Tuesday, 27 April 2010

New Season Sales

This summer contains a major tournament or what many professional footballers refer to as a 'shop window', so let's hope Chris Hughton's got his chequebook handy.

The rumour mill has started already with Hughton linked to a move for long term target
Erik Huseklepp, a star for Norwegian side SK Brann. Let's hope the rumours are true and we get our shopping done early.

It is well known that careers can be built on a good couple of games at a major tournament, particularly the World Cup. Every club manager in the world will be watching the tournament hoping to pick a diamond out the rough, the only problem is that a good tournament can often add a zero or two to the end of a price tag.

Most recently Andrey Arhavin's performances for Russia at Euro 2008 gave him the choice of Europe's elite clubs before he eventually sealed a £15 million move to Arsenal. It was written at the time of his transfer to the Gunners that Arshavin could probably have moved for somewhere in the region of £8m prior to the tournament but his sparkling form on the world stage.

It would certainly be a good idea to do our shopping before the tournament and not only for financial reasons.

Ironically I believe our lack of transfer movement last summer helped produce an incredibly strong bond between the players and was undoubtedly responsible for the spirit we have seen from the team all season.

The players had all summer to think about what had happened and only a few escaped Tyneside after relegation. Getting new faces in early would see the whole squad bond over the entire preseason schedule, much like what happened last summer.

However let's not forget some players may leave Tyneside too. A good tournament from Jonas or Colo could turn heads and at the end of the day money talks, and a big offer for either would likely see them shipped towards the exits.

One player who seems set to leave SJP this summer is Steven Taylor after his infamous 'Jawgate' bust up with Andy Carroll. However it perhaps won't be to Spanish giants Barcelona as one online publication suggested, oh and the swap for Carles Puyol, what have you been drinking?

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Home Sweet Home

Newcastle secured an unbeaten home season as they drew with Ipswich. In fact the Tractor boys' point is only the fifth point to leave St. James all season as the season to remember rolls on.

Ipswich somewhat spoilt the party atmosphere on Tyneside with Jonathan Walters stoppage time equaliser but at the end of the day the Magpies can be immensely proud of what they have achieved.

There have been many great moments to look back on with the season starting brightly at St. James'. The opening day's creditable 1-1 draw with West Brom was well and truly put in the shade as Shola Ameobi announced himself as a genuine threat.

Two headers and a penalty gave Shola his first career hat-trick and instantly transformed himself in the eyes of many a Toon fan.

USE YOUR HEAD: Ameobi scores the second of his three goals against Reading

Lovenkrands cup hat-trick against Plymouth, and the 5-1 and 6-1 thrashings of Cardiff and Barnsley respectively also sit in the mind rather nicely as does the feeling of pride I held when Newcastle twice fought back to a draw against a confident West Brom side in mid-January. The result kept us six points clear of the Baggies at the time and in the context of the season was a massive point.

But nothing can trump the memory of Jose Enrique's goal against Nottingham Forest. The Spaniard's strike pushed Newcastle an unassailable 13 points clear of Forest in the race for promotion and was unofficially the moment we returned to the Premier League.

At the time I spoke about the visible relief from the the men in black and white as the team celebrated with a ten man bundle on top of the full-back and ever since that goal today has seemed inevitable.

BREATHTAKING: Enrique admitted he couldn't breathe during this celebration

There is one more target for the Magpies as they make their final trip of the season to Loftus Road next week to face QPR. A single point will take the Toon to 100 for the season and put them amongst the best ever Championship teams.

But today, as the Newcastle players gather in the centre of the St. James' Park pitch and lift the league trophy high above their heads, they can rest assured they've done their fans proud.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Everybody's Talking About It

Job done. Newcastle secured the Championship title with a confident two-nil win over Plymouth Argyle, condemning the south coast club to relegation in the process.

Despite the title looking like a formality for some time it was more than relieving to wrap it up last night. The Magpies performances this season have got people talking about the club for all the right reasons once again.

Henry Winter welcomed the Toon Army back to the top flight with open arms on his Twitter account. The respected journalist tweeted, "Shows devotion of Newcastle fans that 2,000+ schlepped to Plymouth to see Champ secured. Prem will be a better, noisier place with Toon back."

Midfield star Kevin Nolan
wanted to make sure his team got the respect they deserved for the job they've done. After the title clinching win over Plymouth Nolan told the press, "Everyone is now saying it is easy and we should have done it, but at the beginning of the season, we weren't favourites to win this league, we weren't favourites to even go up automatically, so it just shows what we have done."

Tim Herbert wrote of Newcastle's victory in The Guardian, "
The final whistle prompted a black and white pitch invasion and the Green Army admirably swallowed the pain of relegation to applaud the best team in the division."

The final word goes to our victorious manager, Chris Hughton, "It’s an incredibly proud moment for me, it’s been a long and tough season but nights like that make it worthwhile."

Monday, 19 April 2010

Ash Is To Blame, Again

Yes once again Ash is to blame for unfortunate circumstances on Tyneside, but it's not perhaps the 'Ash' you would've thought.

This time it's well out of Big Mike's hands as the volcanic eruptions in Iceland have forced the Magpies to take the coach on what just happens to be their longest journey of the season.

The players embarked on the fourteen hour, 800 mile round trip to the south coast on Sunday afternoon, with the aim of securing the league title. A single point will be enough to put Newcastle clear of West Brom and secure a championship that has looked to be in the bag for some time.

Toon chief Chris Hughton is less than worried by the trip and has pointed to the team's spirit to keep them occupied for the journey.

Hughton told nufc.co.uk, "Yes, it's not ideal, but we will be doing everything we can to make sure it doesn't affect our preparations for the game.

"But it's just as well our lads get on well and have got a good team spirit because it is a very long journey."

Fabricio Coloccini will not be making the journey after being ruled out for the remainder of the season but could be replaced by the fit again Fitz Hall.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Shola Ameobi Piles On The Pounds

The good people at NUST have got their sticky mits on a signed Newcastle United shirt and decided to auction it off to one of you lucky people!

The strip belongs to none other than Toon hitman Shola Ameobi and has been signed by the entire first team squad, but the best news yet is that NUST have promised to donate 100% of the proceeds to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

The shirt was worn in the memorable 2-1 victory over Sheffield United at SJP as Newcastle secured their return to the top flight of English football.

I expected a couple of hundred pounds to be raised but it turns out my pockets are nowhere near deep enough. The current bid for this historic item is at an astonishing £1,070! If you can afford it you can make a bid here but if you can't, why not donate whatever you can to this worthy cause.

--- UPDATE ---
This item was sold for an astonishing £4,800. Thanks Toon Army.

Apologies In Advance

In a shameless plug I am requesting readers of this blog to do me a huge favour.

Being the useless and ill-prepared student that I am I suddenly realised you need research to write a dissertation. Mine is, as you would probably expect, about football. More specifically about football replacing religion in society. If you could fill in this 60 second survey I would forever be indebted to you and will instantly return to writing about Newcastle United. You know, after the dissertation anyways.

Thanks to everyone that has the heart to click on the link below.
I love you.

Football and Religion - http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SDSHLC6

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Celebrate In Style

We did it and we celebrated in style. Kevin Nolan's superb overhead kick provided a victory to top off a great day for the Toon.

With promotion assured and a six point gap in the title race, tonight, was a very good night.

Highlights of Monday night's match are here on the BBC Sport website.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Happy Mondays: Newcastle Promoted To Premier League

It's official, promotion is ours!

With six games to spare Newcastle are assured of an automatic promotion spot thanks to Nottingham Forest's inability to beat Cardiff at home.

In truth promotion has been a near certainty since the season defining 2-0 win over Forest in late March. The scenes of joy and relief were clear for all to see when Jose Enrique fired home the second of the game deep into injury time.

A ten man bundle ensued and ever since that moment the media have referred to us as "promotion-bound".

Still it's a great feeling to have it officially confirmed.

It was bumper bank holiday of good news for the Toon as title rivals West Brom could only draw with lowly Watford. The result sees the Magpies remain three points clear with two games in hand on the Baggies.

A win against Sheffield United later tonight will push the Toon within touching distance of the trophy. The aim for the toon has to be to push on and achieve some simple targets.
  1. Win the League
  2. Remain unbeaten at home
  3. Reach 100 points
Hughton has been able to do a good job of keeping the players heads on the game and the end of season run-in will be no exception.

That said, the promotion party starts here!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A Day To Remember?

Today could be a memorable day for the young(er) Toon fan such as myself. I'm talking about those with only a vague recollection of the painfully close Premier League campaign of '96.

The boys and girls who have only the briefest memories of our impressive cup runs in '98 and '99 and only had the slightest of glances at our Champions League years because 'Eastenders is on the other side' (I hate my sister for that).

This is the moment that could see Newcastle lift their first trophy since the last time they were at this level in 1992. If Forest should lose today at Bristol City and we can roll over bottom club Peterborough, we'll be guaranteed a return to the Premier League.

My heart says we will and for once my head agrees. Forest have lost their last seven games away from The City Ground, a run that culminated in a two-nil defeat at SJP which almost certainly condemned the Reds search for promotion to the lottery that is the play-offs.

Traveling to Bristol City is not the easiest when you're in good form and the Ashton gate boys will not make it an easy trip for Billy Davies' men.

However let's not get carried away, as I've read many times this week there is still a job to be done. The Baggies comfortable win over Leicester last night showed that they are not going to let up in the race for the title and I believe it's a result that makes promotion today all that more likely.

West Brom's win means Forest currently sit a mammoth twelve points off automatic promotion, a truly painful blow, whilst Albion have closed to within one point of the Toon which should spur on the Magpies to restore a four point gap with victory today.

However if it does all go to plan just remember one thing, enjoy it. It could be a while before we feel this good again.