Thursday, April 17, 2014

Born Black and White, Die Black and White

By Philip Burn
Mr. Webster defines apathy as the feeling of “not having much emotion or interest.” Synonyms include indifference, lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm, lack of concern, impassivity, etc. Need I continue?
I have always considered myself as fanatical and committed a supporter as the next proud Geordie. Living in exile in Dallas, Texas (it’s a hard life but someone’s got to do it!), I have gone to great lengths over the years to make sure that I get to see the lads play.
Today, US TV coverage of the Premier League is excellent but there was a time that my only chance of Newcastle news and commentary was via the patchy reception of the BBC World Service on my short wave radio.
The second half of this season has stretched my support like never before.  I feel like I should send an apology and ‘get out free card’ to all of my American friends that I have indoctrinated to the ways of Newcastle United. Wouldn’t it be great to be a Liverpool supporter right now? Crap, I’d even take being a Southampton supporter!
Of course, we all agree that there is simply no option to which team we support. Unlike American sports, where ‘franchises’ are bought and sold like cheap shirts in Sports Direct, there is no question of our allegiance to Newcastle. We were born black and white and will die black and white. But does life have to be so hard!? I feel guilty for my apathetic attitude right now but it’s getting harder to watch the circus that is my beloved Newcastle United and listen to the spouting of the garrulous, inept Pardon’t.
Pardon’t is really working his ticket. Hopefully, before long he’ll be buying his ticket back to whatever stone he crawled from under. The drivel he comes out with in his interviews is nothing short of scandalous. I work in Communications and I know that Newcastle United has a PR Department.
Why don’t they write him some talking points on interview days and instruct him to stop telling bare-faced lies? “We had 10 pros out today” – no you didn’t. “A win will settle the fan’s frustrations” – it wouldn’t be a bad start but with only 13 points from a possible 48 you’ll forgive us for not being too optimistic. “It’s the media’s fault” – nope, wrong again. “Stoke are a very, very good side” – no, they’re a team of Neanderthal long-ball merchants!
His tactical decisions have been typically baffling in recent weeks. Today’s 3-5-2 was horrific! Shola and Gosling? Really? Taylor’s positioning is weak at the best of times but to throw him into an untried three man back-line is nuts. How Mbiwa and Ben Arfa cannot get into that team is simply beyond me.
It’s plain to see that change is desperately needed at the club. Change in the boardroom, change in the dugout, change on the training ground and pitch, and perhaps most difficult of all, change of our expectations as supporters. I hate that a mid-table finish is considered success but I’m afraid right now it’s a fact. The season is ending with whimper. Is it too much to ask for a bit of honest hard work, passion and commitment?
I think I need a timely reminder from Sir Bobby; “What is a club in any case? It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.”
That’s more like it. Roll on next weekend!
Keep on, keeping on. Howay the lads!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pardew: Not the best for our Bad situation

The form of Newcastle United since the turn of the year is nothing short of a disgrace and it obvious that we would be in relegation trouble if it was not for our good start to the season. This is a fact.

Another fact is Mike Ashley is the biggest problem at St James park and I truly believe until he gone we will never return to the days of Champions League football and cup finals.  However the most unfortunate of all these facts is that we are stuck with Mike Ashley until Geordie Abramovich arrives on Tyneside. With Ashley being currently immovable we need to look at the second biggest problem at our club - this being our under fire manager Alan Pardew.

Now anyone who has seen my previous posts will know I have always had a level of sympathy for Pardew given the circumstance he is working under. However for me he has reached the point of no return - something must change with the leadership of our club & unfortunately for Pardew he finds himself next on the chopping block.

Pardew has never been backed fully by Mike Ashley - no replacement for Carroll, Ba, and recently Cabaye has hindered our progress, yet my belief is he is not getting the best out of the current squad - which is a squad he has shaped.

If we look at this seasons Premier League the standout clubs have been the Merseyside duo to Liverpool & Everton. They have impressed with not only their results, but also their style. Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have allowed these clubs to dream big. Not even a die-hard Liverpudlian would have imagined Liverpool would be favourites to win the league or that Everton would be set for the Champions league football at the expense of Arsenal. Both clubs are over achieving and they must be given credit for that.

On paper Man City and Chelsea are streets ahead of Liverpool as you would expect with their levels of player investment. Likewise Everton have no right to be ahead of Arsenal and Spurs. The excellence of Rodgers & Martinez has been the difference.

Looking at these achievement compared to Pardew's failings I think it is clear our manager is failing to get the best out of our players. The term 'Pardewed' is doing the rounds of Twitter to suggest a reason for the awful form or Cisse, HBA, and Yanga-Mbiwa.

He must be aware that we currently take the field looking like a bunch of individual pub footballers with no game plan or tactical awareness. He must be aware that he is unable to influence a game from the sidelines (or Directors Box). When was the last time a substitution or tactical change influenced a game? When did we last come from behind to win a game? These are all questions Pardew must answer and take responsibility for.

I have changed my opinion on Padew's future. No longer will I accept him because "who else will come?" , or because "Ashley is an awful owner". Ashley is here to stay and we just need to make the best of a bad situation. Alan Pardew is not the best option.

Unfortunately for us our infamous owner holds the only opinion that matters. We judge by success, he judges by revenues and profits.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Is our creative answer 12 miles away?

After watching the Sunderland West Ham game last week I tweeted asking if NUFC fans would want us to sign Adam Johnson this summer. As expected I had varied responses - from "No way he is a dirty Mackem" to "He is a Mackem, but I'd take him" to "Yes he is a quality player who would improve out team". I agree with the last response. If Sunderland as expected are playing Championship football next season then I would love to see AJ swap his Red & White for Black & White.

Johnson graduated from the great youth system at Boro. Following in the foot steps of Stuart Downing he is an old fashioned out-and-out winger with bags of pace, agility and that all important aye for goal. Johnson is exactly what we need in our midfield. This season Pardew has selected Gouffran and Sissoko to play the wide roles - both these lads have had good seasons - but are both certainly known for their heart, passion, and workrate over of their creative ability. Round pegs in square holes will only take you so far in the Premier league and if we want to go to the next level then  players just "doing a job" out wide will not work. As we have seen recently against Everton & Southampton.

As I have mentioned in previous postings I tend not get caught up in all the rivalry with Sunderland - other than the two times we play them. So for me buying a player from Sunderland is no problem at all - it may be more of an issue for them selling their best player to us. However relegation might take that decision out of their hands.

Sunderland have been awful this season, but Johnson certainly has been the rose amongst the thorns. I imagine he looks back at his move to Sunderland with regret, ideally NUFC should have snapped him up from Man City when he rightly chose to leave in search of first team football.

IF we are going to get the best out of Cisse, or any other forwards then we need to improve our creativity and the number of chances we supply our forwards with. Johnson can certainly beat a man and deliver a cross - he will also chip in with his share of goals - 8 this season in a poor side.

Johnson is certainly good enough to improve our team, young enough to still develop his game and most importantly for me he is England and knows the Premier league inside out, while he also understand the mentality of North East football. 

An interesting summer at St James is expected - hopefully this involves Adam Johnson travelling 12 miles North to St James.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Summer Clear out

So as we are constantly reminded out season is effectively over - we are safe from relegation while a late charge toward Europe is out of our reach. Pride is all we have to play for - however I would like to think we have a number of players fighting for their future at the club.

We all know there will be a summer clear out and then hopefully a large recruitment drive. Obviously mass upheavals of a squad brings it owns issues as we saw down the road at Sunderland who struggled to settle after Di Canio brought in 14 new players.

I am going to give my assessment of our squad in terms of who I think will leave, and who I want to leave.

The Players who's time at the club is up:

Shola Ameobi - Great servant, but never been good enough.

Pappis Cisse - Lost his form & has no chance of recovering it
Dan Gosling - Never been good enough
Jonas - Good servant, time for a change
Steven Taylor - Local lad who loves the club, but sadly not good enough.
Hatem Ben Arfa - Quality player, but too much of a luxury. Unfortunately it is not going to work out for him at SJP
Gabriel Obertan - All round bad buy, never going to make the grade
Sylvain Marveaux - Never adapted to the English game.

Send the following out on loan to get 1st team experience:

Sammy Ameobi
Paul Dummett
Adam Armstrong
Remi Streete

Players I think could leave - but I want to keep:

Tim Krul - One of the top Keepers in Europe

Fabricio Coloccini - I expect more noises about a return to Argentina
Cheik Tiote - Our best player - Top clubs are likely to be interested
Mathieu Debuchy - Linked with Bayern Munich
Loic Remy - Top clubs likely to be interested in the QPR man

Hopefully we can do all we can to hang on to these lads who can be the spine of our team next year. Along with additions we can build a quality team and decent squad.Money need to be spent if we are to even stand still in the PL. 

Whether Pardew is the man to take us forward and rebuild our team is a question for another day - regardless of him staying or leaving the squad needs major work.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Everton: The blueprint for NUFC

Newcastle faced Everton this past Tuesday night and were given a footballing lesson which resulted in a 0-3 win. We cannot take much from this game in terms of positives, however if we are smart we will take Everton's blueprint and try and implement this at our club.

Everton have a glorious history and had great teams back in the 80's while they have also challenged the top over the past few years. They have done this on a shoe string with many Evertonians believing they cannot progress until chairman Bill Kenwright finds a major investor. 

We all know Mike Ashley is by no means Newcastle United's sugar daddy instead preferring to make signing's which "Make financial sense" therefore it would be smart to follow the Everton model. They have a good team which has been built for very little investment, they have wisely taken advantage of the loan market, and have given youth a chance.

Everton sold Felliani to Man Utd - replaced him with Barry and McCarthy, improved their team and pocketed 15m. Great business.

NUFC were unable to contain a free flowing Everton side who use their pace, skill, and positional freedom to outfox United. With Barry sitting the midfield directing play Barkley, Osman, and Deulofeu interchanged at will and our defense was unable to cope. Tiote, Colo, and Willo had no clue who to pick up, while our fullbacks looked lost as Everton do not play out and out wingers. We were all at sea defensively and massive credit for that must go to Martinez. Integral to this Everton system are the fullbacks - and I would argue that in Baines Coleman Everton have the best set of fullback in the league. NUFC do not.

Pardew's system of a solid midfield with centre midfielder Sissoko and centre forward Gouffran playing wide just does not work against the top teams. 

Picking 'wingers' because of their defensive work can only take you so far. Against the poorer teams in the league this will, and has worked. However we are found out by the top teams. 

Our biggest worry right now should be - what is our plan B? do we have the squad to play any different? I would suggest not. I would go as far as saying our only option is bringing HBA into the number 10 position as our other attacking options - Marveaux and Obertan will never make the grade.

If the rumors are to be believed there will be major investment in the NUFC squad this summer with a emphasis on attacking players. If we could bring in players like Remy Cabella, and Clement Granier we could possibly see a change in mentality from Pardew which will unleash an attacking, free flowing team. The question remains whether Pardew has it in him to change the footballing philosophy of his team.

 I saw the following tweet for NUFC fan this week:

"I bet Martinez would get a great performance out of Ben Arfa'". I tend to agree.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Summer targets

At this point of the season I always turn my thoughts to the summer and who we could potentially bring to the club. Obviously we are safe from relegation so without that distraction we should be looking towards the summer lining up potential deals.

Like many fans I would prefer to see us look at British players or player with previous Premiership experience. I also have tried to be as realistic in terms of would these players be interested in joining us.

With that being said - the list below is not my dream wish list - rather a list of good players who I believe would join us and would improve our squad.

Steven Caulker - Cardiff

Although he moved to Wales for big money I can see Caulker moving on this summer if Cardiff drop into the Championship. Big, strong, and quick Caulker could be our defensive rock for years to come - especially are Coloccini seems to constantly be linked with a return home to Argentina.

Lewis Holtby - Tottenham (Fulham - loan)

Holtby came to England from Germany with a big reputation after a great start to his career in the Bundesliga. After the 100m plus transfer spree at White Hart Lane Lewis found himself surplus by new manager Tim Sherwood. Holtby would add energy and creatvity to our midfield where he can operate in multiple positions. Not a direct replacement for Cabaye he would give us options along with Vurnon Anita. I'd love to see Holtby move North this summer.

Jack Rodwell - Manchester City

Unfortunately for Rodwell he followed the big money to Man City where he has become swamped amongst City's great squad. Rodewell was great at Everton and was tipped to be the future of Englands midfield - he is in desperate need to move on and alot like Holtby he would offer so much to our midfield. He knows the Premier league and has that British steel.

Kyle Naughton - Tottenham

I would bring to Naughton as cover and competition for Debuchy at right back. We are short of coverage since Simpson left and a specialized fullback would boost the squad.

Scott Sinclair - Man City (WBA - loan)

Ok he has had a nightmare season at WBA, but he did enough at Swansea to suggest he would be a good addition to our squad. Both as an out and out winger or part of a front 3 he gives good options and has an eye for goal.

Fabio Borini - Liverpool (Sunderland - loan)

Forget that he is playing for Sunderland - Borini is quality. He took time to settle at Liverpool but since he has been given the opportunity to play week-in-week-out he bas developed into a dangerous forward who offers pace, movement and a sharp finish. Alongside a big man like Luuk De Jong or as part of a front 3 Borini would be a good buy.

Danny Welbeck - Manchester Utd

Quick, strong and a eye for goal. Although still with plenty to prove Welbeck would certainly be an improvement to our forward line.

Michu - Swansea

Suffered during his second season and undoubtedly upset by the departure of Laudrup Michu could be ready for a move. Why not bring this lad to St James. He can operate in the hole or as a target man. He took the league by storm and would be a great buy.

Javier Hernandez - Manchester Utd

Chicharito is a quality goal scorer - the ultimate poacher. Many clubs will be after him when he undoubtedly leaves Man Utd this season in a search for more 1st team football. We can offer him that and he would link well with a target man like De Jong in a 442 formation. I expect him to head to Spain, however I'd like us to try get him.

Worth asking the question:

Romelu Lukaku
Stefan Jovetic (loan) - Man City
Demba Ba - Chelsea
James Milner - Man City

Friday, February 21, 2014

Are things at NUFC really that bad?

First off don't read the headline and think I am a Pardew apologist or a Mike Ashley fan, however if we take a minute, take a step back and look at the state of our club I would argue things are really not as bad as certain fans or journalists are suggesting. Or rather we should not be surprised at our current state.

Let me preface this by saying as a fan my main concern is the 11 lads on the pitch in Black & White and not the current mess going on in our boardroom. Saying that lets put that to one side and concentrate on Alan Pardew and his playing staff.

If we go back to Boxing day when we beat Stoke 5-1 at SJP and sat 7th in the Premier League everything looked great, no one could deny Pardew was doing a good job with a squad who had narrowly escaped relegation only a few months before. Did anyone expect us to finish in the top 8?

From Boxing day forward we have had a nightmare few months - but lets us some perspective when looking at the reality of how bad things are actually are. Our nightmare few months included defeats against: Arsenal, City, Chelsea, and Spurs - also lets not forget were more than matched both Arsenal and City. This nightmare month also included the inevitable departure of our talisman Yohan Cabaye. I think it if fair to ask our fans - 'What did we expect to happen'? Did anyone expect us to beat 4 of the top 5 teams? Did people not expect us to miss Cabaye? My suggestion would be that we were always going to hit this sticky patch - and now it is about how we recover from this.

Pardew needs to lift his squad we are obviously downcast right now - we cannot repeat that heartless display we witnessed against Spurs - Pardew should be fighting for his future, he is certainly fighting to build bridges with many fans and how he finishes the season will determine his standing with the Toon Army.

Again don't get me wrong - I like any other fan want so much more for my club - I too want an ambitious owner, a top notch manager and exciting players - unfortunately we have not been dealt this hand  - this is bring with it a sense of realism and a new level of expectations. 

Kevin Keegan summed it up perfectly:
"Ashley has made no secret that he wants to sell Newcastle, and the best day will come when someone buys it from him and runs Newcastle like that club should be run. The club can never go anywhere under Mike Ashley - it can't go anywhere, I promise you that."

Looking on the bright side this coming Sunday we should see the return of 4 key players - Colo, Tiote, Gouffran, and Remy. No one can doubt the boost this will have on the team and should see a fighting spirit. If we can line up with the following team on Sunday then I expect us to win and some what get our season back on track.




RemyDe Jong