Thursday, 5 January 2012

Being Cheeky

Hello, I tried this once before and it worked superbly so i thought I'd have another go.

Unfortunately this blog has pretty much fallen away over the last 12 months due to job and family commitments but I am relaunching my writing career with a book.

The topic focuses on what makes a club a 'big' club and, without giving to much away looks for a way to resolve the issue once and for all. As Newcastle fans we've long been the centre of this age-old debate, with our inability to bring home silverware regularly being contrasted with our fantastic support as others try to determine whether we are a 'big' club or not. In fact I've got a whole chapter on it!

Anyway, to the point in hand: research.

If you could all put aside your bias to one side and fill out this short survey it'd be a great help to an aspiring writer.

First 100 respondents get a lifetime of love and respect from yours truly.

Thank-you all.


Monday, 10 January 2011

TOONPEDIA: Newcastle Utd 5 - 0 Manchester Utd

Premier League --- 20 / 10 / 1996 --- St. James' Park
As fans flooded into St. James' Park on a cold October night everyone to a man knew they were going to see something special.

The defending champions came to town having not conceded a goal in nine hours and nine minutes of football, with the seemingly unbeatable frame of Peter Schmeichel the keystone of an impressive United back line.

Kevin Keegan's 'Entertainers' couldn't boast such an impressive defensive record but their 'score-one-more-than-you' attitude had put them on a run of six league wins and the Magpies were in no mood to lie down for Alex Ferguson's side. The Toon were a wounded animal, having thrown away a supposedly unassailable twelve point lead over the Red Devils the previous season and then been thrashed four-nil at Wembley in the Charity Shield by the same team at the start of this one, revenge was the dish of the day.

Keegan's men had their pride on the line, they didn't want to win, they wanted to make a statement and avenge the mistakes of the previous term.

Newcastle were out of the traps in a flash and had an early reward when Alan Shearer nodded David Ginola's corner back across the box to the waiting Darren Peacock. The ball bobbled into the goal and despite Denis Irwin's clearance and Schmeichel's protests the goal was given and the Toon were ahead.

There was no arguing with the second goal of the game as Ginola produced a memorable strike to double the lead. The Frenchman received the ball on the edge of the box and with his back to goal he shouldered off Gary Neville to make half a yard and unleashed a vicious strike that rocketed into the net.

The second half continued in much the same vein when the irrepressible Shearer smashing the post before Nicky Butt and David Batty were booked for trying to smash each other. Shearer's influence was plain for all to see and he set up Newcastle's third after finding space on the right flank, sprinting past Irwin and knocking back a pin-point cross for Les Ferdinand who's headed effort pin-balled off bar and post before settling in the net.

Newcastle were away and weren't going to be caught. Shearer got a deserved goal of his own in the 70th minute starting and finishing a move that proved Newcastle's attacking nature. A magnificent double save from Schmeichel may have been enough to thwart most teams but with Newcastle's embarrassment of attacking riches there was always going to be someone to tap the ball into the net and this time it was the Geordie number nine.

St. James' Park was in awe of the performance they had seen from their team but what they were unaware what they were to see next would become an iconic image of both their club and of the Premier League. Defender Phillipe Albert picked up the ball in the centre of the pitch and dashed towards the box. Schmeichel took a step forward and Albert sent an audacious chip goalwards, leaving the Danish keeper rooted to the spot as a packed house were sent into ecstasy.

The game has been refereed to as Keegan's greatest managerial achievement and it seemed the manager agreed, resigning from his position a couple of months later stating he believed he had taken the club as far as he could.

Alex Ferguson blamed jet lag and then bizarrely claimed his side were unlucky not to score five of their own but things weren't to get much better for the Manchester United manager as his side lost 6-2 to Southampton in the very next game.

Newcastle were unable to capitalise on their memorable victory as they finished second to Manchester United for the second successive season but did, in the process, qualify for the debut season in UEFA's rebranded European Cup, the Champions League.


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Reality Cheick

Remember Wednesday? Wednesday was a good day. Yesterday wasn't Wednesday. Yesterday was Saturday. Saturday wasn't a good day.

After showing their Best against West Ham in midweek, Newcastle were brought brutally back to Earth with a crushing defeat to League Two Stevenage Borough in the FA Cup Third Round on Saturday.

Newcastle never looked good enough to see off a superb Stevenage side who totally outclassed a side sitting a mere 74 league places above them, and thoroughly deserved their 3-1 win.

More bad news came in the shape of a red card for midfield powerhouse Cheick Tiote, who could have little complaint at his dismissal for a flying lunge, that will now see him miss next weekend's massive Tyne-Wear derby.

The Magpies have been frustratingly inconsistent all season, as just a fleeting glance at our results shows. A home loss to Blackpool was followed by a Ben Arfa inspired win away at Everton. A 4-3 league cup win over the champions at Stamford Bridge was followed by defeat at home to Stoke City while our win away at Arsenal was followed up by another home defeat, this time at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.

It was shaping up to be a good weekend at about five o'clock yesterday evening after both Sunderland and Middlesbrough had crashed out of the cup to lower league opposition. Yet, instead of cruising into the fourth round we compounded those defeats and rounded off a bitterly poor weekend for North East football.

After defeat at Spurs I said there was no need for Toon fans to panic, and I would reiterate those claims today. Yes the banter will be nearly unbearable at work on Monday morning and no the media will never miss a chance to drag up footage of this game as an example of the 'magic of the cup' but that's football and occasionally you have to take one on the chin.

The bigger picture shows us sitting eighth in the league and, as I've already mentioned, with some impressive performances under our belts. What we do need to do is add a little more quality to our squad and maybe show a couple of players the door. Alan Smith looked a shadow of the man who captained the side for much of last season and James Perch, whilst admittedly out of position, isn't good enough to cover for Jose Enrique.

On the plus side Tim Krul again looked like a good reserve keeper, pulling of a superb save in the first half of the match, but has now gone seven games without a clean sheet. In contrast Steve Harper kept two in a row after his return from injury and perfectly illustrated the difference between a first-teamer and a reserve player.

That said, the team that Alan Pardew sent out was one that should've strolled past the League Two side, a centre back we paid £10 million for in Colo, a striker fresh from a SJP hat-trick in Leon Best and a midfield duo who are being mentioned in the same sentences as the words 'England' and 'squad' in the shape of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton.

Pards' excuse for the game was tiredness, saying his players were "running on empty", but I don't want excuses. I don't even want an apology. I just want a performance to show the players were hurt and a result that can make me forget about this defeat.

You don't often get such a quick chance to make amends, but that is exactly what the players will have when they take the short trip to Sunderland next weekend.

The Toon will have to be at their very best when they take on a Sunderland side who have plenty to prove to their own fans after their crushing defeat at SJP in October, as well as suffering an equally embarrassing cup exit yesterday, losing at home to a team that usually wear black and white stripes.

I'm taking that as a sign, and you can't stop me.