Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Man Less Likely

Carrying on from the previous post at which I looked at the players who could possibly don the number nine shirt in Tyneside, I would like to conclude with a few slightly more outlandish suggestions.
Without looking to deeply at these options there are a few outside chances that, whilst their quality is undeniable, are still only outside shots to make the move to the North-East.

Option #4 - The Outsiders

Robbie Keane
What the fans said:
Kevin Reeve - "Robbie Keane, he scores goals for fun and clearly not wanted at spurs"

The Irishman has made a loan move to Celtic and his time at Spurs seems set to end one way or another. Undoubted quality but has struggled to find form recently.

Attitude: 6/10
Availability: 7/10
Goalscoring: 8/10
Suitability: 9/10
Team Work: 6/10


Overall likelihood of signing: 7/10

Lukas Podolski
What the fans said:
Keith Morioka - "I love Podolski, I even have his FC Köln shirt, but he's been crap this year. Bad form, and at times lazy."

The Bayern Munich striker has been pushed out of the first team of the German Bundesliga outfit and while his quality would be welcome, his wages would not.

Attitude: 5/10
Availability: 7/10
Goalscoring: 7/10
Suitability: 6/10
Team Work: 5/10


Overall likelihood of signing: 6/10

Craig Bellamy
What the fans said:
Stephen McClenn - "Would have Bellamy back anytime..."

His move to Manchester City was more to do with Mark Hughes than anything the new owners at Eastlands were offering him. Will he be frozen out by Mancini? Is there really a way back to SJP?

Attitude: 2/10
Availability: 7/10
Goalscoring: 8/10
Suitability: 6/10
Team Work: 5/10

Overall likelihood of signing: 5.5/10


Editor's Choice
My personal choice would be Kevin Doyle. I've always been a fan of the Irishman and he plays the traditional striker role very well. Whilst he doesn't have exceptional pace what he does have he utilises well to beat defenders. Decent in the air and an confident finisher one-on-one he appears to be the complete striker.

What wins it for me is the value for money you get with the deal. I would expect the Wolves striker to be available for around £6 million in the summer which is a better price than I would expect to pay for any of the other players highlighted in this article.

He may not be a world class striker but it would be a refreshing change for the Toon to build slowly toward safety rather than go all-out on a big name signing who costs the Earth and fails to deliver the goods.

Here's to a better, possibly Irish, future.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Man Most Likely

Earlier this week the Newcastle United Supporters Trust posed an intriguing question to their fans through the medium of Facebook.

Who would you sign to wear the number nine shirt and lead the line if (or perhaps when) Newcastle return to the Premier League?

With nigh on 150 responses there were plenty of suggestions from the Newcastle faithful. There were the odd one or two that you just couldn't see happening, Sunderland's Darren Bent is one that just doesn't fit for numerous reasons. While another over ambitious fan suggested bringing back Oba Martins...no, just no.

On the other hand there were some interesting suggestions, and as promotion seems to be edging ever closer it seems to be just about the right time to get over confident and start taking things for granted.

So what are the options? I've highlighted a few and judged them on five different factors; attitude, availability, goal-scoring, suitability and team-work.

Option #1 - James Beattie
What the fans said:
Chris Gutierrez Smeaton
"I wouldn't give him the number 9, but what about james beattie next season?"

Matt Lightfoot
"Either James Beattie from Stoke or Ricky Lambert from Southampton."

Kevin Reeve
"Not james beattie he'd be on the bigg market every neet!!"

A proven goalscorer who has mountains of Premier League experience and over a hundred goals to his name. But perhaps it's his availability that makes him such an intriguing target, after an alleged fall-out with Stoke boss Tony Pulis.

Whilst his form faltered at Everton and he isn't exactly setting the world alight at his current club, when Beattie has had regular games he has supplied regular goals. In 235 games at Southampton he produced 76 goals and an even more productive spell at Sheffield United saw 34 goals in just 65 games for the club.

However he may be a little too old for Hughton as he turns 32 on Saturday. Hughton seems keen on bringing in the next generation of Newcastle stars and would probably pass on the opportunity of signing the former England international.

Attitude: 6/10
Availa
bility: 8/10
Goalscoring: 7/10
Suitability: 6/10
Team Work: 6/10


Overall likelihood of signing: 6.5/10

Option #2 - Kevin Doyle
What the fans said:
Richard Jackson
"Wolves go down n I'd buy kevin doyle in a shot, proven top league goal scorer!"

Mark Wallace
"I quite like Doyle but we need a 20 goal man, don't think that's him."


Steven Mole
"Kevin Doyle. Very much doubt we can afford any of these anyway. Hughton's not really a big draw for top players..."

The young Irishman shot to fame with Reading after his £78k move from Irish side Cork City. His goals propelled the Berkshire side into the Premier League and a successful first season in the top flight saw Doyle bag a respectable thirteen goals.

An injury hit second season restricted Doyle to just six goals the following year and as his goals dried up so did Reading's chances of survival. Relegation back to the Championship followed and Doyle rediscovered his scoring form that had won promotion for the R's. However his eighteen goals came in vein as his side finished fourth and failed to progress past the semi-finals of the play-offs.

Doyle has always looked capable of playing in the top flight and has earned rave reviews from current manager Mick McCarthy since his summer move to Wolverhampton Wanderers. At twenty-six years old he would appear to have his best days ahead of him but his availability may be an issue. Whilst he would likely be affordable, any possible transfer hangs on the fortunes of Wolves as relegation to the Championship would all-but force the midlands club into a sale should any offer be received.

Attitude: 9/10
Availability: 5/10
Goalscoring: 7/10
Suitability: 8/10
Team Work: 8/10

Overall likelihood of signing: 7.5/10

Option #3 - Carlton Cole
What the fans said:
Glen Perryman
"Newcastle have the chance to buy some quality from the 3 teams going down. I would love to see Carlton Cole as No.9..."

Ash Nufc Walker
"I'm with Glen, Carlton Cole would be a top signing!"

The former Chelsea striker struggled to find his form after his move to West Ham but the arrival of Italian boss Gianfranco Zola changed the striker's fortunes. Last season Cole recorded a career-high twelve goals and his improved form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

Despite an injury hit year Cole has managed to notch nine goals in just twenty appearances and is on course to surpass the his tally for the previous year. However his style of play and the option he gives is a role already filled at the club by the likes of Andy Carroll, Shola Ameobi and Nile Ranger and he may not be the type of player Hughton is after.

West Ham's new owners are keen to set the club up on a stable financial footing and selling Cole may be a good way to do this, quickly. However his availability, much like Doyle's, will vary dependent on the league his club find themselves in next season. His manager will be unwilling to sell and the highly rated hit man, who is reported to be courted by arsenal, will not come cheap.

Attitude: 8/10
Availability: 5/10
Goalscoring: 6/10
Suitability: 3/10
Team Work: 8/10

Overall likelihood of signing: 6/10

Tomorrow I'll be taking a look at a few outside chances before deciding on the man I think is most likely to pull up a pew at SJP.

Watch this space.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Newcastle Gambling On Promotion?

Just as us Toon fans start to get accustomed to being a successful club with secure finances and a stable squad news comes to knock us off our perch.

The News of the World reported on Sunday that owner Mike Ashley had to make an emergency £25 million loan to Newcastle to keep the club running.

The financial constraints placed on the club by the large wage bill and reduced turnover meant the loan was a necessity to keep the club operational until the end of the season.

That's understandable enough but when you read on in the article I get a terrifying sense of de ja vu back to Freddy Shepherd's time at the club. Hearing that the loan means that money still to come in from the summer sales of Obafemi Martins, Damien Duff and Sebastien Bassong and the £11 million parachute payment from the Premier League is effectively spent already.

Now it's not all bad, the loan also allowed Hughton to bring in four permanent signing in January along with two loan signings. These were all necessary to keep up the promotion push towards the Premier League and a return to the top flight would almost instantly solve the club's money issues.

The club would make £40 million from television money alone and the wage bill, which has been slashed this season, may be extravagant for a Championship club but will be more than manageable in the Premier League.

However you can't help but feel all our eggs have been placed in the promotion basket. What happens if we don't make it back at the first time of asking? Will Ashley continue to make multi-million pound interest free loans to the club? I doubt he could even if he wanted to.

So don't laugh too hard at the likes of Portsmouth and Crystal Palace as we revel in our 'Champions elect' tag as if it doesn't all work out we could be sitting in their [court] seat very soon.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

It's Good To Be Home

After that, ahem, slip-up at Derby and a salvaged point at Swansea it feels wonderful to return to SJP and get back to winning ways.

As you undoubtedly are aware, my educated reader, Newcastle are the only club in the football league to still have an unbeaten home record this season and just recently it's got even better. In our last four home games we've racked up a maximum twelve points, an outstanding fourteen goals and we've conceded just two.

Special praise must go to Danish super striker, Peter Lovenkrands. The lad has managed to bag four goals in those four games but has only actually been on the pitch for 172 minutes. That's an average of a goal every 43 minutes. An outstanding spell of form underlined when he found the net after just three minutes against Preston on Saturday.

Let's hope the injury that forced him off the pitch after just 15 minutes of the same game isn't too serious. His recent form in front of goal has helped push us back to the top of the league, after the briefest of flirtations with second place.

The bad news is after two games at home we have to go away again next weekend. Watford the destination and the mid-table side don't have the worst of records at Vicarage Road. But it's not the hosts record that concerns me, it's the visitors.

A severe case of travel sickness has seen the Toon army fail to pick up victory away from home since 9th December. Some seven games ago. It's hard to put your finger on the problem, we have scored an acceptable seven goals and also picked up two clean sheets.

It's not good enough for title challengers but it's also not as bad as you might expect. Failure to win against ten men at Leicester stands out, as does the hammering received at Pride Park. But in the same period we've taken points off Barnsley, Sheffield United and Swansea who are far from walkovers.

Perhaps it's just one of those runs where things don't quite work out for you. A goal here, a block there and it could change the whole complexion the streak. If it carries on much longer, we may have a problem but as long as our home form props us up, we're OK.

So it's off to Watford, and whilst their more than respectable home record stands as it does (W7, D4, L3) there's just a feeling in my waters that it's about time we broke our duck. After all they have got to travel to Ipswich on Tuesday whereas we get an unprecedented week between fixtures.

Oh, and if I am wrong we'll be back in Toon the following week, so the pain shouldn't last too long.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It's Just Not Cricket...Or Is It?

It seems global sporting franchises are the order of the day and cricket looks set to be the next sport to succumb to the far east money men as both Manchester City and Hampshire C.C.C. take the first bold steps to World domination.

But, is there room for another club to muscle in on the action? England cricketer Graeme Swann certainly hopes so. The England spin bowler is an avid follower of the Toon army and is more than keen on the idea of playing for a Newcastle United cricket team in the money-spinning Indian Premier League.

The Northampton born Toon fan has heard the news that Manchester City are interested in partnering with an IPL franchise and has expressed his interest in being a part of a Newcastle team.

Swann told The Sun, "It would be great. I'd happily play cricket for Newcastle United. It can't be Sunderland - they will be bankrupt soon like the rest of them!"

Graeme Swann is just part of a strong contingent of Newcastle fans in the England Test Team, along with fast bowler Graeme Onions and former international Steven Harmisson. Whilst the banter is fierce with Twenty20 captain Paul Collingwood, who comes from Wearside and supports fierce rivals Sunderland.

Next year the IPL competition expands from eight to ten teams and will leave room for another outfit to take to the field. Any chance Ashley follows the oldest game of them all?

Friday, 12 February 2010

Ringing The Changes

With Blogger smashing through the barriers of technology once again, the bright-eyed amongst you will have noticed a few changes to B&WT over the past week or so.

With the addition of some new content I have introduced seven new pages that will provide more complete coverage of Newcastle United.

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ABOUT
First of there is a page that will introduce newcomers to the blog and let those of you who don't already know me, find out a little about who I am.

THE CLUB
Next we have an introduction to the club with a little about the history and evolution of our beloved Newcastle United. I've also included a few paragraphs about the history of our famous badge and magnificent St. James' Park stadium.

SQUAD
The next addition is a full list of the current managerial and playing staff. Simples.

STATS
The stats page aims to keep you up-to-date with all the important facts and figures for the anoraks amongst you. You know who you are.

Just click on the Stats tab and you will be taken to a page where you can choose to view either the current season stats or the all-time club records.

TOONPEDIA
This page may take some time to get going and it will most likely never be complete but I believe it's something for real Toon fans to enjoy.

I will compile an online Newcastle United encyclopedia with everything from player profiles to classic match reports and articles on important moments in the history of the club. However it must be noted this is a work in progress and will be updated as regularly as possible.

CONTACT
Do you really need this explaining? Contact details for myself and the club. 'Nuff said.

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I hope these additions are welcomed and appreciated and please feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment as to what you would like to see on the blog in the future. Particularly if you have anything specific you would like to suggest for the Toonpedia section.

HTL.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Split Loyalties

With the World Cup fast approaching I've taken up a vital position on another blog. Fear not, my commitment to this glorious online publication will not falter.

My dedication is showcased in the first of the regular Player Focus pieces I shall be providing for World Cup Latest. As I picked the one Newcastle player that will be in South Africa this summer, pacy winger Jonas Gutierrez.

Check it out here. I like it. I think you might too.

Friday, 5 February 2010

No Number Nine? No Problem.

Chris Hughton has confirmed that the famous Newcastle number nine shirt will remain vacant for the rest of the season.

The Toon chief has reaffirmed the comments made by new signing Leon Best that the famous jersey must be earned by a member of the Newcastle squad.

"I want somebody to earn the right to be Newcastle’s No 9." Hughton told The Times, "I don’t want to suggest that the strikers here aren’t worthy of it because each of them has a real strong value."

The decision proves just how much Hughton understands the club and it's fans. The manager knew questions would be asked as to why none of the five strikers at the club has been awarded the coveted number and moved to assure fans not to panic.

Hughton also underlined his hard work ethic and desire to build a squad by taking the decision to stretch his transfer window cash to secure four permanent signings in January. The usual tactic to splash out on one big name as a quick fix was clearly never going to be a part of Hughton's transfer system.

Doubts were raised as to how much (if any) money would be made available to Hughton and how he would spend it, but the Newcastle boss took his time and refused to be drawn into a bidding war for Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford.

Hughton is fast becoming a well respected man in football, not just for his side's on field success but also for the way he has conducted himself through tough times on Tyneside.

Now with his first trip into the crazy world of transfers, he seems to have come out the other side unscathed, is there anything this man can't handle?