Newcastle United

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!

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How important are Newcastle’s next 3 games?

Looking worried and with good reason...

Looking worried and with good reason…

It is undoubtedly fair to say that Newcastle United’s start to the season has been nothing short of shambolic. Other than a reasonable home performance against Southampton, a good away point at Old Trafford and 70 minutes of good play against the champions, we have been dreadful. The 6-1 humping we took from Man City – made all the worse given how well we played in the first half – left us with 3 points from 8 games and languishing bottom of the league on goal difference. Our next three games see us entertain both Norwich and Stoke at home with the small matter of a Wear-Tyne derby sandwiched in the middle of those two fixtures. While it is far too early to be talking about “must win” games, if we were to fail to pick up a 3 point haul from any of the next 3 games, we could be in a precarious situation.

Norwich City have been playing some free-flowing attacking football under young manager Alex Neil and have already gained a number of early admirers. Despite being quite poor at the back, they do go on the attack and are good for a goal or two. As a newly promoted club, they are surely going to be fighting the drop this season themselves so beating them at home is obviously essential. The derby follows the weekend after, with Fat Sam seemingly determined to be roundly despised by Newcastle fans (after all, why else would he manage that lot?) This will provide an added incentive (in case losing the last 5 derbies wasn’t enough!) though we have typically done terribly against Sunderland managers who have recently taken over the Mackems so I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunderland made it 6 wins in a row. The following weekend then sees us take on Stoke City at home – Stoke have long since established themselves as a team now beyond our current level now being a top 10 side in recent seasons. Despite a sluggish start to the season themselves, they have signed a few good players – Xherdan Shaquiri namely – and Marco Arnautovic is looking a very good player in recent games.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think it’s essential that we take at least 4 points, hopefully 6, and ideally all 9 from our next 3 games to dispel early season relegation concerns and get our season up and running. Looking at other teams in the league, I do think there are at least 3 sides who are worse than us, despite the fact that we’re bottom – those being Sunderland, Aston Villa and West Brom (with Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich relatively untested in the league, being potentially in the fight later in the season) so I don’t actually think that we will be relegated this season .That being said, the longer we go without picking up some points and a winning mentality and momentum, the more anxiety is going to build on Tyneside.

If we were to lose 2, or god forbid all 3 games, then serious questions are going to have to be asked of Newcastle’s ability to stay in the league.

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!

Even insipid Toon can’t rain on MAOC’s parade

Mike Ashley's Misery Tour is coming to take you awaayyy...

Mike Ashley’s Misery Tour is coming to take you awaayyy…

The wheels on the bus went round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus went round and round all day…well for a few hours before kick-off anyway. That’s right, Mike Ashley’s Misery Tour rolled round the streets of Newcastle city centre before the Newcastle United and United game (according to Pardew anyway) and even though Mike Ashley’s rain-dance induced storm tried to rain on our parade, a good time was had by all while a serious point was also gotten across.

The Mike Ashley Out Campaign set out to hold this open-top bus parade for a tongue-in-cheek look at what is the chronic lack of ambition at our club under the stewardship of one Mike Ashley and I for one think they achieved their goal, while raising a few smiles with their self-deprecating approach.

As the bus rolled through town, there were umpteen waves and thumbs up showing support for what MAOC were trying to highlight, as well as many toots from passing cars who responded to the ‘Toot if you want Ashley Oot’ banner hanging from the back of the bus.

There will be some detractors – as there always are – from those who either disagree with the aims of MAOC, or those who agree but are too lazy or apathetic to actually do something themselves, but as far as I am concerned these people believe in something, and not only do they believe in what they are doing, but they are willing to put their hands in their pockets, give up their time and go do something about it. Regardless where you stand on the validity of what they do, that must be applauded.

While the on-field exploits of Newcastle United represented a damp squib, the same could not be said of the protest which was in fine voice from start to finish; including the loan shark against loan sharks, and the rather conspicuous Geordie Arab. Some notable attendees included Kevin Miles – Chief Executive of the Football Supporters Federation as well as Norman Watson – Chairman of the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust. Which goes to show that it wasn’t just a bunch of clueless knackers who thought this was a good idea worthy of support.

It will be interesting to see what Mike Ashley’s response is to this protest, given that all and sundry were banned following the protest march in October. Our season is over, and has been since January and hopefully this ironic celebration for the end of the tax year will awaken some people to the plight of our great club, and demand more from Ashley going forward.

If nothing else, MAOC managed to raise a few smiles, as well as letting Ashley know that no matter how contemptible he thinks us fans are, there will always be those willing to fight him and keep the pressure on him.

Did you see the Misery Tour around town yesterday? What are your views on this rather ironic celebration?

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.

The race for 8th! More like a slow crawl…

Will 'revive' the dressing room

Will ‘revive’ the dressing room

I don’t wish to dwell too much on the Everton result. I’m one of the more vocal critics about this team, and the direction it is going in, but that all stems from my well-founded hatred for Mike Ashley. Without Loic Remy we struggle to score goals and without Debuchy we struggle to prevent conceding them. Take the two of them from the team and we’re going to struggle, and against very good opposition (Everton aren’t quality opposition) we were made to look like a bunch of amateurs. The defending for the first goal was a comedy of errors that would have been funny for non-Newcastle United supporters. The lack of cover for Paul Dummett, who was being destroyed by Deloufeu the entire game, demonstrated how our coaching staff failed to make even the most obvious of tactical changes. Needless to say, we were beaten by a much, much better side. However, the fact that a club like Everton are streets ahead of us in terms of quality and where they are as a football club has to be one of the more damning indictments of where Mike Ashley is taking us.

As I said, I am not going to dwell on the game, we were poor, we were beaten, end of. Next up is the ‘crunch match’ against Southampton in the game being billed as ‘the race for 8th’ – it’s being billed as this either by those who are being incredibly sarcastic or by bona fide morons.

Having watched a lot of both clubs this season, I wouldn’t describe this game as a ‘race’ but rather more of a slow crawl; as the headline would suggest. While Southampton are a team I very much admire, in particular, players like Lallana, Rodriguez and Shaw are excellent players who should all be on the plane to Brazil this summer. However, despite this admiration I do feel that Southampton are a flawed side as well. They buckle under pressure, and while it is rather easy to play football on the front foot, when the pressure inevitably comes back at you you’ve got to be able to cope with that and in recent weeks, I’ve seen little grit and determination from this Southampton side – case in point being the utter capitulation in the 2nd half at White Hart Lane following an impressive 1st half performance where they totally dominated proceedings.

I predicted a few weeks ago that Southampton would finish in 8th comfortably, yet we still occupy that position by a single point over Southampton – due solely to lucky last-minute winners against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace which afforded us 6 points when 2 looked likely as well as the fact that Southampton look keen to hand us 8th place with some really poor results of their own – defeats to West Ham and Spurs in recent weeks. I still think Southampton will finish above us and no doubt it will be lauded as a successful season for us to finish just behind Southampton due to how we ‘cannot compete financially with clubs like Southampton’ – That was an ACTUAL quote from the silver fox about our respective clubs!

So realistically, here is how I see things panning out. I can see us getting beat off Southampton fairly easily, Southampton will finish in 8th with us a good few points behind them in 9th which will be hailed as progress. That is my pre-match assessment. I will not go into any more detail because the rest of our season does not matter. Forget about this season it is dead and buried. I am going to focus on the future – ie the next couple of months.

In an attempt at being pre-emptive I will guess what the apologists will say. They will say that the likes of Everton and Southampton spent more money than us so it is to be expected that they finish above us. They will say that clubs like Swansea and West Ham spent more money than us so it is a success that we finish ahead of them and shows that money can’t buy success blah blah blah. They will compare us to Sunderland who have had great cup runs but look likely to get relegated and will say that they would rather mid-table obscurity than the delirium of a Wembley visit. They will look at the next transfer window and say that we should ‘wait and see’ and that ‘this window will show whether Ashley has ambition or not’ despite the fact that they said the same thing 3 transfer windows ago.

All of the above is utter tosh, of course. We were outspent by every single Premier League club this season – due to the fact that we spent nothing. It is never success for a club like Newcastle United to finish 9th, or even 8th if we win this nail-biting ‘race’ against Southampton. Mid-table, early cup exits, 2 derby defeats and the sale of the best CM we’ve had since Speed or Lee can never be seen as a successful season.

As for the next transfer window? It will get worse before it gets better. Remy is certain to leave, as is Shola due to his contract expiring and de Jong looks unlikely to be offered the chance to stay at Newcastle United permanently unless he can get some goals. Colocinni is likely to leave as well, with Hatem Ben Arfa in the shop window with only 1 year left on his contract. Mathieu Debuchy, Tim Krul and Cheick Tiote are our remaining high value assets and while I don’t think Krul or Tiote will leave the club, I do think Debuchy could be eyeing the exit. Whether a club comes in to match his valuation remains to be seen.

It is without doubt that we entered this season at least 3/4 players short of an accomplished squad. We have been relatively lucky with injuries this season yet when minor injuries stuck, we have been woefully exposed – as we have been recently. So if we were to state that with the sale of Cabaye, we are 4/5 players short of an accomplished squad, with the departures of Remy and Shola certain, that number increases to 6/7.

So without even speculating about the possible sales of other United players, it remains that we need to sign 6/7 players in order to have a competitive squad.

There will be people out there who will be happy if we sign 1 striker, a winger and a Cabaye replacement and see that as progress. Despite the fact that this will leave us with 2 strikers, one of whom will be Papiss Cisse. It will also not bolster the squad as we’re simply replacing a player we’ve sold 6 months prior as well as signing a winger we’ve desperately needed for years.

We need to demand more from Ashley. We will sign players this summer. I am certain of it. The reason I am certain is because we will be relegated if we don’t. Ashley is lowering our expectations to such an extent that we will welcome any signings as progress, he is the benevolent master and we are the worthless dogs on the ground feeding off the scraps from his table – at least that is how he sees us.

When will we have some respect for ourselves and demand more. I will state it right here and right now that unless we get 6 quality players who can make an immediate contribution to the first team, we will struggle next season. We will certainly finish lower than the 9th position we are currently occupying and unless we make that number of signings we will realistically be fighting a relegation battle.

Sound over-dramatic? That is the reality we are faced with. Do not let the apologists and the happy clappers fool you into thinking anything different.

Race for 8th? This time next season we’ll be involved in a much more exciting race. A race for survival.

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!

 

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