Sunday, 31 January 2010

Playing Like Champions

An uninspiring performance against Palace was followed by nothing more than a run around against Leicester as Newcastle extended their lead at the top of the Championship to four points.

By all accounts the three points picked up against the Eagles on Wednesday night was something of an undeserved victory, as the visitors attempted to play their way out of their devastating off-field problems. Palace dropped into administration before the game picking up an automatic ten-point deduction that seemed to light a fire in the belly of the squad.

Constantly threatening on the attack meant debutant Mike Williamson earned his Man of the Match award, regularly being called into action. Whilst fellow new-boy Wayne Routledge was able to make his mark, setting up Nile Ranger to seal the game in injury time.

Moving to the weekend and after Forest lost and West Brom, despite winning, found themselves five points back off the pace, the Magpies had the chance to push comfortably clear of the chasing pack. However a trip to the Walkers was never a guaranteed points winner and the hosts always looked the most likely to take three points.

Before the game Hughton may have taken a point back to SJP but when the home side were reduced to ten men with less than half-an-hour on the clock I expected the team to go for the throat and finish of City.

But it wasn't to be, with Leicester looking more than comfortable for the majority of the match and Newcastle looking toothless, aside from the odd offside goal.

Hughton's decision to leave both Lovenkrands and Jonas on the bench suggest he was more than happy to settle for a point as the introduction of either would've provided more of a threat than the increasingly useless Fabrice Pancrate.

However you can't always be putting four past Ipswich or scoring last minute winners and when you look at it objectively we are in a better position than we were at the start of the weekend, just not quite as good as it could've been.

Sometimes you've got to win ugly, it's what champions do.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Window Watch:
Routledge Signs From QPR, A Perfect Ten?

Just a few hours ago during an early morning sport chat I bemoaned the lack of a right winger at SJP, hours later we sign Wayne Routledge from QPR.

The club broke the surprising news on their official website and whilst the fee is undisclosed they have confirmed the former Spurs and Crystal Palace player has commited to a three-and-a-half year deal and will wear the number ten shirt.

Routledge is a player I've always liked, since his impressive season in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and whilst he hasn't pushed on to become the star some expected he is a perfect fit for the Toon.

Danny Guthrie has filled the right midfield role so far this season but is more suited to a central role which has lead to a lack of danger down the flank.

The attacking instincts of Routedge should bring goals and his form this season has brought a return of two goals and eight assists for QPR and may end the striker hunt Hughton was apparently on.

In other news, former loanees Marlon Harewood and Zurab Khizanishvilli will not be returning to the club after the former suffered an injury setback and the later opted for a move to the Madejski and a Reading loan spell.

And finally the drawn out transfer of Mike Williamson seems to be nearing an end with much of the media reporting the Pompey defender to be within hours of securing a move to the Toon.

Monday, 25 January 2010

My Name Is Jack Bauer, Howay The Lads

This video is not only a cracking piece of emotionally inspiring work but it also features one of the most famous celebrity fans the Toon have ever had.

When he's not too busy saving the world Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland from 24) clearly loves nothing more than to watch the Toon, unfortunately for him he chose a devastating last day defeat at Villa Park. Catch 'Jack' just eight seconds into the video.

Can't win 'em all.

P.S Watch the whole thing it's worth it. It's reaffirmed my love for Smudge.

We Were Never Gonna Win It Anyway

So, it's Monday morning and yes the weekend's football didn't go exactly to plan but let's not panic just too much.

Now you may expect the same old 'It's only the cup' and 'We can focus on the league' response to come out of my mouth...and you'd be exactly right.

Don't get me wrong, I love the FA Cup, I love a cup run and I particularly love clubs from outside the Premiership doing well in the cup. Unfortunately it wasn't to be for us but let's take an objective look at what we've missed out on.

A trip to Reading - It's not exactly Stamford Bridge is it? We've already got one of those to squeeze into a random midweek the last thing we need is to have to do it twice.

Money - There'll be plenty more if we get promotion back to the top flight.

The 'Magic of the Cup' - Let's see how 'magic' WBA think it is when they have to squeeze three fixtures into a week whilst their promotion rivals can have a nice long rest in between league games.

Yes the cup is a nice distraction when you're having a run but let's pull all the cliches out of the bag and focus on getting promotion.

A three point lead with a game-in-hand? Let's make the most of it.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Window Watch:
Money Matters Delay Williamson Move

More transfer troubles have arisen over the possible move of Portsmouth defender Mike Williamson to SJP.

First Jermaine Beckford's rumoured move disappeared, and then Matthew Killgallon ended up on the wrong side of the river at Sunderland.

But this is the most perplexing story of the lot and it seems we're not to blame. No, instead it's that dodgy accountant at crisis club Portsmouth.

According to Sky Sports News, Williamson has undergone a medical and agreed personal terms with the Toon but the move has been delayed from the Fratton Park end.

Pompey agreed a fee of just under a million pounds with Newcastle but the deal would see the south coast club owing Williamson's former club, Watford around £1.1m.

Therefore any move will leave penniless Portsmouth hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

At the moment the news is that the transfer is delayed but I can only see this being resolved in one of two ways.

1. Pompey ask for a higher price, we refuse, deal cancelled.

2. Pompey ask for a higher price, we refuse claiming a price was already agreed, force the transfer through.

An almost laughable situation but being a Newcastle fan means very little surprises me and I actually feel a little sympathy for the Pompey faithful.

Still, sooner them than us, eh?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Window Watch:
Simpson Set For Permanent Move

Sky Sports News report that the Toon and Manchester United have agreed a permanent deal for full-back Danny Simpson.

The twenty-three year old has had a successful loan spell at the club this season with 20 appearances in the Newcastle first team, before returning to Manchester on Tuesday.

Reports claim personal terms have been agreed by both club and player and once Simpson completes a medical he is expected to sign a two-and-a-half year deal.

The youngster had seen off competition from Ryan Taylor to make the right-back position his own this season and has been a vital part of the tightest defence in the Championship.

Elsewhere Nottingham Forest are reported to have knocked back a bid for midfielder James Perch. Assistant Manager Colin Calderwood obviously knows the player from his time with Forest but it is unlikely the Reds will sell on the cheap to one of their main promotion rivals.

Forest boss Billy Davies dismissed the offer out of hand, saying, "We are looking to build a squad at the City Ground rather than dismantle one and James is not leaving.

"Newcastle's offer for someone we value so highly as a player and an individual was derisory and I'm disappointed it made it into the public domain."

And finally, Toon target Jermaine Beckford is now being linked with a move to Everton. Personally this is a non-starter for me, Moyes is an astute man and I'm sure he can find a much more suitable striker to fire Everton back towards Europe than Beckford.

In fact the more I think about Beckford's decision to withdraw his transfer request the more I think perhaps we knocked him back. Lovenkrands is scoring, Shola is fit and Carroll is always a threat at this level.

With goals coming from the middle of the park too, do we really need another striker?

Perhaps one more on loan just to sure things up. Harewood did a decent job but if he was coming back I would've expected it to have happened by now. My choice would be to make a cheeky offer for James Beattie, who is apparently not on the best terms with Tony Pulis at Stoke.

A loan until the end of the season would bring in a proven goalscorer and, in my opinion, a quality player. Just the boost we need to kick on to the end of the season.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Three Stripes And You're Out

After fourteen years with Adidas it has today been officially confirmed that Puma will become our official kit maker from next year.

I have nothing against Puma, their kits are fine and I particularly like the goalkeeper kits they have produced for Spurs this year.

For me, the key point of this story is the decision, taken by Adidas, to end their partnership with the club. Citing the change in fortunes as a major reason and stating that they had become disillusioned with the future of the club.

Adidas has, in my time as a Newcastle fan, been synonymous with the club and I will miss the iconic three stripes running down our sleeves. On the other hand only a two year deal has been agreed so perhaps promotion, survival and a new owner may see the return of the famous three stripes to Barrack Road.

So we've lost our kit maker, our heroes (Keegan and Shearer) and our beloved St. James' and it's all because of one man.

Thanks Mike, anything else you can take from us?

P.S Northern Rock have extended their sponsorship of the club for another four years. God only knows what happened to the deal signed with Carling a couple of seasons ago.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Our Thoughts Go To Peter Lovenkrands

Sad news from SJP today that hat-trick hero Peter Lovenkrands' has suffered the loss of his father.

Little details have been released about this sad event and Peter has understandably returned to Denmark and asked for privacy.

Our thoughts go to Peter and his family.

Friday, 15 January 2010

It's Been A While

Punish me. Just two days short of an embarrasing four month blog-less streak. How could I let this happen?

My sincerest apologies go out to you all. So what have I missed?

OK, it went a little something like this, strong start to the season, 4-0 over Roy Keane's Ipswich (get in), Nolan on fire, Hughton's permanent appointment, Ashley doesn't sell, Jose Enrique on fire, eight wins in a row, Rookie Ranger's first goal, Ashley re-names St. James', disappointment in the League Cup, Colo finds his level, cruised past the Smoggies, ten point lead, standard poor Christmas, linked to Beckford, linked to Kilgallon, Beckford wants to come, Kilgallon not so much, Lovenkrands hat-trick and now the biggest game of the season.

Monday night brings about a possibly Championship winning game. Three points over West Brom won't hand us the title, especially with Forest, Leicester and Cardiff looking ever so hungry for promotion, but it will hand us a nine point lead over (arguably) the strongest opposition in the league.

I would never write off West Brom, or anyone for that matter, and it would be far from exceptional for us to throw away a big lead, after all, we have done it before.

But with the new-found spirit amongst the team and Hughton's wizard-like ability to stop the players being affected by anything off the pitch I really would back us to see it through.

Their only appears to be one problem and that is the constant fear of an open transfer window.

Bolton's link with Carroll doesn't scare me to much as he's not been the commanding force many had expected, but I would still rather keep him than sell him. Harewood's exit hasn't left us desperate for striking options as Lovenkrands and Ameobi have started to assert themselves in this division but Ranger hasn't quite found his feet and if another striker left they would have to be replaced.

Beckford could be the man to come in, and my friend's in the know tell me it's a done deal, but will he cut it in the Prem? Better the devil you know and all that.

The players I would hate to lose would be any of the strong spine running through the side; Harper, S.Taylor, Nolan, Smith or Ameobi. I'm sure it would take a big bid to pry them away from the club, but in the current climate and under the current regieme, money talks.

There's still a terrifyingly long way to go until the end of the season and pretty much anything could, and probably will, still happen.

Watch this space, I'm back on the case.