Well it’s finally here, Newcastle play their first game of the new Premier League season away to Manchester City at The Etihad tonight. Much has been written about our lack of signings, City’s glamorous recruitment and our woeful record against City in recent years. But remember, this is football and anything can happen!
That being said, the pessimism felt by fans before the game is indeed understandable. Usually I do my best to throw a bit of optimism in to the ring but realistically speaking, Newcastle will do very, very well to get anything from tonight’s game.
I’m not particularly bothered if we lose tonight, this game will not define our season. However I am very bothered about our performance. As long as the lads turn out a committed display and try to produce some moments of positivity whilst keeping things as tight as possible at the back, I can have no complaints.
However I don’t want to see what we saw last season; I don’t think I’ll be able to put up with the constant, repeated mistakes we were so often subjected to. So I’m hoping Newcastle will surprise me tonight. How confident of that am I? Well let’s just see how many ticks I have on my checklist after the game…
Carrying Coals’ City Checklist:
- Cheick Tiote to get booked
- Papiss Cisse to miss a sitter
- Papiss Cisse to be offside 3 times
- Debuchy to give away a penalty
- Shola to come on in the last 10 minutes and do nowt
- Obertan to replace Ben Arfa with 20 minutes to go because Benny is overweight and can’t do 90 minutes, even though Pardew has apparently given his most rigorous pre-season ever
- Newcastle to concede at least 2 goals
- Pardew to mention ‘not being able to compete’ with bigger clubs because of finances in his post match interview
- Zabaleta and Clichy to put more balls in to the Newcastle box than Newcastle’s wingers put in to the city box
- Cabaye to have an absolute shocker because his head has been turned.
Hopefully of course, none of this happens, Cisse gets off the mark and we pull off a shock result. However I won’t hold my breath…
Good luck lads.
With the return of the Premier League now less than 48 hours away, the cure to our withdrawal symptoms is almost in our grasp and finally, sanity can soon be restored! Newcastle fans however will have to wait a little longer of course, as our season kicks off at the Etihad Stadium, against Manchester City, at 8pm Monday night.
In the meantime, Carrying Coals will be bringing you a season preview this weekend but before that we have a little treat to get your Premier League, anticipation juices flowing! Until the recent loan signing of Loic Remy, Newcastle United were yet to make a summer transfer signing and are still yet to pay a transfer fee to bring in a new recruit. However, we aren’t the only Premier League side yet to spend some capital outlay…
I caught up with a man gaining a growing reputation in the Northern Twittersphere, despite his wannabe Southern disposition, who not only knows has a wealth of Premier League knowledge but also provides expert opinion on his own club, Arsenal.
I’d have liked to introduce this in an ode to ‘Lunch with the Financial Times’, conjuring some sort of guise that Naz and I wined and dined in a glitzy Highbury restaurant, discussing the beautiful game over Mongolian lamb and steamed turbot (don’t worry, I don’t know what it is either!) although, who would I fool?!
We’re just two normal guys who share a passion for talking and writing about football. It’s really that simple. Not that we’d look out of place wining and dining in a glitzy Highbury restaurant… Anyway, sit back, enjoy the views shared and join our uncontained excitement for the recommencing of the greatest sports competition on Earth!
Hi Naz, we might as well start by diving in at the deep end! On the final day of last season we saw Arsenal snatch a 1-0 win against Newcastle at St. James’, securing 4th place. Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry later criticised the players’ post-match celebrations. Does this criticism hold merit or was it unfair?
Times have changed drastically since the likes of Freddie and Thierry were in an Arsenal shirt. They were used to premier league titles and we have been inconsistently off the pace for a few years now. I understand why they would say what they did, 4th place isn’t a trophy and “if your not first, your last” but securing champions league is the difference that’s keeping distance between us and the likes of Liverpool, not to mention the ugly sister on the other side of North London. Without Champions league we would be a far less appealing team to transfer to. To be heralded a “top 4 team” is imperative to reputation and mentality at the club. Arsene deserves a great deal of credit for doing the business year in year out with the clear lack of signing quality players over the last five years.
In terms of signings, are you surprised at the recruitment made by Newcastle of late? The likes of Cabaye, Sissoko and Mbiwa all hail from France and were signed cheaply. Very ‘Arsene Wengerish’ you might say?!
It really is. It leads back to the point I was saying before about Arsene not signing much in the way of quality. Yanga and Cabaye were linked with us for a long time, but these sorts of signings are really reminiscent of signings like Flamini et al, I would say Vieria or Petit but let’s not get carried away. Pards clearly had an approach and stuck with it and it looked like it had worked a treat for a while. I wouldn’t say I was surprised by the signings as they are mostly players that will make a big impact at Newcastle, but I couldn’t have been the only one surprised at how in intense the rush on the French market was.
Would, in your opinion, any Newcastle players get in your team or at least make the Arsenal bench?
Definitely, there are a few players who would fit in nicely at Arsenal. I think HBA would at least make the bench for all the top 4 clubs, if Newcastle can get him fit and spurn advances from other clubs he will be a very important player. Cabaye has a clear class about him too, really composed. Santon was a great buy and has been improving ever since, if he keeps getting better it will be hard thwarting any potential suitors.
Another Frenchman, PSG defender Mamadou Sakho, has been linked with both Arsenal and Newcastle this summer. How confident are you that Arsene Wenger can make the right signings before the window slams shut?
All Football Manager enthusiasts should remember how good of a player Mamadou Sakho was on the game. (we both laugh in unison, knocking back another top dollar Merlot…) But he has shown glimpses of in reality of being a top class centre half. My faith in Arsene’s transfer policy has slowly deteriorated as he hasn’t pulled out a classic Wenger diamond since Eduardo. I have all faith in him as a manager but in terms of transfers I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t sign anyone of real pedigree this season, let alone before this Saturday’s season return. We are linked with every Joe Blog going, then have apparently wrapped up the deal, then watch helplessly as they sign for another team.
(Of course it must be frustrating for Naz, after all Arsenal only spent the best part of £40 million on the talents of Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski last year. The toon signed Vernon Anita to sit on the bench all year!) How far off the title are Arsenal?
Genuinely, I would say one or two world class players away, easier said than done, I know. If we hadn’t lost you know whose goals last season then we might have even been…..actually I don’t want to think about it, it’s too depressing!
With Fergie retiring and other rivals, Mourinho and Pellegrini, taking control of new teams, would you argue that Wenger’s experience could be more valuable than ever or are you losing faith?
There’s a gaping chasm in the Premier League with a host of managers and teams looking to capitalise after SAF’s retirement. Wenger will know better than anyone that this is the year he can take it back. Jose has experience in the league so will know what to expect and I really like Pellegrini’s management style, not to mention he has bought some exceptional talents in Navas and Jovetic. But for Arsene, Fergie became his Moby Dick in the latter years. Never able to recapture the days where it was a two horse race. The revolutionary management theories and style Arsene bought with him from Japan has a sense of becoming outdated, I still have all the faith in his man management and see no one else in a better position to take the club forward, but clubs like Borussia Dortmund remind me every day of the team Wenger was building before they didn’t share the same ambition and decided to jump ship.
(I nod in agreement as we mull over which champagne looks the poshest…) It seems Newcastle are making a conscious effort to improve our academy, having recently gained Category 1 status at last. Are there any emerging Arsenal youngsters we should be made aware of?
There does seem to have been a real push on youth development and signing of young players at Newcastle. The category 1 status has worked wonders for us in the past; Cesc could be a catalyst to prove that. Like the transfers though, it’s been a few years since a young player developed at the the club has burst on the scene. But hopefully that will change with players like Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry who played in the next gen series for us. Chuba is a powerful centre forward with great striking instinct and expect to see Srge Gnabry get much more of a run out this year.
The two other players I would recommend keeping a look out for is Borrusia Dortmund snatched midfielder Thomas Eisfield and a real talent that is exciting everyone at Arsenal is Gedion Zelalem. Remember the name Gedion Zelalem because at 16 he was invited to the pre season tour and his ability on the ball looks frightening! Arsene has already shown huge faith in him and if he is going develop and succeed anywhere, Arsenal is the place to do it.
Arsenal fans seem disgruntled with the board, with Gazidis in particular gaining the nickname of ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Although this seems bleak in comparison to Newcastle fans’ views of Mike Ashley. What are your views on Ashley’s running of the club?
I said from the day David Dein left the club, we will struggle with transfers and it has only been cemented with the loss of exceptional talents like Juan Mata for a supposed few million and apparent poor transfer negotiating. There are some similarities in Gazidis and Ashley in my opinion as I think they both see the football clubs as businesses. That isn’t the worst thing since that is there job, to make money, but sometimes there are inexcusable episodes that tip fans over the edge. Ashley has had his fair share of episodes and just when you think hes got the clubs interest at heart, he takes 3 steps back. This Joe Kinnear appointment is a clear case in point.
Would you say that for a club of Newcastle’s size and potential that the fans deserve better?
Being an Arsenal fan and being born and bred in Newcastle its interesting being able to take a neutral approach on what’s been happening at the club. Football is sovereign in these parts, whether you’re interested in Newcastle United or not. The fans deserve stability, I think that’s all they ever wanted. The yo-yo style Ashley has brought hasn’t gone down well at all and it has gone from being humorous in seeing the demise to just feeling sorry for the fans who pay the season tickets and continue to support the club 1000%.
(I beam with pride as I yearn for a return from Highbury to Byker) Moving back to Arsenal, is there a worry that with Spurs strengthening significantly, Arsenal could fall behind and fail to reach the top four this year? What about the Bale factor?
It’s really hard having a man crush on AVB since hes in charge of the enemy. I really like him as a manager, I always have. I think he got a raw deal at Chelsea and was always destined to be edged out by the superstars. In the end, they ended up implementing his style and signing his transfer targets, without him at the helm. Now he’s had a season at Spurs, he will have had bedding in time, and has bought in some talented players. Soldado and Paulinho are two signings in the upper echelons. Bale is going to make a huge difference to their outcome, there’s no denying there pretty flat and boring without him, I guess that’s why AVB has strengthened so well. Regardless of the talent and style of play AVB brings and the mercurial factor Bale has, Tottenham are still a few years behind us. I am more than confident we have enough quality to leave them embarrassed again. (Naz knocks back more wine and asks to be shown the dessert menu before admitting that he has to stay positive or the creeping reality may dawn on him.)
If you had the chance, would you take RVP back?
I’m going to say not in a million years. (‘‘Lies’’ I retort, not being able to control myself. It must be the fourth bottle of Vino talking…) That Judas, dishonourable, ungrateful, ^&$*”%^ can go and enjoy his time in Manchester. The years we spent getting him fit after the well documented injury issues he had, not to mention the publicised “court case” he had pending when he joined, made it an even bigger kick in the teeth when he left. I understand about ambition but we ended up becoming a feeder club. A real embarrassing situation. (Although I silently nod, I feel a chilling sense of understanding and empathy, being no stranger to embarrassment with my own beloved club)
But at the end of the day, were not being offered him back, so therefore no comment as I don’t like to speculate on other players.
Speaking of great strikers, we have both witnessed the Premier League’s greatest. So I’ve got to ask, Shearer or Henry?
Its got to be Thierry for me. After watching this skinny winger come to the club, then blossom into one of the greatest strikers the premier league ever had was a real treat. Another player that owes Arsene a hell of a lot. Some of the things he did in the premier league and in the champions league were flabbergasting. Obviously a biased opinion but it was always going to be va va voom over flailing elbows and brute force.
(I keep my elbows firmly attached to the table…) Favourite Arsenal player of all time?
Not actually Thierry, as much as I held him in high esteem, there was only one man for me. Dennis Bergkamp. Had feet that could pick locks, oozed class like no one else the Prem will ever see. I would run out of superlatives to describe him, I mean the way he dispatched Nicos Dabizas that day, it will be a while before people forget that piece of genuine artistry. I will never tire from watching that skill, his perfect hat trick against Leicester and his goal for the Netherlands where he plucks the ball out of the air, bamboozles Roberto Ayala and scores one of the greatest international goals ever.
Little Jack. Reminds me very much of Dennis. Composure and creative thinking on the ball just like Dennis used to have. They both have a ruthless streak in them as well, pit bullish winning mentality. He has had his injury problems but hopefully they were just teething issues. Once we get him fit and in a smooth run of games, the real Jack Wilshere will be dropping jaws. Anyone that claims he is overrated needs to watch him for more than five minutes. Steven Gerrard doesn’t just ear mark anybody for future England captaincy. To top it all off he bleeds Arsenal. Super Jack will become the focal point of our team. Im excited for what lies ahead in his career.
Finally, Where will Arsenal and Newcastle finish this season?
If we get either Suarez or Gustavo it will boost the club as a whole, if we don’t I’m still quietly confident of securing top 4. This is the season though that all clubs will be looking to take charge of dominating the league. I would like to think there could be some first season blues for someone in the top 4 so we can sneak in a 3rd place finish banking on Arsene’s experience.
Who knows where Newcastle could end up???? In all seriousness, if star players stay fit, and I think there is a chance of that without the distraction of Europa League, a top half finish could easily be feasible. Remy has shown in the brief stint at QPR that he’s a talent and there is a good first team. The behind the scenes action could be where the distractions come from, especially if Joe Kinnear is going to be giving press conferences again. I think 10th is the position they will finish, but I know there will be many people with opposing views.
Thanks Naz, good luck with the new season, I’ll be keeping an eye for the Arsenal results as I’m sure you will Newcastle.
(With the waiter’s back turned, we make a hasty dash for the exit. A bit like Gabby Obertan however, our initial turn of pace is let down by our inability to cross the street… Next time it’ll be pints and a packet of crisps in The Strawberry!)
You can follow Naz on Twitter (@NHAQUE13) and can see his stuff at thesefootballtimes.net, which is a brilliant website that I’ve featured on myself. Naz also co-hosts the very on the point and impressive, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ football podcast, which can be followed on Twitter (@IDLMFP).
Look out for more Carrying Coals fan interviews throughout the season. We also welcome submissions, so feel free to get in touch.
One story circulating in the press at present is the situation existing between our number 9, Papiss Cisse, and his apparent refusal to wear the Newcastle United shirt, branded by pay day loan lenders Wonga.
BBC Football have today given more substance to the speculation surrounding Cisse, by revealing that the Senegalese forward has in fact now pulled out of the club’s pre-season tour of Portugal, following a failure between the player and the club to reach a compromise.
Personally I find this to be another bit of negativity the club desperately doesn’t need but we have to appreciate that this is a delicate issue and we, the fans, would be wise to take as much as an understanding stance as we can throughout what is a confusing and worrying issue.
Why won’t Cisse simply wear the shirt?
The reason Cisse has chosen not to wear the Wonga branded shirt is because he objects, on ‘religious grounds’, to promoting a pay day lender. He is said to be protesting in relation to the ethics, or lack of, of the company. Many Muslims adhere to Sharia Law in their faith, with part of the belief asserting that a Muslim is not to benefit from receiving or lending money from another. So to put it in to perspective, for those who are unaware, Wonga make their money by lending money to individuals only to receive payment plus interest. Therefore we can understand Cisse’s qualms with the company as Wonga operate by benefiting astronomically from loaning out money. In comparison to Virgin or Northern Rock for example, Wonga are far more damaging in the short term due to their uncompromising nature and have had a lot more negative publicity nationally than accredited banks.
But…but… aren’t the likes of Sissoko, Tiote and Ben Arfa Muslim?
It’s true that Cisse’s Newcastle team mates, and recognised first team stars, are also practising Muslims however it would be a very sweeping and generalised statement to group all Muslims as holding the same exact and identical beliefs. For example, Christianity is a religion however it would be wrong to assert that every Christian within the faith share the exact same attitudes and values. Cisse is an individual in his own right and whether we are talking about football or not, the fact remains is that he has his own personal beliefs irrelevant of his peers.
So, what next? Can a compromise be reached?
From what the media are telling us, it seems that Cisse is eager to reach a compromise and bring about a return to normalcy. It’s been suggested that Cisse would be open to the idea of wearing an unbranded shirt or a shirt that promotes a more ethically acceptable logo, such as a charity.
Famously, Freddie Kanoute refused to wear a shirt that advertised the gambling site 888.com a few years ago during his Sevilla days, resulting in him wearing an unbranded shirt for some time. He did eventually wear a shirt with the logo on, however an agreement was reached whereby he was exempt from promoting the gambling company during events off field.
Are Wonga really worth protesting?
In short – yes.
I’ve written many an article and argued in many blogs that I find it appalling Newcastle United are representatives of Wonga. Wonga are a pay day loan lending company and in theory, their business model makes sense; you lend some money when you need it and then when you pay back the fee, you also pay for the service they provide by paying back interest on top of what you’ve owed. However the practicalities can be horrifying and people must be made aware of this.
A lot of people who choose to lend from the likes of Wonga do so out of necessity. Therefore when they need to pay the money back they owe, they then get in debt again because the interest is too high. It can be crippling in fact and there is a prevalent argument that these sort of lenders should be watchdogged by the government or some sort of regulatory body. Pay day lenders can prey on the needy and the naïve, as many people genuinely don’t know what they are getting themselves in for, having been enticed by what appears to be an open and friendly marketing campaign.
To summarise, once people get involved with these companies they can become engulfed in a never ending spiral of debt. It’s no coincidence that during economic recession the industries that experience a boom are pay day lenders and gambling establishments. People are forced in to looking for quick fixes and the reality is, these services are more trouble than they are worth.
Therefore for a club like Newcastle United, a club which for most is the heart and life beat of a predominantly working class city, promotes something as potentially damaging to people’s lives as Wonga, then I think morality and ethics inevitably comes in to the question. For many this is a massive stain on the image of not only the club, but on the city and the fan base.
Opinion: Is Cisse in the right or is he in the wrong?
I could spend all day writing about the ins and outs of Wonga and so on but I’m digressing, where does Cisse fit in to all of this?
Perhaps you could say that I’m biased because I already have a negative pre-conceived view of Wonga however I do think we should show some compassion for Cisse’s situation, especially at a time when Muslims in general are blindly and wrongly receiving a lot of bad publicity in this country following what happened in Woolwich last month.
I’d argue that the issue is very complex and must be handled delicately, Cisse’s views as an individual must be respected, though he has an obligation as an employee of the club to perform in the role of which he is being paid for.
What I don’t think is right is for people to generally say, ‘we’re paying him, he should wear the shirt whatever it has on it’. Rather the issue needs to be handled well without any party taking things to extremes.
Cisse must now continue to liaise with the club and an agreement must be reached about how to move forward together. Let’s not forget, despite the man setting a record for being guilty of 10, 000 offsides last season, he is our number 9 and a big terrace favourite as well as being a genuinely good personality within the group.
I for one hope that some sort of compromise can be reached but in the mean time I can only hope that people will respect Papiss and show some support during what is yet another uncomfortable and tumultuous time at our beloved club.
Support Papiss. Support NUFC.
Comments are encouraged…
Before I become engrossed in the off season, wondering and hoping what signings, or lack of, Newcastle will recruit this summer, it seems an appropriate time to look back and assess Newcastle United’s season of discontent. I’ll try not to dig up too many painful memories and instead, to borrow a Roberto Martinez phrase, I’ll ‘take the positives’. So, who was Newcastle’s best player in a season that left me close to admittance to the RVI’s Critical Cardiac Care Unit…
A lot has contributed to Newcastle’s fall from grace this season. We are all aware of the lack of investment in to the playing squad last summer, the injuries we’ve suffered, coaching failures, the effect playing in Europe on a Thursday night, before a weekend Premier League game… I could go on. The players themselves can’t escape blame either. The season’s disappointment has been a resulted from a combination of all factors listed above.
However, despite the playing squad generally performing inadequately throughout the campaign, it would be a mistake to say that every player has played badly in every game. There have been some good performances, even some great performances amongst the dross in fact. Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at the contenders for the CarryingCoals: NUFC Player of the Season Award and see if I can jog your memory…
Well, I know many won’t be fond of an ex Newcastle player being a candidate for the title, but how can we ignore the contribution of the man who finished as our highest goal-scorer?! I suppose Ba’s inclusion is a testament to just how poor of a season we’ve endured.
Ba netted 13 of our 45 Premier League goals, so to put it in perspective; he was responsible for 29% – almost a third! A third of our goals from half a season, it really does say it all!
Santon’s place in the side has come under threat from the emergence of Haidara in the second half of the season, although we mustn’t forget that for the first half of our campaign, Santon was our standout player. His ability to get up and down the left flank at pace and the improvements to his all round game stunned us at the start of the season, as he showed us how much he’d grown and gained on last season.
Santon however remains far from the finished article of course. Defensive slip ups cost us dearly in the second half of the season, particularly in the Europa League. He is still young though and still learning his trade. What’s more is he genuinely seems to be enjoying life on Tyneside amidst never ending rumours, circulating around him leaving the club to return to Italy.
Perhaps our most improved player rather than player of the season, although it’s certain to say he has shone brighter than some of his team-mates with bigger names this season!
Ok, here’s the controversial one for you! This year, Jonas has seemed to split fan opinion like no other. Is he a reliable work horse who gives you that needed 100% every week, or he is an absolute donkey who can’t get a ball in the box?
For what it’s worth, I’ll give my opinion. I’ve always liked Jonas, he has flair which we love here and he stayed loyal to us by helping us win and get out of the championship. He has lost a yard (or two) of pace and doesn’t threaten enough as a winger should. After all, that his primary duty and role for the team. I firmly believe he is a good squad player to have, due to his commitment and versatility but I certainly wouldn’t unquestionably start him week in week out as our left winger.
I do not dispute the fact Jonas has been poor this season although this might be interesting to know… he won more tackles, more ground duels and more free kicks than any other toon player last season, and by the way. What’s an even bigger shock is that his crosses, statistically, were more effective than Ben Arfa’s (21% vs 18%). Now there’s something for you to think about!
Cabaye’s season has been out of sorts, much like the majority of Newcastle’s squad in fact. However there is no questioning the influence he has on the team when included, especially in the build up of attacking play.
He began the campaign very much out of sorts, citing burnout as the reason. He’d never played so much footballing in his life, going from an arduous Premier League campaign, straight in to the European Championships and then back in to the demands of the new season without much rest or recuperation. Many thought his head had been turned, maybe it had, but Cabaye did emerge as an important player as the season went on.
Despite being missing from the middle of November to the beginning of January, the stand in captain for Coloccini did go on to make 35 appearances for Newcastle this year, scoring 6 goals. Perhaps his best game was in the crucial away win at Aston Villa whereby he scored a cracking goal, one of few memorable highlights for toon fans this season!
To put things further in to perspective, Cabaye has played as a deep lying play maker this season, for me, he has been nowhere near high enough up the pitch, yet he’s till managed 6 goals from his 26 Premier league appearances. Our number 9 and striker Papiss Cisse got 2 more goals but by playing in 10 more games (8 /36). People mustn’t forget the contribution Yohan has made to the side, that’s for sure.
Cabaye has summered from fatigue, injury, loss of form and arguably poor positional placement from the coaching staff this season. However he remains a quality player and one of Newcastle’s most important first team presences.
I’ve put the Rob Elliot, AKA The Dilsh, in here because I genuinely believed he has provided some heroics for us this season. Not a big name by any means but he has actually really surprised me this season. I remember writing a piece about him when Krul first got injured and I was more than sceptical about having him in between the sticks, but to his fairness, he hasn’t done much wrong at all. He’s even claimed a few man of the match ratings as he’s gone on.
Look at the established big names players at Newcastle, Elliot has certainly outshone the likes of Cisse and Tiote for example. I think he deserves praise under immense pressure and he deserves a place on this world famous shortlist no doubt!
With Newcastle’s Premier League safety far from secure at the season’s end, Elliot gained his side a vital point, performing heroically at West Ham in the penultimate away game of the season. One of few players who can undisputably come out of this season with his head held high.
Still far off ousting Tim Krul from the number 1 slot, Elliot has certainly emerged and shown us he’s more than a podgy kid in net that’s there because nobody else fancys it!
Colo has spent a lot of the season on the sidelines and he could very well have left the club in January. However, our captain remained and Newcastle benefited from it.
Injured at the beginning of march with a back injury, having attempted a gravity defying overhead kick clearance, Colo missed a crucial part of the season. Newcastle were without him for 8 Premier League games during the period and he also missed the Europa games with Anzhi and Benefica.
It’s worth arguing that had Colo been in the side, Newcastle would probably have endured a far less worrying end to the Premier League season and perhaps could even have snatched a result against Benefica, with defensive ill-discipline being the team’s downfall during the tie, especially in Portugal.
Colo brings an aura of certainty to the team. He has calm and commanding presence, soothing an erratic backline which features incredibly attacking fullbacks, the Premier League inexperience of Mbiwa and the sometimes manic Steven Taylor. Unlike most centre halves known for their physical brutality and ability to be strong in the tackle and comfortable in the air, Colo plays the game completely in his own way.
It’s his anticipation, his marking, his awareness and positional class that shows him to be our standout defender. He’s a defender’s Roger Federer, someone who can elegantly sweep the ball up, use their class and experience and make the whole routine look overwhelmingly easy.
When Colo returned to the side at the end of the season he instantly stood out, fans and pundits alike were all quick to comment. Imagine what it would have been like if he wasn’t there – bearing in mind Mbiwa had to play LB with Haidara and Santon being injured. Had Colo not come in to the side, Mr Mike Williamson probably would have…
And The Winner Is…
Well, you might have guessed it… I’m giving the title to Coloccini. Yes, granted, he only played 22 Premier League games this season (Perch played in 27!) but when he has, most of the time, he’s been the difference.
This season Newcastle were woefully dumped out of domestic cups, got to a Europa league quarter final and finished 16th in the Premier League. At the end of the season, we had to play for our Premier League survival. It was an ending nobody wanted and an ending that many thought would end in disaster. Coloccini’s return kept Newcastle in the league.
You can’t underestimate how important he is.
In a season of few highlights for Newcastle fans, a few individual performances have stood out. A very select few that is. My personal favourite would be Coloccini’s defensive performance away to Sunderland, but how long ago was that?! Sissoko’s brace against Chelsea and leaving Ashley Cole for dust instantly springs to mind too. Although after a promising start from the Premier League’s ‘new Vieira/Yaya Toure’, he faded in to obscurity with an anonymous end to the campaign. Cisse’s last minute goals in a string of games got fans off their feet but they can’t exactly atone for Papiss earning a football league record of being offside 74637263462 times in a single season!
Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough of Ben Arfa, Cabaye has been out of sorts, Jonas looks a shadow of his former self, Colo has been missing, Krul has been missing, we haven’t had a consistent flat back four, we lost our top scorer in January and it’s just all been a bit of a mess to be honest.
It’s been a year of turmoil. A year of hope flickering but then fading. Thankfully, Newcastle will be playing Premier League football next year. That’s, erm, something.. isn’t it? Plus as drastically bad as it all was, we still managed to finish above the mackems…
Anyway well done Colo, can we forget last season now?!
They’re calling it football’s equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to retire this week has shocked the footballing world, with paper after paper producing a plethora of articles, commemorating the unrivaled achievements of British football’s most successful manager.
Though rather than add to the eulogies of Fergie’s footballing passing, I instead want to do a smaller study and look at how Sir Alex and Newcastle United have enjoyed (or struggled to enjoy) a relationship during his 26 years as Manchester United manager.
Since Fergie’s appointment in November 1986, Newcastle have played Manchester United a grand total of 50 times, drawing 14 and losing 29. So of the 50 clashes with the great gum-chewer, Newcastle have managed 7 victories. Yes, a measly, meagre 7 wins. That’s it!
When I found this out, I could only name 3 from memory. Like any avid Newcastle follower the first game which sprung to mind was of course the 5-0 (20 Oct 1996), Philippe Albert chipping, Kevin Keegan celebrating, St. James’ Park walloping, rout dished out to the Red Devils in 1996.
Another game fresh in mind is last season’s 3-0 (4 Jan 2012) destruction at St. James’ Park, a game which seems longer ago than it actually was, having been subjected to this season’s long and miserable slog. That game was the first time we’d beaten the Red Devils in over 10 years. So what else could I remember? We always lose against Man U…
There was however a rip-roaring classic back in 2001, when Alan Shearer scored the winner, to put Newcastle 4-3 (15 Sep 2001) up, in Sir Bobby Robson’s 100th game in charge of the toon. The game is also remembered for a certain Roy ‘dog walking’ Keane attempting to punch Big Al, only for the disgruntled Irishman to see red, making the defeat all the worse for Ferguson.
But what else? 4 more wins in 26 years, any ideas? There is another 21st Century triumph in there, a 3-0 (12 Feb 2000) demolition over one of Fergie’s greatest sides, a team who in only the season prior had completed the famous treble. Goals from Shearer and Big Dunc sealed the win in a game which also saw another NUFC legend, Gary Speed, making his 100th game for the club. This was at a time where Sir Bobby was building a team firmly in the ascendancy and boy do we miss those times on Tyneside. It really was fantastic stuff!
Surprisingly, we did record another victory of Sir Alex’s men during my lifetime, a 2-1 (26 Oct 1994) League Cup win, although you will have to forgive me from failing to remember it – I was only 3 years old! Paul Kitson and Albert scored for the toon that day, in a line-up consisting of 8 English players, a far cry from circumstances today! Albert the Belgian, popular ‘keeper Pav Srnicek the Czech and Swiss defender Marc Hottiger were the 3 foreign players to help crash Sir Alex ‘s side out of the cup. Surprisingly however, Newcastle didn’t lift the trophy…
The other two victories against Fergie came in his first full year in charge, 1987, before the Premier League era. A 1-0 (26 Dec 1987) and a 2-1 (18 Apr 1987), with both wins coming at home. In fact, during Fergie’s tenure, Newcastle have never gone to Old Trafford and picked up a win. Never. The last time Old Trafford witness a black and white victory on their doorstep was as far back as February 1972. Sigh.
The great Scot has consistently got the better of us, there’s no doubt about that. Though on some occasions, we have managed to frustrate and even humiliate one of simply the best managers the game has ever seen.
The thing is however, I’ve grown up not expecting to beat Man U, but instead to be on the end of a thrashing, even when they’re not at their best. So when we do get a result and we do manage to beat them, it’s extra special and feels more than just a 3 points picked up for the table. Perhaps that’s a little sad but it’s just how it is. If you’re a Newcastle fan and you’ve seen the lads beat the team who have dominated English football for the past 20 years, you enjoy it. You remember it.
As I said at the beginning of the article, the media have understandably been relentless in the Sir Alex retirement testaments, for me however, I’ll remember him as an enemy in battle, a tormentor and begrudgingly – a winner. There are however battles to reminisce, the times when we did manage to get the better of Fergie.
So you can snatch titles from us, you can call us a wee club, you can beat us time and time again and you can burden us with Gabriel Obertan! But the Premier League won’t be the same without you that’s for sure. So long Fergie, maybe it’ll be Manchester United who will only record 7 wins over the toon in the next 50 games… Ok, I won’t hold my breath!
With Newcastle gaining a much needed point at West Ham this weekend and perhaps more importantly, Swansea City managing to spectacularly stage a 3-2 comeback win at Wigan this evening, Newcastle now hold the fate of their Premier League future in their own hands. Although whether Alan Pardew’s side are capable of gaining the vital points required remains far from certain…
The league table now looks like this:
Because Wigan can still gain a potential 6 points, no team in the bottom half of the table are technically yet safe. Wigan might be known as the Premier League’s perennial great escape artists but with their remaining fixtures being against Champions League chasing Arsenal and Paul Lambert’s resurgent Aston Villa side, few will back Wigan to do the impossible once again. Tonight truly was a ‘must win’ game for Wigan tonight and whilst they still have hope, it’s certainly fading fast.
Anyway I digress, back to more important matters – What do Newcastle United now have to do?
Whilst Wigan’s defeat tonight will most probably be the result that condemned the little rugby club to an 18th place finish and Championship football next season, Newcastle still need points of their own to ensure we keep our place in the division.
Pardew Problems Piling
So just what does Pardew do in light of Wigan’s defeat and in preparation for the QPR game on Saturday? If Newcastle can get a point from the next match and Wigan fail to beat Arsenal next Tuesday, following their FA Cup final game this weekend, Newcastle will survive and Wigan will go down.
Although can Pardew afford to go to QPR and play for a draw? I mean in all probability he will do exactly that. Looking at our recent away games at West Ham and West Brom, both games were very similar in the sense that Newcastle played a good first half of football, only to find themselves frantically hanging on for a point in the second half, offering little to nothing going forward.
If this trend continues and Newcastle again ride their luck, rather than maintaining an attacking and game winning intent, against a team already relegated and set to finish bottom of the league, then what kind of message does that send to fans?
Each week, more and more of us lose patience with Pardew. I’ve never been a big Pardew critic and I still applaud the fact that I genuinely believe he understands what football means to the area and that he has immersed himself in our unique footballing city culture in Newcastle, but the fact remains – his tactics, team selections, substitutes and mentality installed in to the first team have been simply baffling and not at all good enough. Admittedly, Pardew’s passion cannot account for his failure to manage a talented group of players to the required standard.
So what I’m saying is, if Pards continues to approach away games in the same vein as the displays at West Ham and West Brom, playing for a point rather than a win, he will not only be lamented by frustrated and disillusioned supporters, he will also then have to hope Wigan slip up. Paradoxically, the safe option of being conservative is in fact a risk itself!
The reason I’m calling it a lose/lose situation though is because if Pardew does go all out in winning the game and QPR come away with all the points, Pardew will get berated for not playing for a point when Wigan are likely to get nothing from the Emirates! Catch 22 Monsieur Pardieu!
That is the difference between being a manager and a fan of course. Whatever the manager does, he will be criticised by the fan who is pressure free. There is a possibility that Pardew could go all out for the win on Saturday and indeed bring the 3 points back to St. James’ but if recent results are anything to go by, I’m not too confident of that at all – yes, even against a side set to finish bottom of the league!
This is all speculation of course, fans will eternally dispute what is best for their team and for many, whatever Pardew does is irrelevant now, having already lost the faith of many of the club’s supporters.
What is more certain is the fact that Swansea City did Newcastle a colossal favour in managing to beat Wigan tonight, I think most of us are in agreement that this is the result that probably keeps Newcastle up.
Of course Wigan could lose to Arsenal and beat Villa on the final day of the season, meaning Newcastle would need a point from QPR to stay up. The possibilities are almost endless; it could even be a team seemingly safe in the bottom half who could yet slip. Norwich, Sunderland, Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and even Stoke could all face the Premier League trap door, every team is still in desperate need of picking up points…
I don’t know what is going to happen but I know I wouldn’t want to be in Alan’s shoes right now. I can only hope he picks the right team to go to QPR and get a positive result. Swansea gave us a lifeline tonight, let’s not let it go to waste.
The relegation rollercoaster continues to twist and turn, I just pray there are no unexpected drops for Newcastle around the corner…
What do you think, should Pardew play for a draw on Saturday or should he play a more risqué strategy of going for a win no matter what? Are Newcastle even capable of winning their second away game of the season? Will our dismal goal difference play a part? Will Remy come back to haunt us? Can Sunderland get another point without their three top scorers? Can Wigan be their typical selves and beat Arsenal away?! Will Tony Pulis ever look like he hasn’t been dragged through Sports Direct backwards and thrown in to the dugout?! Have the toon got the bottle to beat the league’s bottom side? Will my rhetorical questions ever be answered?!
Until the weekend, that is if my heart can take anymore…
It doesn’t get much worse than losing to Sunderland 3-0 at home. But to lose 6-0, against a Liverpool side without their talisman, and to lose in the manner which we did was simply unforgivable. Newcastle United are on the brink of relegation.
Before the game began yesterday I was confident we’d get a result against Liverpool. No seriously, I was. We showed at West Brom that we can attack and unsettle teams and looking at which players are fit and available, I really thought we’d give them a game at least.
Remember this is a Liverpool side who previously hadn’t won in April, with their forward line coming under much scrutiny for their woeful chance conversion rate. Surely with a returning Ben Arfa and a Suarez-less Liverpool, we’d have a chance right?!
But no. No we did not. In fact, we were doomed from the start…
I, like every other toon fan yesterday, was in utter disbelief looking at the starting 11 yesterday.
We were subjected to the usual 4-5-1 with players playing in the most unfamiliar roles once more.
Debuchy Taylor Mbiwa Haidara
Sissoko Tiote Cabaye Perch Jonas
Subs: Harper, Williamson, Anita, Ben Arfa, Gouffran, Gosling, Ameobi
We were at home, far from Premier League safety and needing to win one of the very few remaining games. So why the negativity?!
- Cisse needs a strike partner, he gets little service from the wings as it is. Why persist in isolating him for another 90 minutes?
- Sissoko is a box to box midfielder. Not a right winger. Not a right forward.
- Jonas, for all he is a likeable character, has been abysmal as a left winger this season. Why is he there AGAIN?
- What does Anita have to do to get a game?
- Why are we playing Perch and Tiote together?
I could go on…
Simply put though, my biggest qualm is the omission of Gouffran and Ben Arfa. A fit Ben Arfa. A Ben Arfa who was on the cover of the match day program, with the main feature of the program being about how he is ready to play!
Granted Newcastle will have to set up conservatively away from home, but this was our last shot at showing a real attacking display at home and taking a risk, because we’ll have to be sensible in our last home game against Champions League chasing Arsenal.
Now I’m under no illusions that I’m a frustrated spectator with the benefit of hindsight but I think it’s more than fair to say that we all knew team selection and shape was terribly, terribly wrong yesterday. It was the root of the problem. Maybe if we’d set ourselves up a little more like this (see below) we’d have had a better chance than a JAMES PERCH HEADER. I mean come on, when a James Perch header is your best goal effort for 90 minutes you know something is seriously wrong!
Debu Saylor Mapou Hairdryer
Anita Cabaye Sissoko
We could even have introduced Shola in the second half or Tiote if the midfield was over run. But we hardly played football in the Liverpool half yesterday. From the off we had no chance. I’m not saying Pardew is fully to blame, but perhaps he was the root of the problem. I believe so at least.
The players must shoulder a lot of the blame for yesterday’s defeat. Perch and Tiote were poor and did little to break up the intricate passing play from a Liverpool midfield carving openings throughout. Cabaye was equally anonymous. Cisse was uninvolved. Jonas didn’t want the ball, when he had it he drove it at the box without even looking who was there.
Then there’s the defense which was completely at sea. Haidara was off the pace, Mapou was turned inside out and Steven Taylor actually looked way out of his depth. Then there’s Debuchy who clearly couldn’t handle being on the pitch to finish the game.
It was dire. It was disgraceful. In fact, you could study the whole D section of the dictionary to pick out words to describe that disgusting, diabolical and discreditable ‘performance’! No wonder I’m disillusioned at our prospects of survival…
Where do we go from here?
We have 3 Premier League games remaining.
West Ham (away)
3 points would put us on that magical, though not guaranteed, 40 point safety mark. Question is, can we beat 1 of these three teams.
Pardew has come out and said he’ll have to use more experience in our next game. SO what exactly does that mean?! A 30 minute Shola to start, Jonas to stay in the side, an unfit Coloccini to be thrown straight in to the deep end? Or maybe we’ll just stick in the 39 year old Steve Harper in somewhere to make the numbers up!
Since the final whistle went yesterday I’ve read a lot of anti-Pardew/Pardew out rants, I’ve heard joke after joke about horses going in to hiding and even the witty ‘had Suarez played it could have been ate’ one liner. But nothing can bring a smile to my face right now because I cannot see where that win we desperately need will come from.
The near future
Next week we go to West Ham. Allardyce will love putting the club that sacked him closer to the trap door, similarly Kevin Nolan will also want to show why he was an un-appreciated asset by the Newcastle hierarchy. Then there’s the horse headed, ex number 9, Andy Carroll who will revel against a fractious Newcastle back four in his current form.
So then we turn our attention to QPR. A bunch of overpaid mercenaries under the control of the droopy faced fella, who turned down the chance to manage Newcastle all those years ago… By the time we meet QPR, I think they’ll have officially been relegated. But the players will still want to showcase themselves to potential suitors, playing against a Newcastle side with just ONE away win all season. It doesn’t look good…
Could it come down to the last game of the season? Wenger’s Arsenal, who have never failed to make the Champions League under his management, most probably needing 3 points to ensure they get 4th.
A season to forget
This has been a season to forget for us toon fans but if we do go down, it’ll certainly be unforgettable. When we were last relegated we managed to keep the core of the playing staff with the right character to group together and get us straight back in to the Premier League.
If we were to go down this time around, there would be a mass exodus and the players we’d be left with isn’t even worth thinking about.
We must now group together and the players must show their true talents. Good luck Mr Pardew, this may be your last hurrah.
What do you think? Should Newcastle part with Pardew?
Despite a spirited performance from Newcastle United inside a packed St. James Park tonight, Geordie dreams of Europa League glory were cruelly snatched from them, following a heart-breaking last minute goal from a resilient Benefica side to decide the tie.
Newcastle went in to the game seeking a 2-0 victory over the Portuguese league leaders, having lost the first leg of the tie 3-1 in Lisbon a week prior. Alan Pardew knew his side faced a colossal task in progressing to the semi-finals of the competition. With the onus firmly being on setting the side up to not only score two goals, against a team who began the season drawing with Barcelona in Europe’s elite competition, Alan Pardew also had to employ a degree of caution, as a Benefica goal would all but end the tie for certain.
Making four changes from the team who began the game in Lisbon, Pardew introduced Bigirimana, Anita, Mike Williamson and a fit again Massadio Haidara in to a conservative looking starting 11. Being sure to mention the importance substitutions would have in deciding the tie, Pardew set the side up with the intention of trying to keep the game deadlocked until the last twenty minutes, to then introduce flair players from the bench in a final roll of the dice.
Keeping forward favourites Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi and the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa on the bench, Newcastle fans were in for a nervy game, hoping Pardew’s game plan would be allowed a chance to come in to fruition. Benefica boss, Jorge Jesus, predicted Newcastle would actually start with Ameobi alongside Cisse in attack although it seemed Pardew had other ideas on how to be the only other side in Europe, apart from Barcelona, to overcome Benefica 2-0.
However the night was almost ruined for the home side inside the first three minutes of the game, as Lima almost opened the scoring for Benefica, had Tim Krul’s legs not been equal to the effort. In fact Newcastle were under the cosh during the game’s opener as Melgarejo’s cross come shot almost dipped under Krul’s crossbar.
Newcastle managed to get a foot hold in the game, following Benefica’s early scares, when Moussa Sissoko typically made a mazy run in to the opposition half. Although as apparent throughout much of Newcastle’s first half build up play, Sissoko failed to garner enough support in the final third to really impact Benefica’s backline.
Newcastle’s best chances came through the creativity of young Gael Bigirimana finding Papiss Cisse, though the number 9 failed to truly convert. In a frantic first half it was certainly the away side who had the best chance however. Pacey Benefica trickster Gaitan managed to round Krul, gaining possession in front of an unguarded net and unleashing a shot only for Haidara to scramble back and clear the ball from the goal line.
With Benefica looking the better of the two sides once more and having the best of the first half chances, Newcastle almost gained a 1-0 lead on the stroke of half time. The linesman however correctly ruled Papiss Cisse’s close range effort offside, after Bigirimana sent over a looping ball. With 45 minutes to play, Newcastle had it all to do.
Having won the midfield battle in the first half, Benefica began to grow further as the second half got underway. John, Gaitan and Salvio managed to play their way through the Newcastle team, although Salvio wasted the created opportunity, having shot first time inside the box.
With Newcastle needing to push for goals, Pardew introduced Shola Ameobi at half time for Bigirimana and brought on Ben Arfa for Anita on ’63 minutes. Ben Arfa’s introduction was met with vociferous applause from the Geordie faithful, as the Frenchmen immediately installed hope in to players and staff alike.
Soon after Ben Arfa’s introduction, Cisse again had the ball in the back of the net, only for the linesmen to again correctly deem the effort as being offside. Cisse’s frustrations were visibly growing as he receieved a yellow card in the aftermath for dissent and it seemed it simply would not be the Senegalese hitman’s night.
Newcastle though, for all their frustrations, could not be accused of allowing the tie to pass them by. Constant effort, commitment and drive were on show from the home side, as players wholly shared the crowd’s frustration and growing desperation. However on the stroke of ’70 minutes played, Newcastle began to believe.
Subsitutes Ben Arfa and Ameobi combined to cut through the Benefica defence, with Papiss Cisse finally being able to convert a legitimate goal, this time from a close range header. As the stadium erupted, Newcastle now needed a single goal to progress and fulfil Pardew’s strategy of giving a final gung ho approach at the game’s close.
With fifteen minutes to go Cisse was again at the centre of controversy. Convinced he should have been given a penalty following a collision with Benefica goalkeeper Artur. Although replays showed the ref made the correct call not to give a penalty, resulting in Newcastle being increasingly frantic in their panic to seek out a winning goal.
Newcastle enjoyed a great spell of dominance with Ben Arfa looking confident in possession and the majority of players in black and white being camped in the opposition half. However Benefica did continue to threaten themselves, as the vastly impressive Cordozo, relieved the pressure on his side by turning Yanga Mbiwa inside out, managing to win a freekick just outside the Newcastle box.
Gaitan also persevered in unleashing shots at Tim Krul, whilst ex Chelsea man Matic continued to drive the Benefica midfield in their efforts to repel the Newcastle forward charge. Although Newcastle could have won the game if only Ben Arfa’s ‘89th minute shot had hit the target or Yohan Cabaye’s ‘92md minute freekick had tested goalkeeper Artur a little more.
By the game’s close, Newcastle had exhausted their attacking options, fielding a team going for broke and desperately piling forward. Sissoko, Marveaux, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Ameobi and Cisse relentlessly toiled for the game winning goal, although the night ended with a knock out blow from Benefica. Salvio got on the end of a slick Benefica passing move to fire past Krul in the ‘93rd minute and cruelly end the game 1-1 or 4-2 on aggregate.
Simply put, Newcastle could not have done anything more. The tactics employed were effective and much required, the players involved were included to win the game and the effort on show was there for all to see. Despite elimination, the Newcastle players sent their fans home proud. Benefica will now be looking to lift the Europa League, although over the two legs, they visibly showed why they should be competing in the elite Champions League competition.
Newcastle will now go in to Sunday’s game with Sunderland filled with confidence, following a performance which included much attacking dominance and excitement.
Match After thoughts:
Personally I didn’t expect to progress tonight and seeing the starting lineup I wasn’t filled with overwhelming confidence. But even though we went out tonight, nobody on the pitch let us down whatsoever. We gave everything and as fan, that’s all you can ask. We gave it out best shot – no doubt.
Pardew, for me, almost pulled off a masterstroke tonight. He knew we couldn’t go all out from the start, knowing that if Benefica scored the tie would be virtually over. So rather than go for broke and starting with Shola in a 4-4-2 for example, he stuck to a strict game-plan and approached the game in segments.
When Cisse scored and we had 20 minutes to grab a winning goal, the momentum was with us in a spell of dominance. Who knows, maybe on another day we could have actually done it. Ben Arfa had a great chance and the introduction of him, along with Marv and Shola gave us a real chance to get that elusive second goal.
Tonight our backline featured a regular starter in Yanga and three players who aren’t first choice starters. But it was actually Mbiwa who looked the weakest out of the lot. Regular scapegoats Williamson and Simpson did us proud and Simpson really showed the required desire and grit required for a game of that nature. Haidara too reminded us that he’ll probably oust Santon from starting left back in the future as he looked solid defensively.
In midfield Cabaye and Sissoko didn’t have one of their better games but it has to be said the Benefica midfield men were outstanding.
Cisse again endured much frustration but it’s great to see how much it means to him being a Newcastle United player. He continues to try for the cause and for that I love him. Yes he makes mistakes but he is undoubtedly a great character and a number 9 I’m proud to have wear the shirt.
The subs tonight made all the difference and almost gave us that final push we needed to get the result, here’s hoping they all feature against Sundeland, as the three of them, along with Gouffran who is set to return, will cause the Mackems so many problems.
Benefica would have gone on to the Champions League group stages had Celtic not pulled off a miracle and they are no doubt a team more than capable of beating Chelsea to the Europa League trophy. Cordozo, Salvio and Rodrigo are excellent and in the end, their late goal was really well worked and executed to perfection. Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up, over the two legs they were the better side. Good luck to them.
Well, we’re out of Europe and the remainder of our season will now be focused on Premier League survival, starting with a mouth-watering game against Sunderland on Sunday. The fans were brilliant tonight, absolutely tremendous and will certainly be just as good, if not better, for the derby.
I’ll be there ready to see us condemn Sunderland even further to Championship football next season and make up for the disappointment of going out tonight. Having said that though, the players did us proud tonight and for that, I congratulate them.
Now let’s go and shut little Paolo up! HWTL.
Newcastle deservedly beat a stubborn Fulham side at St. James’ Park this afternoon, courtesy of yet another last gasp strike from Papiss Demba Cisse.
Considering the club’s precarious Premier League position, floating dangerously above the relegation zone at the beginning of the day, home fans were under no illusions of just how vital securing 3 points would be.
Alan Pardew made one change to his side that lost in Lisbon on Thursday night, with Yoan Gouffran coming in for James Perch. The opening 45 minutes were uninspired for Newcastle however, with the home side struggle to retain the ball and get behind a sturdy Fulham back line, superbly marshalled by the towering force of Brede Hangeland.
Fulham almost took the lead inside the first four minutes of the game when Dmitar Berbatov saw his outside of the boot, swerving effort, narrowly go over Tim Krul’s crossbar. Newcastle were sluggish to begin with, failing to break down some neat Fulham interchanges, especially in the middle of the park. Berbatov’s one touch passing was at it’s best, although Yanga Mbiwa was at his best to stifle any openings carved.
The first half’s best chance came when Berbatov found Bryan Ruiz with a delightful through ball, although Mbiwa tracked the Costa Rican’s run and managed to get in a strong block to send the ball wide. Fulham continued to press and would certainly have gone 1-0 had Tim Krul not made a stunning block to deny Manoloev.
Krul and Mbiwa’s heroics thankfully allowed Newcastle to go in to half time at 0-0, however had Newcastle carried on in the same vein in the second half as they did in the first, the game would have undoubtedly been quickly lost. Although, to their credit, the home side managed to control the second half entirely.
Having had no clear cut chances in an abject opening 45 minutes, Newcastle produced a second half performance full of intent and toil. Vernon Anita, who was introduced in to the fray following Davide Santon falling victim to a hamstring strain, saw his deflected effort hit the Fulham crossbar on ’53 minutes. Finally, home fans had something to get up off their seats about.
On the hour mark, Newcastle truly began to threaten Fulham. Cisse squandered chances in quick succession, although positive signs for Newcastle were indeed evident, with the black and whites firmly camped in the Fulham half. On the ‘63rd minute Gouffran headed at goal from a corner, hitting Riether on the Fulham goal line, with the ball then falling to Cisse who hit the post from point blank range. Replays showed that Riether had actually handled the ball on the line and Newcastle had missed out on a stonewall penalty, amidst their spell of overwhelming dominance.
Fulham, to their credit, remained as a threat in the game despite Newcastle’s dominance. Tim Krul pulled off a world class save, justifying his return to the lineup at Rob Elliot’s expense, when he tipped a Berbatov goal bound header over the bar.
With twenty minutes left Alan Pardew subbed Gouffran, introducing Shola Ameobi in to the fray, pushing for a late winner. Whether Pardew thought Ameobi would be more of a goal threat than Gouffran is unclear, however it seems with the local derby fast approaching the Newcastle manager wanted to ensure the Mackem Slayer is primed and raring to go.
Ameobi however squandered a great chance ten minutes later as his header, from a surprisingly accurate Danny Simpson cross, missed from close range. Moussa Sissoko had a header of his own just before the ‘90th minute, although Mark Schwarzer fantastically kept the ball out with an astonishing save.
Indeed it seemed that it was simply not Newcastle’s day and that the Magpies would unfortunately have to settle for a point, however one man in particular refused to accept this. For the third time in the last four games Newcastle found an injury time winner, courtesy of the relentless Papiss Cisse.
Cisse had endured an afternoon of much discontent despite his energy and continued endeavour. With Newcastle players looking exhausted in the ‘94th minute, Yohan Cabaye shot from outside the box, only for Cisse to trap the ball, marvellously turn his markers and half volley the ball past Schwarzer’s flailing arms and in to the corner of the net. Unbelievable.
The relief echoed around the ground in scenes of true euphoria. Cisse ran in to the crowd, followed by Sissoko who had once again given his all to the Newcastle cause. Even Alan Pardew got caught up in the magical moment, leaping over barriers to jump in fans’ embraces in the terraces.
The passion showed by both players and staff alike made for truly inspirational scenes at the game’s close. With Sunderland losing at Chelsea , having led 1-0, Newcastle’s day could not have gotten any sweeter. What a way to win.
I’m still in shock, from a personal point of view I was annoyed with how slowly we started the first half. We lacked ideas and desire and Fulham looked as though their game plan was going to pay off. But that second half was incredible. We absolutely bossed it. Ok Berbatov had the header and Rodallega could have done better when he was put through but realistically, we did deserve to win that game. Newcastle showed great spirit, grit and determination. You can’t ask for much more than that. The scenes at the end were truly heroic and as a supporter there’s nothing better than seeing a last minute goal and your number 9 diving in to the crowd.
We again lost players to injury. Santon went off and it looked like Cabaye, Sissoko and Marveaux were absolutely exhausted at the end holding their legs.
It was also strange to see Gouffran taken off when he looked very bright throughout. Adam Campbell is another youngster with great promise but yet isn’t ready for the first team in my opinion. He looked way too light weight as he did when he came on against Stoke.
We will play our best side against Benefica on Thursday so here’s hoping we can come through that game unscathed in preparation for the derby next Sunday.
Cisse frustrates the life out of me, as does Pardew but I cannot help but love the pair of them. They are both great characters who embrace it here at Newcastle United and it was absolutely fantastic to see their reactions at the end.
We needed that win and thankfully, once again at the death, we got it. I now believe we are safe in the Premier League although obviously we need a few more points to make sure. I wouldn’t bet against us getting 3 more against Sunderland.
The blog remains very much alive and further articles will appear throughout this week following some recent technical issues now being behind us. Thank you for your continued support and readership. In the meantime be sure to check out a great podcast that we highly rate, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays Football Podcast’, which you can check out by clicking this link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/i-dont-like-mondays-football/id621804933?mt=2
Wigan Athletic stole all 3 points from Newcastle at the DW Stadium this afternoon, in what was simply the biggest bout of injustice the world has witnessed since Nelson Mandela’s 27 year jail term as a political prisoner.
Ok, so perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly but the truth is, Newcastle should not have lost that game. Rather than give a match report, analyse the positives and negatives from the game or even give out player ratings, I think this week we need to give priority to the talking points. And believe me, there were a lot of talking points. I’m furious, I’m outraged and I’m still in disbelief. Categorically that game, was without doubt, the worst display of ‘officiating’ I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a black and white.
Talking Point Number 1: Pray For Haidara
Exactly a year to the day, the footballing world was shocked when Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch and almost lost his life due to a career ending heart condition. Whilst Muamba’s struggle and Callum McManaman’s tackle on Massadio Haidara are incomparable, Haidara nevertheless left the stadium for emergency treatment and remains in too much pain for the injury to even be assessed.
Haidara entered the field as a substitute for injured fullback Mathieu Debuchy and soon found himself victim to a potentially career ending tackle. Sorry, I’ve had to describe it as a ‘tackle’ because apparently, according to ref Mark Halsey, McManaman’s knee high, two feet from the ground, lunge was not even deemed as a foul! Unbelievable. It’s an absolute tragedy to see such a young, talented lad to be on the wrong end of a lunge like that and I can only hope that Massadio can come back from that. He was literally writhing on the floor in agony. Whilst it may not have been a leg breaker like Ben Arfa’s from De Jong, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of the bone has been chipped or fractured.
I’m not saying Haidara won’t play football again but when he does return he will not return as the same player. As we still see with Ben Arfa today, there’ll be a niggling doubt in his mind when he approaches 50/50 challenges. Let’s pray that Haidara can get back to his best because psychologically as well as physically, it will be tough for the youngster to deal with.
The nation embraced pray for Muamba, maybe the Geordie nation can pray for Haidara.
Talking Point Number 2: Mark Halsey/ Stevie Wonder
Quite frankly I’m worried about referee Mark Halsey. For a blind man to be out and about for so long without his trusted guide dog to direct him, it’s irresponsible and dangerous. I’m disappointed Mark. I’ve heard some people say well, you know, his vision was obscured. He didn’t see it. Human error. I can appreciate that, you’ve got to accept that referees do have a very difficult job but when a player rises with two feet off the floor and you’re standing ten yards away, surely, surely, you know that a foul has occurred. To not give that as a foul is in short, disgusting. It’s incomprehensible.
Talking Point Number 3: The Passion of the Carver
At half time Newcastle coach and club stalwart John Carver attempted to approach McManaman, only for a ruckus to ensue which saw Carver sent to the stands for the second half. If you watched the opening 45 minutes as a Newcastle fan you would understandably be furious. Ok Carver can be accused of lacking professionalism but boy was it warranted. He showed passion. It’s why we all love the game so much. Just like when Pardew pushed the ref, it was the heat of the moment and not without merit! I for one have no qualms with Carver’s reaction, had I been there myself, in his position, I’d have been exactly the same. Wouldn’t you?
Talking Point Number 4: Martinez and the Wigan Fans
So when Martinez brought McManaman off he was greeted by a standing ovation? I mean it goes without saying most fans of the Premier League don’t want to see Wigan remain in the division, they lack stature as opposed to bigger clubs who aren’t in England’s elite division. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of this view, if you’re in the league, you’re there on merit and you deserve to compete. But having seen that reaction from the home fans I wouldn’t like the rugby club to remain a Premier League side. I’d rather see them go down than Sunderland; at least having the mackems in the league makes things a bit interesting, who wants to watch Wigan?! McManaman deserved the boo’s the away fans threw at him, the home fans should have recognised he needed a good talking to and telling off for nearly ending a young kids career!
Why Martinez let him go out at half time is beyond me. That behaviour should not be tolerated. McManaman is a young kid himself, he needs to know what is acceptable and what you simply can’t do. If Tiote was to two foot a player and get away with it, I’d expect Pardew to pull him off the pitch at half time and replace him. It makes sense.
Talking Point Number 5: The Last Straw
In the second half of the game Newcastle equalised and pushed Wigan on the back foot. Papiss Cisse even had a chance to put the game to bed and snatch a 2-1 winner in our favour. Wigan however had the last laugh; they scored from a corner at the game’s death when Newcastle should have had a corner themselves moments before. But of course, from the corner that was given Wigan’s way, Figueroa helped the ball on with the use of his HAND. Talk about when it’s not your day…
The ref misses a red card offense, misses a potentially pivotal corner decision and then misses a blatant handball. What was the lineman doing?! I think the officials today must have a few bob on Wigan staying up…
It had been a great week for Newcastle fans following two last minute wins against Stoke and Anzhi but what a sour note we leave things on.
The game today will notoriously be remembered for the horror tackle and we are all praying that when Haidara can be assessed, he doesn’t have any serious issues. Newcastle were robbed today, absolutely and entirely robbed. I’m still furious. They say ranting helps, getting everything off your chest and all that. To be honest I don’t see it, I wonder how Mandela managed…