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!