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Will Benitez provide the Yang to Newcastle United’s Yin?

May 29th, 2016 | No Comments |

Rafa Benítez and Vicente del Bosque
Benítez showing his own coaching app to Vicente del Bosque
Presuming you are Newcastle United fan, or a football fan of some sort at least as you are reading this football blog, you’ll know the usual clichés about Newcastle United – passionate, impulsive, living in the moment and pretty much the exact opposite of new(ish) manager, Rafael Benitez. Words like ‘analytical,’ ‘calculating’ and ‘strategic’ cling to the systematic Spaniard like barnacles to a dredger.

I say all that having been an admirer since I used to visit friends in Valencia when he was manager there. I took in several games at the Mestalla, where he broke the stranglehold of the Spanish big two. In three years there between 2001-4, he won two La Ligas and a UEFA Cup. In those days before he was snapped up by Liverpool, I fancied him as a worthy successor to Bobby Robson when he retired. Thanks largely to Robson we were big club in the Champion’s League and getting a manager of Benítez’s calibre as a successor was not a unreasonable expectation in those days. However, I certainly couldn’t have predicted him coming twelve years later under the current circumstances. An obsessive analyst since his days as a young footballer, when he meticulously analysed his own play, he is so scrupulous and methodical, if he hadn’t had so much success as a manager, he might well have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (more…)


Is it springtime for Rafa and Newcastle?

March 14th, 2016 | 165 Comments |

Rafa joins the Tyneside madness!
Rafa joins the Tyneside madness!
As relegation struggling Newcastle United face Leicester City at this evening at the King Power stadium, all eyes will be on new manager, Rafael Benitez, and what he can do to turn things around.

Although starting against the League leaders riding a wave is tough, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City are themselves a testament of what can be achieved against the odds, both at the bottom and the top of the Premier League. Benitez probably won’t need any reminders after what he achieved with Valencia in La Liga, and Liverpool in the Champions League. Though many have commented that Benitez’s record with subsequent clubs hasn’t been quite as good, he still managed to win five big trophies with Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli, including a Europa League and World Club Cup. As for Real Madrid, he never got a chance. Hence, one could hardly describe Rafa’s post Liverpool period as wilderness years anyway. (more…)


Will McLaren be sacked after Chelsea game?

February 11th, 2016 | 77 Comments |

Is McLaren's Newcastle future doomed?
Is McLaren’s Newcastle future doomed?
Could it be that Steve McLaren’s future depends on what happens on Saturday? After we play Chelsea we have 17 days without a game and that might be the ideal time to change managers.

Of all the things Ashley’s bad at when it comes to running a football club – and there are many – one of his worst is his management of managers. His reluctance to change managers at the drop of a hat is not a bad thing in itself, but only if you have the right manager in the first place and, with the possible exception of Chris Hughton, I’d argue he hasn’t picked the right manager for Newcastle United since he bought the club.

Evidence?

Well, in the seven seasons we’ve been in the Premier League since Ashley bought the club, our average finishing position has been 12.57 (I’ve not counted the season in the Championship) and in the seven seasons prior to Ashley buying the club our average finishing position was 8.14. That might not sound like a huge difference but before Ashley we were, on average, a mid-table team who sometimes flirted with Europe whereas now we are, on average, a mid-table team who sometimes flirts with relegation. And of course in 2008-2009 we did more than merely flirt with relegation – we kissed it, fondled it and knocked it up behind the bike sheds. (more…)


A chance for Toon to forget the past in their next five games?

November 20th, 2015 | 278 Comments |

Newcastle United's next five opponents
Newcastle United’s next five opponents
Looking forward to Newcastle United’s next five league games, against Leicester, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively, usually one would be forgiven for thinking that the Magpies should have a good chance in three of those games, against two smaller sides and another troubled giant in Aston Villa. One would also be forgiven for thinking that the games against Tottenham and Liverpool would be the toughest. However, looking at things more closely, it might not be that simple.

For example, Newcastle’s next opponents at SJP this Saturday, Leicester are currently the highest of our next five opponents at 3rd in the League at the time of writing this, and are alone in this group in having won their last three in a row.

After that we have travel to London to meet Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace in 8th, who are still two places above Liverpool, and will be our opponents after Crystal Palace, with Tottenham coming after that and finally, Aston Villa. Hence the relative prestige of the teams isn’t necessarily reflected in terms of recent form. (more…)


Newcastle United, Mike Ashley and eternal recurrence

July 1st, 2015 | 335 Comments |

Steve McClaren
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
Let us think this thought in its most terrible form: existence as it is, without meaning or aim, and yet recurring inevitably, without any finale in nothingness: “eternal recurrence.”

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Will to Power

I quoted the great proto-existentialist philosopher there because it seems such a perfect summary of all that Mike Ashley has to offer Newcastle United fans, in the past, the present and in the future; existence as it is, without meaning or aim, and yet recurring inevitably This includes the humiliation of being lied to and treated as fools on a regular basis, and paying hundreds of pounds for the privilege in many cases. Mike Ashley’s latest alleged overhaul is just as superficial and dishonest as the previous ones, which is why everything coming out of the club must be so strictly controlled. In his hubris, Ashley still hasn’t learned that a Premier League club the size of Newcastle United has to be like Rolls Royce, not Sports Direct. The faces might be different, but the thinking which has taken Newcastle United nowhere is still the same, recurring inevitably. (more…)