In the misery and inertia of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United, it is good to try and look for the flowers in the cracks of the concrete from time to time to keep oneself sane.
With this in mind, I could have written about younger players like Ayoze Perez, Rolando Aarons etc but then I thought at least we have seen them play in black and white, albeit briefly in Aarons’ case. On the other hand, two more of United’s biggest hopes the the future haven’t been seen at all in Magpie colours. They are the two forgotten men of Newcastle United, 21 year old centre back, Jamaal Lascelles and 24 year old goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who have returned from their loan season at Nottingham Forest.
Signed a season ago from the Tricky Trees for an undisclosed fee which was said to be £6.5 million, the pair were immediately loaned back and forgotten about by many on Tyneside. They are both regarded as very promising players though, and as Alan Pardew used to be fond of saying, ‘It will be like two new signings.’ (more…)
By his own admission, Rangers’ current caretaker head coach, Kenny McDowall, has been told not only that he has no say in the players they sign, but also that he will only have a limited input into team selection too.
According to McDowall himself, he has been ordered by Mike Ashley and his henchman at Rangers, Derek Llambias, to play ALL of the five new Rangers players (Vuckic, Ferguson, Bigirimana, Streete and Mbabu) on loan from Newcastle. Speaking in an interview at Rangers’ Murray Park training centre, McDowall, who wants to leave at the end of the season said:
“When I was given the job I was told players incoming and outgoing wouldn’t be my responsibility. I take the team and coach the team and I am more than happy to get on with it.”
Which is hardly news to both Rangers and Newcastle United fans. However when pressed on whether he was obliged to play them, he dropped his bombshell, replying:
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester. Date: Sat 7th Dec, 2013. Kick off: 12.45pm. Referee: Andre Marriner. UK TV: BT Sport.
Well both teams go into this one still reeling from defeats in midweek.
For the Magpies, Alan Pardew’s four game winning streak was brought to a shuddering halt after a tactical masterclass in adversity from Swansea’s Michael Laudrup. After losing their third striker Alvaro Vazquez to a groin strain, Laudrup reacted by bringing on Nathan Dyer and using Jonjo Shelvey in a so called ‘false nine’ role. They went on to transform the game with a goal each, with Shelvey also forcing Mathieu Debuchy into scoring an own goal for a 3-0 defeat.
Newcastle United are still roughly where they should be in the league though, seventh. Meanwhile, Manchester United certainly aren’t after their midweek defeat to Everton. The Red Devils thought they’d try a grumpy Glaswegian as manager for a change, but now find themselves languishing two places below the Magpies in ninth place with only six wins from their fourteen Premier League games so far. (more…)
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle. Date: Sat 30th Nov, 2013. Kick off: 5.30pm. Referee: Phil Dowd. UK TV: Sky Sports 1.
Could we be celebrating four wins in a row this evening?
If the Magpies do manage to wrestle a juicy three point worm from the Throstles at tea time, it would be the first first time they have managed such a feat since March and April of 2012. Back then, they beat Norwich, this evening’s opponents, Liverpool, Swansea, Bolton and finally Stoke in a 6 match winning run, before finally succumbing to a 4-0 hammering at Wigan.
Although that was in the Spring before last, the side had an unseasonal 4-3-2-1 ‘Christmas Tree’ formation with a potent ‘delta force’ of Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa up front. During the West Brom game in that run I jokingly referred to Alan Pardew as ‘Alan Pardiola.’ The Guardian’s North East football correspondent, Louise Taylor, actually took me seriously and the phrase stuck amongst spme fans for a while. (more…)
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle. Date: Sat 23rd Nov, 2013. Kick off: 3.00pm. Referee: Mike Dean. UK TV: None.
Chris Hughton’s Norwich City seem to be a team in transition at the moment.
Despite bringing in quite a few new players in the last transfer window and very creditable 11th and 12th placed finishes in their last two campaigns, they still have a very modest squad by Premier League standards. Both Hughton’s predecessor Paul Lambert and Hughton himself punched well above their weight, so much so that some Norwich fans have become rather unrealistic about the squad’s real strength, with some ingrates even calling for Hughton’s sacking when, for the first time since they were promoted, they were about where they should have been, third or fourth from the bottom of the table.
Quite a bit if this has probably been due to the two managers difference in approach. Whilst Hughton’s predessor Paul Lambert would have a go, I think it could be said Hughton’s approach to get Norwich punching above their weight in the League was somewhat more cautious and ‘defensive’ in his first season at Carrow Road, albeit with very similar results in the League for the two managers. (more…)
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle. Date: Sun 9th Nov, 2013. Kick off: 12.00 noon. Referee: Chris Foy. UK TV: Sky Sports 1.
Well this one will certainly test the commitment of our away fans.
A 12.00 noon kick off down in the big smoke should see a couple of thousand Geordies or so waking up to pitch darkness with a long dawn trek before them. Something which isn’t an issue for myself as being a Geordie in North London, Arsenal’s stadium is but a leisurely walk away and White Hart Lane a mere tube or mini-cab ride away.
Of course, the Magpies will probably go into this one with more confidence than usual, having just beaten another London giant 2-0. but can they repeat that performance away from home?
Well it could be very difficult. Although Tottenham have a derisory amount of goals for a team who are currently fourth in table (only 9 in 10 games), the other side is that they have been as tight as a gnat’s chuff at the back, only letting in 5 goals. This is the second lowest in the Premier League behind Southampton’s even more miserly 4 goals conceeded. In their 17 games in all competitions this season, they have kept 13 clean sheets. Hence, they could be VERY tough to break down and unlike Chelsea they will also have home advantage of course.
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle. Date: Sat 2nd Nov, 2013. Kick off: 12.45pm. Referee: Lee Mason. UK TV: BT Sport.
Of course, the Chelsea Pensioners will be huge favourites for this one, just as the Manchester Citizens were in Wednesday evening’s League Cup clash. However the Magpies weren’t too shabby at all in that one for the first hour or so and held the Citizens to a 0-0 draw at the final whistle, finally succumbing in extra time. There’s no extra time today so will the Magpies be able to keep a clean sheet against moneybags Chelsea this time?
Meanwhile off the pitch, there has been talk of another protest, this time at Mike Ashley’s banning of the biggest local media house from the St James’ Park media facilities. After that, they also banned fans organisation the Newcastle United Supporters Trust from the club’s “Fan Forum.” This was allegedly for having the cheek to take their own minutes of the meeting, though we all know, it that it was really for their involvement the recent march before the Liverpool gane back on the 19th October. Fans have been urged to take one of NCJ media’s local titles, The Chronic, the Journal or the Sunday Stun to the game and wave it at Ashley and his acolytes in the director’s box just before the kick off. (more…)