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Apr 28 / Jamie Hardesty

Where do we go from here?

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.

With the R word looming, painful memories are resurfacing for Newcastle fans

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…

The Lineup:

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.

Elliot

Debuchy Taylor Mbiwa Haidara

Sissoko Tiote Cabaye Perch Jonas

Cisse

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.

The Alternative

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!

Elliot

Debu Saylor Mapou Hairdryer

Anita Cabaye Sissoko

HBA

Cisse Goofy

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 omission of Gouffran and Ben Arfa puzzled Newcastle fans

The Players

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)

QPR (away)

Arsenal (home)

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…

Former toon hero Andy Carroll could have a hand in relegating his hometown club

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?

Apr 11 / Jamie Hardesty

Positive in Defeat: Newcastle Valiantly Go Out

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.

Salvio breaks Newcastle hearts at the death

Match Report:

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.

Alan Pardew surprised Jorge Jesus with his tactical approach

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.

The Tactics:

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.

The Players:

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.

Mike Williamson made his 100th Newcastle United appearance

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.

The Opposition:

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.

Final Note:

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.

Newcastle welcomed back the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa just in time for Sunderland

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.

CarryingCoals

Apr 7 / Jamie Hardesty

Relief, Joy, Passion… Such is the life of the Newcastle fan

Papiss produces once again to give Newcastle a huge win

Match Report

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.

Martin Jol’s gameplan was within a minute of success until Papiss’ winner

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.

Positives

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.

Negatives

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.

Newcastle must get through the return leg against Benefica without losing anymore players to injury

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.

Final Note

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

CarryingCoals

Mar 17 / Jamie Hardesty

Talking Points Special: Haidara Horror Show

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.

McManaman connects with Haidara’s knee

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.

Fans will hope to see Massadio back in training soon

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.

John Carver’s half time fracas

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…

Injustice

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…

Sigh. CarryingCoals.

Mar 10 / Jamie Hardesty

Post Match Analysis: Cisse Sinks Stoke

Newcastle came from behind, for the third consecutive Premier League home game, to seal a hard earned 2-1 victory over Stoke City, at St. James’ Park this afternoon.

Celebratory Cisse: The Senegalese frontman grabs an injury time winner

Match Report:

Papiss Demba Cisse’s 92nd minute winner stole all 3 points, denying Stoke a share of the spoils in a fiercely contested affair. The Senegalese striker has endured a frustrating second season with the magpies but he, along with the continually supportive Alan Pardew, will be overjoyed following the coolest of finishes at the death in today’s 2-1 win.

Newcastle dominated the game territorially but struggled to unlock a Stoke defence, despite the absence of regular starter and key player Robert Huth. Tony Pulis expectedly set his side up to frustrate the home team, defending deep and taking few chances, with the majority of his men in red and white firmly behind the ball throughout.

Whilst Newcastle finished the game strongly, it was actual their opponents who first made an impression on the game. Peter Crouch’s volleyed on target effort was the highlight of a testing opening ten minutes. Newcastle right back, Mathieu Debuchy, continued pressure along the right hand side however looked the most threatening avenue on the pitch. The Frenchman’s pace and continued toil signalled Newcastle’s intent to get forward and take what was undoubtedly a much needed three points.

Newcastle dominated the opening 45 minutes although much of their efforts at goal irritatingly came from long range, as Stoke’s deep defending proved problematic for the Newcastle forward line. Typically Stoke’s robust defensive game plan was indeed proving effective, although the perseverance of midfield dynamo’s Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko gave the home support hope for the second half.

Newcastle began the second half undeterred by the bitter coldness inside the stadium, focusing on striking first and penetrating the Stoke defense. Marauding fullback Davide Santon looked to provide early crosses in to the Stoke penalty area, whilst Jonas Gutierrez and Yoan Gouffran attempted to get in behind the reserved Stoke fullbacks.

Although much to the discomfort of Alan Pardew and the home fans, Newcastle simply could not find a way through and break Stoke down. Stephen N’zonzi brilliantly marshalled the Stoke midfield in the absence of Charlie Adam, continually tussling with Cabaye, Sissoko and Tiote in the centre of the park. In fact, by the hour mark it seemed as though Newcastle had ran out of ideas with number 9, Papiss Cisse, visibly becoming increasingly frustrated, due to a distinct lack of service.

Taking a booking in the ‘64th minute of the game for a tussle with Marc Wilson, it seemed it was simply not Papiss Cisse’s day once again this season. Although Newcastle faced bigger problems  two minutes later when Cheick Tiote senselessly brought down the industrious Jonathan Walters inside the Newcastle penalty area. Dusting himself down, Walters proceeded to take the spot kick, sending Rob Elliot the wrong way and converting. 1-0 Stoke.

Amongst the freezing cold conditions, the atmosphere within the ground proceeded to heat up. St. James’ Park had been largely subdued for over an hour until fans’ frustrations were echoed in the thousands. Ultimately however, cries of angst evolved in to cheers as Newcastle, for all their credit, turned the tie around, staging a remarkable comeback.

Moussa Sissoko once again displayed his sheer pace and power, driving his team forward and winning a freekick on the edge of the Stoke penalty area. Before Yohan Cabaye had a chance to take the resultant dead ball shot, melee ensued, with Steven Taylor clashing with goalkeeper Begovic. Referee Andrew Marriner managed to disperse the confrontation to allow Yohan Cabaye to seize the freekick opportunity, sublimely finding Begovic’s top left hand corner, tucking the ball under the bar and in to the back of the net.

N’zonzi stifled the Newcastle midfield for larger parts of the game

Galvanised by Cabaye’s dream-like finish, Alan Pardew sent on Haidara and Marveaux in place of Santon and Tiote, in an attempt to get more than a point from the game. With less than twenty minutes to go Newcastle continued to press, although Stoke remained resilient, particularly through Ryan Shawcross in the heart of defence, who seemed to deal with every ball coming in to the Stoke City box.

With Newcastle looking like they’d have to settle for a draw, on came youngster and highly rated prospect Adam Campbell to assist in the home side’s final forward charge. As the 90th minute drew, Sissoko again embarked on a surging run although his final ball let him down as Newcastle’s prospects of a late winner seemed to have been lost.

However Newcastle’s continued toil and effort did not go unrewarded. Sylvain Marveaux’s exquisite through ball found Papiss Cisse 8 yards out, who proceeded to set himself up and powerfully rifle home past Begovic, with the coolest of finishes.

Undoubtedly Cisse reminded fans he remains an incredible talent, although the delivery from Sylvain Marveaux will have reminded his manager that he is very much vying for a first team starting spot. That’s four assists now for the Frenchmen, more than any other Newcastle United player.

With a pivotal European home leg against Anzhi to come on Thursday, Newcastle can carry today’s form in to the next game, with the chance of progressing in to the last eight of the competition. Tony Pulis on the other hand faces a backlash from Stoke City fans, with many calling for a change in management. Newcastle however are firmly in the ascendancy and fans may yet have something to shout about come the end of the season.

Positives:

Whilst focusing on Newcastle but trying to produce an impartial match report it was difficult for me to contain my excitement! Cisse, wow. A last gasp winner. I was convinced he was offside, I mean, you’d expect him to be wouldn’t you?! But that finish was nothing short of sensational. Ok, he wasn’t far out but he acted so quickly, Begovic didn’t have a chance. It was almost laughable how cool it was after the amount of chances he’s squandered. It was the kind of thing you’d expect to see from Robin Van Persie rather than our ever frustrating number 9! Easily the biggest positive from today was seeing Cisse score again and winning the game in style. We needed the three points to propel us up the table and Papiss duly delivered.

Another point that must be made is the fact we came back (again) to win the game. Newcastle came out today and were made to work hard for their victory. I don’t want to get dragged in to the debate about Stoke’s anti –football but certainly the footballing side won today. It’s a great satisfaction to work hard and get the 3 points when Stoke set out to sit behind the ball for the best part of the game.

A further point I don’t want to forget is the defensive performance today. Debuchy was brilliant. Yes, he needs to realise we won’t win crosses in the box but his link up play, energy and covering was admirable. Mapou again showed us why he is more than capable of replacing Colo and Steven Taylor’s form of late must surely have thrown his name in the hat for an England call up. Certainly he is as good as the likes of Jagielka and Shawcross.

Negatives:

The biggest, most frustrating talking point from today has to be set pieces. Of course Cabaye scored a truly, inch perfect, brilliant goal from a freekick although his corners were woeful. Why do we even attempt to cross the ball in to the box from a corner? I’ve said it for months but we do need to change our thinking. Why not play it short and quick like we famously did in the Keegan era? This is a worrying area of our game because we never score from a corner, let alone hit a man in the box and win a header. We are even prone to counter attack as we easily lose possession. It’s ridiculous. This needs looked at but will anything change?

Cheick Tiote proved to be a liability for Newcastle once more today

Newcastle United are a team, we win together and we lose together. That’s how it should be. However individual errors cannot be ignored. Whilst Tiote had one of his better games of late, noticeably he showed controlled commitment and endeavour, he again showed us that he is a complete liability. The foul on Shawcross was outrageous. So unnecessary. Anita and Perch must now surely be considered as starting in his place.

Player Ratings:

Elliot – 6. An average game for the man who will be tested a lot more on Thursday. Of course not to be blamed for the penalty at all.

Debuchy – 7. Up and down the right all day, although final ball at times was lacking. Pace and talent in abundance of course.

Mbiwa – 7. So composed on the ball, developing a partnership with Tayls.

Taylor – 7.5. Commited, dominant, solid. In a rich vein of form and hilarious in winding Begovic up (especially after the freekick goes in!!!)

Santon – 6. Tried to get forward and get at the Stoke defense but struggled defensively himself at times.

Tiote – 5. What can I say? I’m even shaking my head as I type this… Unbelievable foul to give away.

Cabaye – 7.5. Played too deep for me today, although that’s probably due to the management rather than the individual. Poor corners but great vision and a freekick we won’t forget any time soon.

Jonas – 6.5. Worked hard as always but struggled to create in the final third. Bet you didn’t expect me to say that, did you?!

Sissoko – 7.5. Not his best but still a fantastic effort. The surging midfield runs are a breath of fresh air.

Gouffran – 6. Not one of his best, like the majority of the team, struggled to come up with an answer to Stoke’s defensive ploy.

Cisse – 7. I thought Cisse was deprived of service throughout, although could have helped himself out more. Scoring a goal like that reminded us all why we love him however.

Subs:

Marveaux – 8. No doubt about it, Marv came on and changed the game. He has guile, he’s a great player. If starts games and gets a consistent run in the team he can flourish. Jonas was ok today but at home, against Stoke, we have to line up more positively.

Haidara – 6. Watch out Santon, Haidara is on your tail. A left footed left back… says it all! Looks like he has settled in the team already. Cool on the ball too.

Campbell –6.  He’s certainly one to watch out for. Whilst today was just a cameo he looked comfortable and definitely not afraid to get involved.

Adam Campbell finally makes his Premier League debut

Talking Point: Pardew: The good and the bad

Pardew divides many fans. Some love him, some loathe him and some just simply don’t understand him! Admittedly, I’ve always liked Pardew, I like his passion and the confidence and belief he genuinely seems to ooze. Although that’s not to say I won’t criticise him or challenge some of the decisions (or non-decisions) he makes. Today Ben Arfa and Shola were unavailable. Of course Cisse had to start. Jonas understandably retained his place although I found it strange that Tiote retained his – both Perch and Anita are in good form.

Last week against Swansea, Pardew should have made substitutions and he paid the price for not changing it up. This week he did. Marveaux came on and unlocked the game. He didn’t hit the back of the net himself but he acted as a match winner.

It’s pretty obvious Pardew isn’t infallible but I’d like to see him be a bit braver. Team selection and approach is vital for progression in the Europa on Thursday, he is now under pressure to get that right.

Final Note:

Well, it wasn’t easy but we managed to come through the game, against the most frustrating of opponents, claiming all 3 points. Although we can’t rest on our laurels now that we’ve hit the dizzy heights of 13th place! O no! Anzhi will come at us on Thursday a lot harder than they did in Moscow and we need to match that. I was proud of the players in their endless endeavour to win the game today, I hope we see this in the Europa too.

Today’s three points are massive. Colossal. Had we lost this one, the dreaded R word pops up once again and that could even have an affect on our Europa mentality. Now however, we are firmly looking up and the ‘train wreck of a season’ may well be firmly back on track.

And remind me, where are Sunderland in the league?

Until Thursday, CarryingCoals.

 

Mar 6 / Jamie Hardesty

Uncertainty In Russia

Newcastle take on Anzhi in Moscow tomorrow, in the first leg of their Last 16 Europa League tie. The game is pivotal for Newcastle to have a chance of progression, as United must focus their efforts on producing a collectively tight defensive display, whilst picking up a potentially vital away goal.

Alan Pardew’s tactics are of paramount important to have a chance in Russia

The game will be played at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on an artificial pitch, causing Alan Pardew to select a starting 11 capable of adjusting to the conditions. He commented:

‘It is a different surface and so it is going to favour some of our technical players, it will be a very technical team I put out.’

The Mindset

Anzhi are second favourites to win the competition, the abundance of talent they boast has been well documented and they’re probably the most potent and dangerously attacking side left in the competition. To put it in perspective, we have 10 Europa League goals, they have 26!

Newcastle will need and will undoubtedly have a distinct game plan for tomorrow night. We can’t go there and give too much away, really going for it, otherwise we could easily get picked off three nil. What I expect is for us to focus on ball retention, with Pardew picking ‘technical’ players who, once in possession, will not squander it easily.

We will be on the back foot in Russia for a lot of the game, Anzhi will want goals and will want to come at us. Yes, Newcastle need an away goal but we must focus a collective effort on defending and frustrating Anzhi. AC Milan did remarkably well against Barcelona keeping a coherent back 4 line for 90 minutes, with the midfield marshalling passing channels between the half way line and their own 18 yard line. Newcastle will have to do this tomorrow, we have got to constantly press and cover, as the technical ability of the likes of Eto’o, Willian and Traore will be dazzling at times.

Traore will be just as threatening as Eto’o in pressing the Newcaste defense

When we are in possession, the onus will be on the counter attack. I can see us playing a risk free first half as we did in the Ukraine against Metalist and pushing slightly higher in the second half. Pardew will be well aware of how good Guus Hiddink’s Anzhi are and will want to give us a fighting chance of progression when we play the return leg a week on Thursday at St. James’.

Personnel:

We have taken 19 men to Russia, obvious first team players left on Tyneside are ineligible duo Debucy and Gouffran, although it comes as a surprise that Jonas and Cisse haven’t made the trip. Cisse is apparently suffering from illness, although nothing has been confirmed about Jonas as of yet.

With Ben Arfa reportedly only fit to play ’20 or 30 minutes’ tomorrow, it will be a shock if he starts. With him missing, Gouffran ineligible and taking in to account what Pardew has said about ‘technical’ players, I think we can expect to see Anita and Marveaux play a huge part of the game.

What both Anita and Marv excel in, is there technique. Both are very tidy, receive the ball, pass and move. In fact, if you watch Anita he will never do too much, using his intelligence to keep things flowing. Plus he has tackling ability and immense work rate. Marveaux on the other hand has a turn of pace about him, the ability to drift inside to collect the ball and a range of passing that we have seen in glimpses. We will be under an overwhelming amount of pressure from Anzhi and both of these players will come in very handy for ball retention.

Technical players like Vernon Anita will play a big role in the tie

One area of the pitch where personnel don’t seem as obvious is in the fullback positions. In our last European game, we saw Santon get a rest and with Debuchy being unavailable for selection, Haidara and Danny Simpson started. Simpson had a good game no doubt but Haidara excelled. In terms of technical ability and how Pardew wants to approach the game, it may be a very viable option to put Santon on the right, Haidara left back and keeping Simpson on the bench.

Potential 11:

Elliot

Santon Taylor Mbiwa Haidara

Anita Tiote Cabaye Marv

Sissoko

Shola

Subs: Alnwick Simpson Perch Bigi Obertan Ben Arfa Campbell (Gosling to travel, miss bench)

*I find it interesting that despite Colo being injured Mike Williamson has still failed to travel and make the bench, meaning Pardew has thought if a CB does get injured he’d rather have Perch there. He’s played 99 games for us, I wonder if Willo will ever get the century…

What’s going to happen?

I can see tomorrow being a very tough and tense game for the fans. What we have to do is stick to the game plan and remain patient. I’m sure there’ll be thousands of people watching in the city and thinking that we’re playing terrible, but if we can sit behind the ball and be patient with the counter, the tactics will be spot on. Even if we lose 1-0 it will be a completely different game in Newcastle.

I can see Anzhi scoring however. Ben Arfa’s introduction could be a big factor and I’d love to see him start. 1-1 would be a great result but whether Newcastle can get the away goal is a difficult one because I don’t see us getting too much service to our key players. Marveaux and Anita must look to unleash Sissoko where possible and Cabaye must provide some grit in midfield as Tiote is bound to struggle. In fact if he had another substandard game here, Pardew must seriously consider going with Perch (or Anita) against Stoke on Sunday.

It’s a big, big game for Shola too who must lead the line in Cisse’s absence. Shola can offer a lot as a support striker in 4-4-2 and can be used as an impact sub in the last twenty minutes of a game, when pressure around the opposition 18 box in needed, that is when he is at his most effective. I can see him labouring tomorrow and in all honesty I’m not expecting much, hopefully he’ll get the chance to take a penalty at least!

After Alan Shearer, Shola Ameobi is Newcastle’s leading European marksman

I just hope we don’t give away an early goal, get frustrated and lose our shape allowing us to lose the game 3-0 or by a score line that gives us no hope for next week.

Prediction:

A resolute defensive display and players tightly keeping their shape, producing a boring game from a Newcastle fan perspective, yet being effective enough to give us a chance next week. 1-1. Benny on to save the day…

Final Note:

The game is on ITV4 (Yes, finally the merry people at ITV have realised Newcastle ARE in Europe this season) and kick off is at 5pm.

I’ll not leave you with any horrible puns or clichés this week, I’m too nervous about the uncertainty that faces us tomorrow. Will Eto’o run riot? Will we keep our shape? Can we get that vital away goal? Anyway we moscow to Russia and give it our best at least…

Enjoy the game, comments welcome.

Feb 27 / Jamie Hardesty

The end of the road for Newcastle?

Newcastle take on Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow next Thursday, to play the first leg  tie of their Europa League, Last 16 clash. To win the competition outright, which would end a bleak run of 44 trophy-less years on Tyneside, Newcastle are currently valued at 22/1 by bookmakers.

Bookmakers firmly believe Newcastle’s European journey is set to end

Out of the final 16 teams, Newcastle are eleventh favourite to claim the winning prize, although do the bookmaker’s odds really reflect United’s chances?  Whilst Newcastle are odds on favourites to be eliminated in the forthcoming last 16 round, I think they have a good chance of progression and could cause problems to any of the ten times apparently more likely to lift to the cup, in Amsterdam, come May.

Last 16 Clashes:

First leg ties to be played March 7th, return legs a week later March 14th.

Anzhi v Newcastle

Viktoria Plzen v Fenerbahce

Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea

Stuttgart v Lazio

Basel v Zenit

Levante v Rubin Kazan

Spurs v Inter

Benefica v Bordeaux

Looking at the above ties, no teams induce overwhelming fear upon me. Newcastle overcame Chelsea recently, whilst coming close to beating Spurs of late too. For ten of those teams to have a better chance than us, we should embrace the underdog status and believe we can cause an upset because really, I have no doubts we could give any one of those teams a good go on our day.

The Favourites:

Chelsea have been made outright favourites to win the competition at 7/2. Last year’s Champions League winners have suffered a frustrating season so far and were unable to defend their crown, having been eliminated in the Champions league group stages. Rafa Benitez will be desperate to win a trophy during his tenure at the Bridge and will no doubt want to add another accolade to his CV – undoubtedly Chelsea are taking this competition very seriously.

Benitez is prioritising the Europa League to give Chelsea some success this season

Aside from Chelsea, other main contenders, all valued at 9/1 to claim the prize, are Inter Milan, Spurs, Zenit and Newcastle’s imminent opponent’s Anzhi. Obviously with Spurs being drawn against Inter, one of the heavyweights will not progress to the final 8 whilst Zenit showed they are far from impenetrable losing 3-1 at Anfield in their last European game, only to progress through the means of away goals.

Benefica are placed at 10/1 whilst Rubin Kazan have been given 14/1 odds and can be viewed as the competition’s dark horses, with both being able to boast Champions League pedigree themselves from recent years. Also ahead of Newcastle in the running are Levante and Lazio, both placed at 16/1, while Fenerbahce too have been granted a slightly greater chance of claiming silverware than Newcastle, with their odds priced at 20/1.

Anzhi are one of the big favourites to lift the cup,  whoever was to draw them would be odds on for elimination in this round, with their chances of winning the Europa League looking increasingly slimmer in turn. Therefore it is understandable why Newcastle have been placed so far down the pecking order.

However Newcastle have a very good chance of upsetting the odds and progressing to the quarter final.

Evening out the odds:

Despite next Thursday’s leg being played in Russia, Anzhi will not be playing in their home ground. The current instable political conditions within the Republic of Dagestan, where Anzhi’s home resides, has led to the venue of the game being changed to the Luzhniki Stadium where Spartak Moscow play their home games. One advantage for Newcastle therefore is that their opponents won’t be able to enjoy a home leg in its true form.

Plus, as Newcastle experienced with Metalist, Anzhi will not be as fresh and match fit as we should be due to the winter break Eastern European clubs have.

The tie:

Anzhi are of course favourites for a reason. They’re a good side, financially backed and boasting some technically immense players within their ranks.

Cause for concern: Sammy Eto’o alongside new signing Willian

Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra will both be familiar to followers of the Premier League but their biggest threats exist in the form of former Barcelona striker, Samuel Eto’o, and newly signed playmaker, formerly of Shaktar Donetsk, Willian. But then again, the £16 million rated Lacina Traore isn’t a bad squad player either!

If Newcastle were to progress then it would be a huge scalp for us and it would undoubtedly send a message to the rest of the teams left in the competition.

A crucial two weeks:

In little over two weeks time we’ll know if Newcastle were able to upset the odds and progress, getting ever closer to the ultimate dream of cup glory. Certainly it’s a little too early to get too carried away but if Newcastle can triumph as underdogs, their odds will surely be re-evaluated.

The end of the road for Newcastle? We’ll just see about that…

Feb 22 / Jamie Hardesty

The man in the spotlight: Rob Elliot

With a squad now boasting added depth and competition, Newcastle fans have been reassured that the team can now balance the demands of the Europa League with their Premier League campaign.  

Rob Elliot is the latest squad member to be relied upon in Tim Krul’s absence

Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy have slotted in to the side effortlessly, Yang Mapou Mbiwa is pushing Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini for a starting centre half role and Yoan Gouffran has added some much need pace to the attack. In fact, even youngster Massimo Haidara last night proved he can do a job when called upon.

Certainly Alan Pardew now has the opportunity to cover injured players or allow regular first teamers to be rested, as apparent with Davide Santon being left out last night.  Amongst the positives coming out of Newcastle’s 1-0 win in Khrakiv last night, the squad has been dealt a hammer blow in finding out that Tim Krul will be out for 6 weeks with an ankle injury.

Krul is a key component in the spine of the team and arguably one of the finest goalkeepers playing in the Premier League. Despite Newcastle’s squad being bolstered significantly, a huge question now looms over Krul’s backup, the former Notting Forrest man, Rob Elliot.

If Cheick Tiote picks up an injury, Anita can deputise. If Taylor can’t play 2 games in 4 days, Mbiwa can be relied on. If Jonas isn’t performing, Marveaux can come off the bench. Quite frankly, it is very unclear whether Elliot will be an effective solution to the problem which has now arisen. With Krul out of the side, it is a completely different conundrum for Alan Pardew than if one of his outfield players is unavailable.

Elliot must now come in and play consecutive games for the first time in his Newcastle career and worryingly, he is largely unproven so far on Tyneside.

What games will Krul miss?

Obviously Krul will miss Sunday’s six pointer against Southampton but it seems his injury could not come at a worse time, as Newcastle have 6 fixtures in March, including the Europa League last 16 tie against Anzhi.

Anzhi’s Samuel Eto’o will be looking to fire past Newcastle in next month’s last 16 clash

Games Krul may miss:

March

Southampton (H)
Swansea
Anzhi
Stoke (H)
Anzhi (H)
Wigan
City

April

Fulham(H)

With any luck however, Krul will be back for the most anticipated game of the season – Sunderland at home on April 13th.

Can Elliot do a job?

Rob Elliot isn’t Tim Krul, although that’s not to say he’s a bad goalkeeper. In fact, in the games Elliot has played this season he has performed well. Whilst the forthcoming Southampton fixture will be Elliot’s league debut, he has featured already in the first team this season.

Making three first team appearances overall, with 2 coming this season, Elliot’s Newcastle United career highlight will undoubtedly have been back in September, keeping a clean sheet and making a string of impressive saves in Newcastle’s maiden Group D Europa match away to Maritimo, in Portugal.

What about Harper?

Of course, I haven’t forgotten that veteran Steve Harper provides another option, although it seems Elliot has established himself as United’s number 2 and will get the nod Sunday.

Here’s hoping Elliot can perform when called upon and Tim Krul makes a swift recovery in the meantime.

Carryingcoals

Feb 14 / Jamie Hardesty

Metalist Preview: The end of Pardew’s cup team?

Pedal to the Metal: Newcastle Need to get off to a quick start

FC Metalist Kharkiv stand in the way of Newcastle progressing to the last 16 of the Europa League. Whilst the Ukrainian side have not played since December because of the winter break, they remain a team not to be underestimated having topped a Europa group which included Bayer Leverkusen.

Tonight Alan Pardew’s team selection is absolutely crucial. Newcastle play the away leg in Ukraine next Thursday, the 21st, and will then have a must win Premier League game against Southampton at home on Sunday the 24th.

The most logical approach to the three fixtures across the next 10 days would be to field the strongest available 11 in tonight’s tie. If Newcastle play like they did against Bordeaux at home, they could take advantage of a team far from full match fitness and build up a healthy lead before the return leg. This would then provide the opportunity to rest and leave players at home in England to prepare for the Southampton fixture.

Throughout Newcastle’s Europa campaign so far this season, I’ve referred to the players selected as Pardew’s ‘cup team’. First name stars have been rested and we’ve seen the inclusion of fringe and youth players making up the majority of the 11 selected.

Newcastle qualified for the knock out rounds using this approach, although with being eliminated from domestic cup competitions and having a league campaign to forget, the Europa League should now be focused on with much greater regard.

Certainly, Newcastle have a squad capable of going all the way in this competition and with relegation fears eased following an influx of new (French) players, prioritising this cup competition could salvage a disappointing campaign.

Instead of continuing with the ‘cup team’, it would be wiser to play our best  available team, giving us the best chance of qualifying and of being able to preserve players for the Southampton clash.

What is our current best available team?

With Ben Arfa still injured and Debuchy and Gouffran ineligible to play having already played for other teams in the competition this season, you could argue that we are already three players away from our best looking side.

HBA: Still absent but should be back for Southampton

Nevertheless there are many first team stars who I’d like to see selected over other squad members. Squad payers like Shola, WIllo, Obertan and Perch have all contributed to our Europa campaign but I’d rather see them included next week than in tonight’s fixture.

What is our best team? Well that’s up to Pardew and open to interpretation! Also you’ve got to consider formation…

Formation?

I’d approach this game in the same way we did Bordeaux at home when we won 3-0. In that game we played 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2 or Pardew’s most recent formation of choice, the 4-2-3-1, as I don’t think we need 2 holding midfielders for a game we should command.

What I’d like to see:

4:3:3

Krul

Santon Mbiwa Colo Haidara

Anita Tiote Cabaye

Sissoko Cisse Marveaux

I know Taylor has been brilliant recently but we have to be careful with not playing him too much and ensuring he’s kept fit due to his chronic injury problems. Mbiwa hasn’t come here to sit on the bench, he’s simply too good and should have no problem slotting in. Whilst I’ve also championed Jonas in recent weeks, he could do with a rest and Anita is a good footballer who can flourish in a 4-3-3. It would be especially interesting to see his interchanges with Santon playing so close to him.

Mbiwa is expected to get his first Newcastle start

With Gouffran unavailable Marveaux is the sensible starter and with Debuchy in the same situation, it would make sense to put Santon right back and give new boy Haidara a chance, he was outstanding for the reserves earlier this week.

Cisse needs to score goals and to do so he must get games, although there is always the option of Shola in the last twenty minutes. Obertan could also feature second half, although I’d like to start SIssoko in this game as he can get us goals and put this tie to bed early.

If we win this game, 2 or 3 nil then we can go to Kharkiv next week and start the likes of Williamson and Obertan and preserve some players for the Sunday and Southampton. I can’t stress how much I believe in approaching the fixtures this way!

What I expect to see:

I very much doubt we will see that team go out tonight, after all I’m not the manager! But I sincerely hope Pardew doesn’t go 4-4-2 with Shola starting upfront and Obertan and Jonas on the wings. We needs the likes of Cabaye and Sissoko in there from the off to really get a hold of this tie.

Maybe Pardew will opt for my chosen 4-3-3 but play Obertan where Sissoko is and Jonas where Anita is, it’s difficult to say.

I do expect Taylor to be rested though and I don’t think fans should read too much in to this, other than the fact we need to look after him properly. If Haidara does get a chance, it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in. Presuming Santon is right back, and not Simmo or Perch, he has a chance show what he can do in a position where many fans feel he should regularly play.

Do Metalist really have a chance?

Ok, so Metalist played Whitley Bay a few days ago and played a draw. They’re lacking match fitness and they’re 4th in the Ukranian equivalent of the Premier League. They’re little known and also sold their best player, Taison, in January (a player courted by Chelsea). So all in all, you’d think they’d pose little threat.

Although they do have a contingent of South American talent and they’ve caught the eye as an upcoming European force in the past 18 months. They topped their group, something Newcastle did not achieve and like any opposition, they must therefore be respected.

Cristaldo (not to be confused with Cristiano Ronaldo!) is the player to watch out for, with 8 goals in 15 appearances so far this season, the young Argentine forward has already shown Bayer Leverkusen what he can do in this competition.

Metalist forward Cristaldo

Final Note:

Tonight though, team selection is the most crucial variable for me.

Maybe Pardew’s ‘cup team’ will be no more and instead we’ll approach the game with much more intent and focus than we have done in the competition so far.

When we were (appallingly) dumped out of the FA Cup at Brighton, we played this team:

Elliot

Santon Willo Perch Tav

Anita Bigi Abeid Obertan

Ameobi1 Ameobi2

… Tonight, the time has come to take a cup tie as seriously as possible, using the best players available to win the game comfortably.

Prediction:

I’m going for a Newcastle win, with Marveaux to grab a goal. 2-0.

What do you think? Should Pardew play the strongest team available? Will Metalist cause an upset?

Comments Welcome.

Feb 11 / Jamie Hardesty

Joey Barton’s Gazza Rant

When Newcastle lifted the Championship trophy and reclaimed their Premier League status, they did so with the necessary personnel equipped with the character required to get out of the division. Seasoned stars like Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith and Joey Barton knew the task at hand and duly delivered, as Newcastle returned to the Premier League on first attempt.

The class of 2009 gained much respect and appreciation from the Geordie faithful, and the players who have moved on since have been welcomed back to St. James’ with positive, vociferous reception. Joey Barton however will surely not be granted the same applause.

Joey Barton: Getting the headlines for the wrong reasons

Indeed the man with an infamous ‘bad boy’ reputation has been missed on the field by large sections of supporters, remembering him for his crossing and play making exploits, although it now seems Joey will only be acknowledged for one reason; his twitter obsessions.

Having labelled former United midfielder, Didi Hamann, as a ‘maggot’ and someone he deemed as ‘a vastly inferior man’ less than a month ago, Barton has again taken to the social networking site to turn his attention to the case of much troubled, former Newcastle star Paul Gascoigne.

Loved and idolised by many Geordies, as well as the British public, Gazza will forever be remembered for his talents and tears in an England shirt. His skills and genuine enthusiasm for the game touched the hearts of the nation specifically during the 1990 World Cup whereby England were crushingly knocked out in the Semi-Finals.

Gazza: A National Treasure

Since retiring from the game however Gazza has battled with alcoholism, causing his health and well being to rapidly decline. Admitted to an American treatment centre one week ago, Gazza has taken vital steps to battle his addiction. Whilst Gazza has had much publicised problems in the past, he is notably struggling currently, leading momentum to gather in support being offered.

Joey Barton however has given his own unique take on the situation amongst the support. Whilst former England and current stars, such as Jack Wilshere, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, have donated money to cover the medical costs which Gazza cannot afford to pay, Barton has taken a much more cynical approach to the situation.

The nation has backed the gestures and support shown by stars who can afford to help Gazza’s situation and credit has been given where it is due.  ‘You used a dying man’s struggle to leverage your own image’ however was Barton’s response.

Barton voiced his sympathy for Gazza’s plight and sadness at the star’s current condition but his reaction to the support shown by England professionals is distasteful and unwanted in a time where thoughts should be strictly about Paul’s condition and nothing else.

Ironically Barton has taken a stance being aggrieved at players acting incorrectly and supposedly enhancing their own image, though it is Barton himself who will now rake in the headlines for his latest outburst.

For a man who believes so much in his own intellect, he’s done nothing but embarrass himself and detract attention from the real issue here – Gazza’s road to recovery.

Paul Gascoigne now needs all the support he can get, not off hand remarks that he will be ‘dead in 5 years time’. The gesture from England’s players, namely people who know Paul very well, is not a publicity stunt of any kind. Rather an act of kindness.

Grow up Joey, we’re bored of you now.