the unwillingness of Mike Ashley to part with his prized mouthpiece. The only thing I am going to say about the 2nd half of the season is this – expect more of the same next season. There are those praying that this awful run of form will see Ashley sack Pardew, or that when Remy leaves Ashley will splash the cash for next season. Think again. The squad we will start next season will no doubt be lesser in quality than the one we started this one with, with returning loanees paraded around “like new signings”, and with Shola inevitably getting a new contract to “lead with his experience” as he’s a real “goal-getter” (3 goals in 53 appearances since Dec 2012 would seem to question that logic…) and we will be told how we couldn’t get anyone over the blasted line, which is more like an insurmountable mountain to NUFC. We will also be told how we cannot financially compete with the likes of Southampton, and the goalposts on how many players we are after will change depending on the wind – Pardew says 3/4 this transfer window, Lee Charnley says 1/2 per calendar year – who do you believe? I am no soothsayer, or some form of mystic. Any NUFC fan who has a memory spanning longer than 12 months will know that we’ve heard this all before. The club doesn’t even put any effort into their lies any more because they know we will readily gobble it up without question..

Thankfully, at our last home game of the season, thousands of fans joined in with a walkout protest to show their disgust at the regime and show them that not everyone is willing to gobble up their lies. Thousands more applauded their efforts and stayed to provide a toxic atmosphere aimed at Ashley and Pardew. These people deserve our praise, but likewise so too, do those fans who have already voted with their feet and abstain completely. These fans, many of whom are former season ticket holders, and die-hard Mags, deserve to be commended. A special shout goes out to the fine folk at the Mike Ashley Out Campaign. They literally voted with their feet by putting on a protest march back in October, as well as providing a constant presence at home games all season (even in the pouring rain) and engaging in some self-deprecating humour with their “Magical Misery Tour” which saw an open-top bus parade for our fiscal security as a facetious look at how Ashley is running the club. They have taken a lot of flak from a lot of people all season, simply for doing what they think is right by our club.

The walkout seems to indicate that those who scorned protests in the past, are now slowly beginning to see the ever-growing need for change, and while walking out once may seem like a seismic shift, it is but a drop in the ocean and is one small step in a long journey that us NUFC fans need to travel together if we are to stand a chance of succeeding. But the message must always remain – we can succeed.

Even if you are of the persuasion that fan pressure can achieve nothing and that Ashley will not sell until he is fine and ready, you may be right, but isn’t it worth putting pressure on him? If that pressure makes him sell up a year, a month, a week or even a day before he otherwise would have done then surely that counts for something? A wise man once said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a few good men to do nothing. Don’t do nothing. Not when our club is at stake.

This article is not really a season review. My articles have not really related to the football side of things, and I haven’t been able (or motivated) to write on a regular basis on the subject of NUFC. To me, this is my own personal reflection of how hollow and empty the football side of things makes me feel. I want to gorge myself on the subjects of transfer speculation, tactical permutations and specific performances but I won’t. Not while Ashley is in charge, because what stands as NUFC is not a football club – not my football club – but rather an empty shell masquerading as Newcastle United.

One day we will get it back.

Who is your ‘Player of the Season?’

NUST

NUST

As Newcastle United’s season comes crashing to a halt in a blaze of glory following quite possibly the worst second halves to a season from any recent Newcastle United team, the question that surely is on everyone’s lips is “Who has our best player been this season?” I am, of course, being facetious, as not many who pull on the famous black and white stripes of Newcastle United are worthy of the jersey.

However, this is one of many questions posed by the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust in their end of season survey. Among others they ask you to comment on how happy you are with Alan Pardew as manager, with the ownership of the club and whether or not you as a fan would like to see some fan-based ownership model in the future.

In essence, it is a pretty good platform to air your views about all things NUFC at the moment and I know that a fair few of you will have some pretty strong opinions so don’t hold back. If you want to fill in the NUST end of season survey just click this link here

If that isn’t enough to let you blow off some steam, the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust are also holding an open meeting on Thursday night to discuss the land-sale issue that threatens to lock the capacity of St James’ Park for the foreseeable future. If you want to have your say on what is a key issue for the future of Newcastle United, make sure you come along to the Mining Institute at 7.30 pm 1st May and make your voice heard!

Roll up for the Misery Tour!

Mike Ashley's Magical Misery Tour!

Mike Ashley’s Magical Misery Tour!

While the wheels on the Gus Bus have well and truly come off, there is one coach that will be rolling around town tomorrow firing on all cylinders – Mike Ashley’s Magical Misery Tour!

What, other than a terrible Beatles reference, is the Magical Misery Tour? Well the fine folk at MAOC – the Mike Ashley Out Campaign for you troglodytes who aren’t already aware have arranged an open-top bus parade to highlight the off-field financial ‘success’ NUFC have been having and to give Mike Ashley a well deserved pat on the back for a job well done…Your esteemed writer, like the Magical Misery Tour itself, is being heavily sarcastic, and I for one hope people take the gesture in the humorous way it is intended, as well as realise the poignant point that is being made.

Enough from me, I will let the folks at MAOC explain all about the Misery Tour that will be hitting the streets tomorrow before the Manchester United game, here is what they had to say,

The date is significant not because this fixture used to be a high-profile game between two top clubs but because April 5th is the end of the financial year and we want to highlight how Newcastle United appears to be more of an accountancy exercise these days than a football club and sporting institution.

The ironic ‘celebration’ will show that the club has achieved exactly what it set out to do in its hopelessly limited aim of Premiership survival whilst not taking Cup competitions or European qualification seriously. Amongst a general feeling that Mr Ashley has nothing to contribute to the progression and growth of Newcastle United, fans also want to highlight concerns over the following  issues:

•             The continued feeling of alienation and exploitation fans feel from the club they love and support

•             Asset stripping; the latest proposed land sale at the Gallowgate End appearing to permanently end any chance of future ground expansion

•             Lack of ambition, direction and investment. Cashing in on our best players, whilst being bottom of the league in team investment over the last 5 years.

•             The free advertising enjoyed by Mr Ashley’s companies inside St James’s Park, which the club have now admitted is seen as an offset to Mr Ashley not charging interest on his non decreasing interest free loan!

•             The continued contraction of NUFC Commercial Revenues making the club appear hamstrung at a time when  Financial Fair Play rules show that revenues will be crucial for growth under the new regulations

•             The financial ‘blackhole’ created by MASH Holdings and the questions which arise as to whether fans’ money goes towards the benefit of the football club.

•             The continued diminishing of the Newcastle United brand and identity.

•             The association of the club with morally dubious sponsors

This ‘event’ is meant to highlight in a humorous way some very serious points about the running of the club. If you’re out and about Newcastle city centre please give us a toot or a wave to show your support.

NUFC needs new direction, new leadership and accountability.

On behalf of the invited bus guests.

MAOC Committee

There you have it. If you see the open-top bus parade, be sure to give it a toot or a wave as it passes by. God knows, it could be the only time we have an open-top bus parade in Newcastle for a long time…

Southampton horror show came as no surprise

Leave, both of you, for the love of God...

Leave, both of you, for the love of God…

I said we’d get a hiding and that is exactly what we got. From the first minute the result never seemed in doubt, and watching it I had a feeling of ‘how many goals are we going to conceded today’. The solid display of Rob Elliot was filling me with some hope that we could escape this game with a 2-0 and be able to scarper northwards with our tails between our legs, but not too badly beaten. Unfortunately, there was only so much Elliot could do, as he was dreadfully let down by the 10 players in front of him in what has to go down as our single worst performance of the season (and there have been some contenders this season) as we failed to threaten the Southampton goal in 90 minutes of football. If we were still playing we’d still not have gotten a shot on target.

Simply put, it was an embarrassment and everyone associated with Newcastle United should be ashamed of themselves.

Southampton are supposedly our nearest rivals in the Premier League, if that is the case what does that say about the utter chasm that currently exists between both football clubs? Not only is there a chasm in terms of quality on the field, but there is a chasm in the way both clubs do business. There is a chasm in the way both clubs develop their young players. There is a chasm in the trajectory of both clubs; one with an ever increasing upwards curve, one with a very predictable downwards one.

Some of the football on show yesterday, from Southampton at least, was mesmerising. It was quick, sharp, fluid. Look at some of the players they had on show – Luke Shaw, an 18-year-old academy product destroyed the ‘world class’ (note the sarcasm) Hatem Ben Arfa who had to be replaced at half time.  Shaw was not the only academy product, with impressive performances from the young full-back Chambers, midfield player Ward-Prowse and of course the ever improving Adam Lallana. Add to this the fact that Southampton’s academy has produced players like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and of course, Gareth Bale, it shows that with the right infrastructure, a club can build its future on the basis of their youth products. Something Newcastle United have failed miserably at.

Not only do Southampton develop their own talent, but they do clever business as well. The 11 Southampton players on show yesterday cost less than £20 million pounds, through youth development as well as clever business, with the likes of Boruc coming in on a free, and nominal fees paid for talented players like Jack Cork and Steven Davis. So not only are we being outdone by Southampton in trying to develop young players, but we are also streets behind them in terms of our dealings in the transfer market, despite the fact that there are still some people praising Ashley’s shrewd business in terms of transfers.

Look at the respective managers. While I’m not Pardew’s biggest fan, nor his staunchest critic, he is miles and miles behind Mauricio Pochettino in terms of quality. In every way possible, Pardew is the inferior manager.

If I had to guess where both clubs will be in relation to each other next season, I would say that Southampton, following another summer of investment and further development of their blossoming home-grown talent, I would expect them to further close the gap between themselves and the top 7 clubs. Whereas I expect Newcastle United, following a summer of flogging our best players and not replacing them with the requisite replacements, I see us closing the gap between ourselves and those languishing around the bottom of the table.

Football is both a beautifully complex, yet wonderfully simple game. In all aspects, other than increasing profit margins, we are getting it oh so woefully wrong.

Only one man is to blame. If you choose to blame individual player performances, or to slate the manager, you are missing the point. If you think it is futile to take action against Ashley, you are ensuring his stay at our club will be a lot longer than it would have been if you had have opened your mouth against him. Don’t sit on your tod and accept this bullshit.

I expected a hammering against Southampton. Since when is it acceptable for a Newcastle United fan to expect a hammering off Southampton!?!

Big club? No. A formerly big club which now has to re-evaluate everything it stood for. Because what it previously stood for – community values, pride in the region, passion, loyalty. All of these traits are being betrayed and replaced by profit margins and re-sale values.

This is not my club. This is not your club. I am scarcely even able to believe that it is a football club any more but a tacky advertising hoarding for the man who is destroying it. But by all means, keep filling his pockets. Keep buying his merchandise. Keep telling yourself that the next transfer window will be different. It won’t be different.

There will be some who tell you that 9th is a good season, and compared to where we will finish next season it probably is.

Wake me up when this season ends

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

After a brief hiatus of only a month or so, I have seen fit to exercise my writing fingers once more, if for nothing more than to vent the bile from my spleen and get rid of the bad ju-ju. Those of you of a happy disposition, content with where we are currently sitting in the league and waltzing blissfully towards the end of the season can stop reading now. I am going to do a brief re-cap of the last few weeks before assessing tonight’s game against Everton and it is not going to be pretty so you have been warned.

Well it seems only logical to pick up on the main news stories that have occurred regarding NUFC in my absence from the blog sphere, with the first obvious one being Alan Pardew’s nutting of David Meyler and his subsequent 7 game stadium/touch-line ban he has received for that. The issue has been done to death, and I for one am not going to delve into the ins and outs of the incident, or perpetuate the story of a biased southern media baying for blood when it comes to Newcastle United, but what I will say is that Alan Pardew has embarrassed the club with his antics, and not for the first time might I add. I appreciate that he does his job with his hands tied behind his back and is constantly the first port of call when it comes to answering for the sins of Ashley, but if he is looking for sympathy from the Geordie faithful and the wider Newcastle United support, he is going entirely the wrong way about it.

What I found to be the most grating about the incident was that it detracted from what was easily our most accomplished 90 minutes of football (save for the first 5 minutes of the second half) that we had seen from United all season. We were superb. Excellent in possession, dangerous in the final third and resilient at the back. A complete performance completely undermined by our complete radge of a manager. Disappointing, but now the equally hot-tempered John Carver is in charge of touch-line duties, and I for one hopes he doesn’t end up twatting someone before Pardew gets back – it will count as a success if he doesn’t.

The second main news story that has broken in my absence is one that I think has not got nearly enough air time or publicity and that is the scandalous revelation that Mike Ashley is currently in the middle of trying to sell the benefit of the lease held by NUFC for a plot of land by Strawberry Place.

The significance of this potential sale of the lease is that it ensures that St James’ Park will never, ever be expanded beyond its current capacity of just over 52,000, the reason being that the only place where significant expansion could take place is on the Gallowgate, and in order to do that the stadium would need to be expanded outwards towards the road and possibly occupying the plot of land that is currently for sale. If that sale goes through, and the lease goes into private hands, NUFC will have no control over what is built on that land, thus putting paid to any plans for future development.

The financial benefits that will come from the sale of this land are minimal and will certainly not be invested back into the club – even it was, the income is so minimal it would only likely buy us a squad player at best. There seems to be no logic behind why Mike Ashley feels the need to sell this plot of land. The benefits to him are so minimal, yet the damage it does to the long-term future development of St James’ Park is critical. One could see it simply as asset stripping at best, or vindictive contempt being shown to both the club and its fans at its worst. Either way, this ground-sale should not be seen as a positive step by the club and steps should be taken to fight the club on this every step of the way.

Now that I have gotten that out-of-the-way, I will now get back to what all this should really be about – football. Once more, I am not going to be positive, so you’ve been warned again if you’ve made it this far.

Recent results have been a mixed bag. While we’ve beaten the likes of Aston Villa, Hull and Crystal Palace recently one could say that we were extremely fortunate in getting last-minute winners against both Villa and Palace at home. Add to that the humiliating 4-0 home defeat to Spurs and the insipid away display against practically relegated Fulham means that on the pitch, we’ve been pretty s**t recently with absolutely no dawn on the horizon – in fact things have gotten worse with recent injuries to both Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy.

Our victory against Palace last weekend masked fundamental flaws in our game, and shows how toothless we are in the final third. Also, our inability to keep possession in midfield in the absence of a Cabaye-type player is something that must urgently be addressed in the summer.

So what does all this mean heading into tonight’s match-up against Everton? Well I for one have always found Everton to be an interesting case study with which to do a comparison on. Both similarly sized clubs – arguably NUFC is bigger than Everton in terms of wider support and infrastructure yet they have consistently finished higher than us in the league in recent years and are certain to do so again this season. They have an ownership model that is prudent yet ambitious – tying up Baines to a new 4 year contract while Ashley flogged Cabaye for under/around his market value to a mega-rich club halfway through the season should amply demonstrate the mindset of both clubs. That is not to say they are unwilling to sell some top players, but that money is usually re-invested in its entirety with no word of agents fees, wages, inflation etc. unlike a certain North East club who will do everything and anything to hoodwink, deceive and outright lie if it means avoiding spending money.

Anyway, I’ve digressed – focus on the football – from a footballing perspective, Everton have performed very well this season under Martinez. Save for big defeats to Liverpool in the league and Arsenal in the FA Cup, they have had some very good results since the turn of the year; winning 6, drawing 1 and losing only to Spurs and Chelsea in that time.

With exciting young players like Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman stepping into their own this season, coupled with the talents of players like Mirallas, Baines and the dominant Lukaku, they look a match for most team in the league. However, I am a Newcastle United fan, and while I can admire (even envy) their set-up I would have always backed us to do well at home against them – as we usually do. However, I do not think we will come out of this game with a solitary point. We lack any cutting edge up front, and when faced with the experience of Jagielka and Distin, I do not think de Jong or Cisse will cause them any trouble as pace is what troubles these 2 defenders, yet neither of our front-men are blessed with it.

In midfield, I think Tiote will be more than a match for Barkley, who is still wet behind the ears in some sense, but Tiote will need to be on his game. Anita will need to be ever-present and show he is capable of holding on to the ball. While Sissoko and Gouffran will need to be at their best if they are to not only cause Baines and Coleman trouble, but to also contain these 2 attacking full-backs from marauding past them and putting our back 4 under pressure.

Without Santon at left-back we have looked more solid. While Dummett needs to work on being a consistent attacking threat from that position, he is a much welcomed change in a defensive side to the utterly abysmal Santon. However, missing Debuchy’s attacking outlet and composed defensive work will be a problem as M’biwa does not look overly comfortable there.

Williamson was the only man capable of handling Lukaku in the previous fixture when we were spanked 3-0 at Goodison, unfortunately it took until half-time to get him on the field to do the job. He will have a full 90 mins and I will back him in an aerial duel against the powerful Belgian. In fact, it is the centre-half pairing of Colo and Williamson where I have the most faith, but there is only so much they can do.

Unfortunately, I cannot see us scoring, nor do I see us preventing Everton from scoring, and unless Everton are off their game, or we are really on it, I cannot see anything other than a 2-0 defeat.

A parting word before I go. It is good to be back writing again as I have personally missed it despite there being nothing to write home about on the pitch. I see our last few games as utterly pointless and I am willing this season to be over – which is a depressing mode to be in as a football fan. I can only hope for a little bit of entertainment between now and the end of the season, but I won’t take much joy, or indeed misery, from our remaining results. While the off-field antics of our owner and the touch-line madness of our manager dominate the headlines, it is hard to think of this club as anything other than a maddening circus rolling from one disaster to the next.

Unfortunately, I think the next disaster is only a few short months away when the transfer window both opens and shuts but that is another article for another day. Stay tuned for more depressing drivel between now and the end of the season!

 

Join together on this very special day

The King

The King

Waking up this morning a very special someone will be pampered beyond belief. Breakfast in bed, dozens of red roses, chocolates, a fancy meal to cap a wonderful end to a wonderful day, and that person is…Kevin Keegan.

That’s right folks, and in case you have notions that your ‘esteemed’ editor is some sort of psychotic love-sick puppy sending Valentine’s Day gifts to our former manager, never fear. I’ve not gone that far yet.

The overly romantic introduction to this piece is because today is indeed a very special day, but not because of some ancient saint of love, but because it is the birthday of one of Newcastle United’s icons. Yes, Kevin Keegan turns 63 today and we here at the NUFCDaily would like to wish him many happy returns.

As a player, Keegan was one of the finest. 2 times European player of the year, countless winners medals in his back-pocket, and 63 England caps to his name. However, I do not think I am speaking out of turn when I make the statement that I think Keegan’s finest, and happiest times, were his times as a Newcastle United player and manager (the first time anyway). He helped Newcastle United achieve promotion both as a player, and as a manager and has rightly been awarded cult-hero status at our football club. He was a key player in our promotion back to the First Division in 1984 and as a manager, he not only helped us stave off relegation into the third tier of English football, but he also ushered in a new era of Premier League football for Newcastle United back in 1993 before bringing us to the brink of Premier League glory in 1996.

I won’t sully this article by paying too much attention to the defamation that he suffered at the hands of the vermin whose name is above the door at Newcastle United these days, but suffice to say that a man as principled, talented, head-strong and passionate as Kevin Keegan was never going to put up with the chronic lack of ambition, deceit and con artistry that currently emanates from the club. His forced departure in 2008 (proven in a court of law that the club lied and forced him out, look it up apologists before you have a go) was the spark that lead to our relegation from the Premier League – our first relegation since Keegan had brought us there. Bitter irony.

For me, Kevin Keegan epitomises the type of passion, love of the club and principled leadership that is so sadly lacking from Newcastle United today. He is everything Newcastle United should be, while the club currently is everything he is not.

Kevin Keegan will be coming to Dunston on 9th May for an after-dinner discussion which promises to be a magical evening, and I am delighted to say that I will be in attendance.

Now that there is nothing to look forward to from a football perspective, this provides light at the end of the tunnel of this season. An evening with a man who knows exactly what it means to play for, manage and support Newcastle United. Sadly, none of our current batch have a clue.

Hopefully when fans protests groups succeed in their coup d’etat and overthrow Mike Ashley, and we’re all beating at a bronze statue of him with our shoes, we’ll see the sense in making Kevin Keegan Club President of a new and glorious Newcastle United.

One can but dream…

The time is NOW!

Taking action

Taking action!

Good afternoon fellow Toon fans. For once I feel relatively invigorated with all things NUFC. Why is that you ask? Is it because I believe Alan Pardew means what he says when he say he thinks we can finish above Manchester United? Or perhaps I am refreshed in the thought that Davide Santon is the answer to our midfield worries? Or that Papiss Cisse will indeed have a wonderful second half to the season to warrant retaining him for next season? Well let me put you out of your misery and say that it is none of the above – my thoughts on Santon and Cisse are on record and I stand by them. With a better squad, better investment and more options I’d have both out on their asses. And as for finishing above Manchester United? Shut up Pardew. Just shut up.

No, the reason I am feeling invigorated today, despite our season ending a number of weeks ago, is because today I intend to join up with fellow members of the Mike Ashley Out campaign in what should be the first step in a campaign of sustained protest against the owner Mike Ashley.

Having been involved with the Time4Change march back in October – which MAOC was heavily involved in organising – I got to know 1 or 2 of the people working within their organisation. I have followed their progress on Twitter and Facebook and to say that their numbers increased following the derby defeat would be an understatement. It would have been easy for the folks in MAOC to rest on their laurels, but credit where it is due, the people voted with their feet when they flocked to join the MAOC Facebook page – which now has 11,000 followers, and they have responded in kind by organising a gathering for our first home game following the derby defeat.

What is it that they are going to do exactly? I don’t know. That has not been revealed. Presumably because they do not want the club to pre-empt their attempts at protesting – which makes sense to me. So if we don’t know what they are doing then how can we join in with their protests? Well here is what they have released on their Facebook page pertaining to their activism tomorrow.

“#AshleyOut activists, MAOC request your presence at SJP/Strawberry Car-park corner and opposite Shearer’s 6.30pm prior to the Spurs game.

Banners not required, please be sensible and remain within constraints of the law.”

I’m not sure what you lot out there make of the seemingly covert activities that may be in the offing but I certainly won’t be missing an opportunity at making my voice heard against the corruption and chronic lack of ambition that is emanating from the hollow shell that is masquerading as our once great football club.

I hope many, or at least some, of you will join me, if only to say hi – or maybe to give me a harsh word or two for being a right tosser in my articles/comments haha

Anyone interested in keeping up to date with MAOC can find their Facebook page by clicking on this link or by following them @Mike_Ashley_Out on Twitter. Also, they are recruiting volunteers – particularly anyone who still attends St James’ Park. If you would like to lend a hand to the campaign drop them an e-mail at maoc@hotmail.co.uk

Cabaye sale represents cross-roads for NUFC

And he wonders why no-one takes him seriously

And he wonders why no-one takes him seriously

Our Director of F*** All, Joe Kinnear has not been well received at Newcastle United, ever since his second coming at the club where he announced himself as wiser than any Newcastle United supporter way back in June 2013. Thankfully, in the intervening period he has refrained from making public announcements, and his dialogue with the fans now comes in the way of programme notes that he certainly has no part in writing, or even dictating. Supposedly, Kinnear was in Germany looking into securing the loan signing of Luuk De Jong, but we have our doubts whether he even managed to get the Tom-Tom switched on. Anyway, childish insults aside, it would appear that Kinnear’s credibility is about to take another knock, as fans were assured that no top players were to be sold in January affording us the ‘strength in depth’ that has been preventing any incomings this transfer window.

Despite these assertions, it was agreed last night that Cabaye will indeed be on his way to PSG for a fee ‘significantly higher’ than the £14 million that they first bid for him. Pardew had repeatedly emphasised how vulnerable non-Champion League clubs are when it comes to keeping their best players (as he always does, funny how Everton’s manager Martinez never showed that vulnerability, in fact they have just signed Baines up to a new contract) and he came out yesterday saying that he was “not confident” in keeping Cabaye, no wonder as he most likely knew at that point that he was faced with a future without his star man.

Of course, the real problem is not Pardew whimpering about how vulnerable we are – after all he has had his fingers burnt by Ashley before when he claimed Carroll was not for sale only for Ashley to flog him when top dollar came in and has done again by selling Cabaye from under his feet – so naturally Pardew will cover his own backside. The real problem is not how useless and ineffective Kinnear is at his job – we all knew he was a borderline alcoholic with tendencies that one would suspect of a dementia patient – so naturally the blame cannot lie with him either. The real issue, and I will repeat this until I get through to the apologists, is Mike Ashley.

The issue is not about Cabaye leaving.  The issue that should be on the tip of everyone’s tongues is why he is leaving. I mentioned the situation regarding Leighton Baines at Everton, easily regarded as Everton’s top man, just as Cabaye was easily regarded as ours. Similar situations in that respect. The speculation surrounding Baines and a possible move to Manchester United to follow his old boss also mirrors the speculation surrounding Cabaye’s possible step up to a bigger club in a European arena as Arsenal were chasing his signature in the summer. Similar situations in that respect as well. Both clubs are (or should be) top 7 clubs, knocking on the door of the big boys, but never quite getting there. However, the manner in which both clubs are run is quite different indeed. While Martinez strives to gatecrash the top clubs and strive for European football, Pardew has already shown his disdain for European competition. While Martinez does not wax lyrical about his top players to try to evoke media pressure and speculation about their futures, Pardew has essentially been pimping Cabaye out to anyone who would have him in his comments to the media. And crucially, while Kenwright has amply demonstrated his ambitions for a club like Everton (regarded as smaller than us not long ago) by offering his key player a brand new contract, Ashley has equally demonstrated his lack of ambition for our club by viewing our star players purely as commodities – every one of which with a price-tag on their head, with Cabaye being the latest of which whose price has been matched.

There are fans out there who will look at a £25 million pound transfer and rationalise it,  and see it as good business. These people will say things like “he isn’t as good as Mata, so to get £25 million quid is a good deal” or “well we only bought him for £4.5 million, so that is a healthy profit” but they are missing the point entirely. Pardew has admitted that our team is built around Cabaye, so the logical inference is that without Cabaye we have no focal point, and are a lesser team without him – obviously. Without Cabaye, we could also see a dip in morale in our squad, especially those who harbour ambition. Needless to say, selling your star player without an adequate replacement can hardly be seen as the most ambitious step can it? Cabaye is also seen as a leader, a spark who can ignite our attacking play. Without Cabaye we lack that creative outlet that we so desperately need.

We are at a cross-roads concerning the direction of our football club. The decision to sell Cabaye gives a clear indication which road we will be going down. Down one route lies a concerted effort to crack the top 6/7 on a year-in year-out basis which would require bringing in an adequate replacement immediately. On top of this we would also need to bolster the squad we already have to demonstrate proper ambition moving forward. Down another route lies perpetual mid-table mediocrity which would be keenly shown by failing to bring in someone of equal ability or better than Cabaye.

Personally, I did not think that we would sell Cabaye in this transfer window. As far as I am concerned Cabaye is of a class of player whom Newcastle United should have labelled as “Not for Sale” – he was our star man, he was our Leighton Baines. The contrast in how Newcastle and Everton have treated their star men in this transfer window is a miniature reflection of the contrast of direction of both clubs.

I have my own opinion on what road Ashley will take this club down. What is yours?