Posts Tagged ‘Barton’

August 31st 2011 is promising to be a big date in the calendars of Newcastle United fans as it should finally prove what Mike Ashley really intends to do with the club. The day marks the end of the summer transfer window and Newcastle’s business in the coming months will either confirm the doubts of many of the club’s fans or provide much needed hope and invigoration for the future.

In years gone by, a seemingly non-existent scouting team combined with constant managerial upheaval and a lack of funds meant that incoming transfers were usually concluded towards the end of August or January, on a whim, as panic set in and fans frustration grew. There are too many examples to list but some of the signings that have stereotyped Newcastle as a whimsical procrastinator in the transfer market include the likes of Albert Luque, Xisco, Nacho Gonzalez, Oguchi Onyewu et al. However, the appointment of Graham Carr as the club’s head scout has undoubtedly improved the way the club does its transfer business.

Under Graham Carr, expensive, whimsical flops like Albert Luque should be a thing of the past

Last summer the club, on a shoestring budget, carefully identified their targets and acquired them. The shrewd business conducted by Carr, Llambias and Lee Charnley saw Newcastle bring in the French whizzkid Hatem Ben Arfa and the unknown midfield anchorman, Cheik Tiote. Whilst Ben Arfa showed glimpses of his potential before being sidelined by Nigel De Jong at Eastlands, Tiote was undoubtedly the success story of the season. A bargain £3.5m was paid to Dutch champions FC Twente and but for his disciplinary problems, the defensive midfielder would most likely have been the clear frontrunner for the club’s Player of the Season award. The astonishing amounts of money that have been changing hands in England’s top flight since the turn of the year underline just how good a price the Magpies paid for the Ivorian. Newcastle’s number 7, Joey Barton, stated as much via his twitter account recently:

“English players are really expensive at the moment…. Mr T (Tiote) looks even more of a bargain now”    Joey Barton on Twitter

However, whilst the additions of Ben Arfa and Tiote last summer look to have been shrewd business, the amount of funds given to Chris Hughton were limited. The reasons for this became apparent in December when the Cockney-Irishman was relieved of his duties, making way for Alan Pardew who was given the length of contract and job security that Hughton could only dream of under Ashley. It soon became clear that Ashley did not trust Hughton to spend his money in the transfer market, no matter how little. The poor signings of James Perch from Nottingham Forest and the unattached Sol Campbell were apparently one of the final nails in Hughton’s managerial coffin.

Mike Ashley didn't trust Chris Hughton to spend his money

Whilst Pardew arrived with enough time to plan for the January transfer window and subsequently promised at least one arrival, it seemed that although several irons may have been in the metaphorical transfer market fire, the club refused to be held to ransom by the greedy agents of the average players that NUFC targeted. Among those players were rumoured to be the likes of Robbie Keane, David Bentley and Sebastian Larsson. Keane and Bentley both moved to clubs willing to cover their exuberant wages, whilst Larsson sat tight, arguably holding out for the lucrative payday that is now so commonly associated with players moving via the Bosman ruling. Newcastle’s lack of investment in January had much to do with the reluctance of its owner, Mike Ashley, to gamble on overpriced players in panic buys or loans when the club was still far from guaranteeing survival and another season in the top flight. Ironically, by not gambling on bringing in any players in January, Ashley in turn gambled the club’s safety on the abilities of Alan Pardew and the existing squad, minus the departing Wayne Routledge and Andy Carroll.

As many footballing experts will testify, the January transfer window is a seller’s market and so it proved to be for Newcastle. Many fans might argue that a replacement should have at least been found before Newcastle agreed to part with Carroll in return for £35m on the final day of the window. However, it’s easier said than done and if, as believed, the Liverpool interest came out of the blue, then finding a decent striker on the final day without being held to ransom by clubs and agents fully aware of the windfall the Mags had just received would be nigh on impossible. Any such replacement would likely have been overpriced and overpaid (see Luque, Xisco et al). Newcastle knew that come the summer, Carroll’s value would plummet. The reason Liverpool made the pony-tailed Geordie the 8th most expensive player in history was a direct knock-on effect of the ludicrous amount of cash they received from Chelsea for Torres. Had Newcastle spurned Liverpool’s advances, they would have taken their cash elsewhere. Like it or loathe it, the Carroll deal was good business from Newcastle’s financial point of view.

Agree with it or not - the Carroll sale was good business by the club.

Not signing a replacement may not have made footballing sense, as subsequent  injuries to Shola Ameobi and Leon Best showed, but the gamble paid off as Newcastle’s battling team spirit led them to a 12th place finish and another seaso in the Premier League. Mike Ashley’s doubters, of which there are many, now fully expect him to pocket the majority of the Carroll money, whilst again providing limited funds to his ‘yes man’, Alan Pardew for squad investment. There are those, however, who see this summer as Ashley’s last chance saloon. Armed with £35m and possibly more from other sales, Ashley can finally show his true intentions to the Toon Army, with a competent scouting network in place and a manager whom he trusts to spend his money (So far Allardyce, Keegan, Kinnear & Hughton haven’t).

For the first time in a long time, Newcastle finally look to have grabbed a transfer window by its throat, with Mike Ashley’s men actively scouring Europe for reinforcements to be paid for by the £35m bagged by Andy Carroll’s acrimonious sale to Liverpool on January 31st. Granted, Newcastle have money to spend and everyone knows as much but unlike many of the Toon’s top flight rivals, Newcastle are avoiding the inflated British market and instead choosing to concentrate their efforts on continental Europe where they feel Tiote-esque bargains are ready to be had. Graham Carr’s scouting network has had the best part of 5 months to compile their list of recommendations for Alan Pardew, in the knowledge that there is plenty of money to spend.

One player has already agreed to join the club. Lille’s French international midfielder Yohann Cabaye was in Newcastle today to put the finishing touches to his £4.3m move to St James’ Park. Valued in the region of £7-8m, Newcastle have pulled off something of a coup in triggering a little-known release clause that allows him to move for nearly half his supposed value.

Pardew has targeted pace and creativity as the main areas he wants to strengthen in his team, as well as adding at least one top striker capable of reaching double-figures in the league goals chart. Names linked include Kevin Gameiro of Lorient, Cheik Tiote’s silky compatriot Gervinho and former Toon star Charles N’Zogbia. Gameiro has consistently expressed his desire to play anywhere but England however, whilst Gervinho is courting interest from clubs with more to offer than Newcastle. N’Zogbia appears to be keen on returning to Tyneside but Wigan are reluctant to sell him to a club they see as relegation rivals for next season.

One advantage that Newcastle has over its rivals is Mike Ashley’s reluctance to pay for players in installments, as is the norm in footballing transactions. Already the club has stolen a march over others competing for the same players by offering cash up front – the fact that 85% of the Carroll money was received up front should help Newcastle to make significant progress in their endeavours this summer.

So whilst Newcastle struggle to attract their top targets to join them for now, the signs are there that the club is attempting to bring in players of a good pedigree and perhaps most significantly, that they are trying to do their business early in the summer, aware of the seller’s market that exists in late August. It remains to be seen just how successful Newcastle’s transfer dealings will be but the early signs are at least encouraging if nothing else, with one international player already through the door and several more likely to follow. One thing is for sure though – the days of Newcastle signing the likes of Albert Luque and Xisco appear to be very much in the past.

The NUFC A-Team

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Blogs
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We’ve all known for quite a while now that Cheik Tiote is actually The A-Team’s Mr T in disguise but now new information has been leaked that Tiote is not the only NUFC-related member of the A-Team as this image shows:

Nolan, Barton, Tiote and Pardew in their previous jobs as members of the A-Team

So with the usually unkind hectic festive-season, (becoming usual) FA Cup humiliation and Tyne/Wear derby away leg out of the way with decent league position (and local bragging rights) in tact, attention turns to latter half of the January transfer window, in which the majority of mid-season deals are completed. Before the window opened nearly three weeks ago, new Magpies boss Alan Pardew confirmed that he was looking to strengthen the squad with one or two additions, primarily of the offensive variety (That’s offensive in a tactical sense, not like El-Hadji Diouf):

We are looking at the market and hopefully can bring something in. You want a bit of quality, pace and directness and that is something we would like to add at some stage.

Alan Pardew speaking to Skysports

Striking reinforcements

At the start of the window it looked as though he may be interested in Spurs forgotten man Robbie Keane but a combination of the Irishman’s age, pricetag and excessive wage demands put an end to any interest. Last week saw newly-capped England and Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd linked on the cheap, with the journeyman’s contract set to expire in six months time. However, both the player and then his club came out to state that he would be staying in Wales, at least until the end of his contract. Pardew’s original desire to add to the squad’s strikers seems to have waned though with the recent improved form of Leon Best and Shola Ameobi.

The Departed

Whilst also reiterating his desire to keep the majority of his squad, the former West Ham and Charlton manager has let it be known that he would be willing to allow some of the squad’s fringe players to leave. Such players rumoured to be in the ‘fringe’ category include the likes of Best, Perch, Campbell and Routledge. However, at the time of writing, only Routledge appears to be headed for the exits, with a loan deal lined up for him to return to the club he left a year ago, Queens Park Rangers. Whilst Routledge is undoubtedly a top-Championship player, he has failed to reproduce his excellent form from last season in the Premier League, adding more doubters and failed top-flight stints to an already lengthy list. A return to QPR would suit both player and club and with Routledge on board, it is very likely that we will see the R’s return to the Premier League in August following a 15-year absence, given their healthy position in the Championship table at present.

Wayne Routledge has failed to reproduce his Championship form in the Premier League

The delay in either club announcing Routledge’s impending transfer has sparked rumours that Newcastle are trying to negotiate a deal that will see former Spurs whizzkid Adel Taarabt coming in the opposite direction. It is, however, highly unlikely that QPR will let their top-scorer and star man leave with promotion within touching distance. The more likely scenario is that Newcastle are simply waiting to find a replacement for the little winger before rubber-stamping his departure.

Routledge Replacements

Confirmation has been forthcoming from a number of sources of our interest in a succession of right-sided wide-players. Firstly David Bentley, whose situation Pardew discussed with Redknapp following the Mags defeat at White Hart Lane in December, yet the former Arsenal trainee opted to move to Birmingham who supposedly agreed to his demand for guaranteed first-team football. Secondly, Seb Larsson, the right-sided midfielder whose contract expires in the summer and whose position is under threat from the aforementioned Bentley. However, Newcastle could not agree personal terms with the Swedish midfielder and have moved on to other targets. This week Shaun Wright-Phillips’ agent confirmed that Newcastle had enquired about the pacy Man City winger, although his wage demands may prove a stumbling block and Fulham appear to be in pole position to land the former Chelsea man. Leeds’ young Ivorian wideman Max Gradel has also been linked with a move to the Mags, but no confirmation has been forthcoming from any party about the reported interest.

The gossip columns have suggested that Pardew may infact opt to purchase a creative central midfielder, allowing Joey Barton to move permanently to the right flank on which he has operated so well this season. Names bandied about include Niko Kranjcar, Jamie O’Hara and Villa’s Stephen Ireland; all of which seem attainable at least.

The forgotten men

Amid all the speculation it is easy to forget that Newcastle have already made one permanent transfer in the current transfer window. The second week of January saw loanee Hatem Ben Arfa complete his permanent transfer to the Mags from Marseille, for a fee reported to be in the region of £6 million. The deal was renegotiated following the player’s leg break in September which meant he would be unable to fulfill the 25-appearance clause that would turn turn the season-long loan deal into a permanent transfer. The talented French whizzkid is on course to return to first team action in February to help Newcastle cement their place in the Premier League. Aside from Ben Arfa, the Mags also have another new player in the squad, despite the fact he signed for the club over 6 months ago.

Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle's sole permanent transfer in the transfer window so far.

Dan Gosling signed on a free transfer from Everton last summer following a contract-wrangle with his then-club Everton. However, he has been nursing a cruciate ligament injury since joining the club in July and only recently returned to full training. The box-to-box midfielder made his debut in the closing stages of last week’s Tyne/Wear derby and his return could not have been better timed with the absence of Cheik Tiote through suspension and the loss of Alan Smith for what could be the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

Summary

It seems that Alan Pardew has rethought his original plan to bolster the striking ranks at the club and has instead focused on midfield and the right-wing in particular. The impending departure of Wayne Routledge will leave us incredibly short of cover for the not-natural right midfielder Joey Barton on the right flank. That is, of course, unless you value either Ryan Taylor or Danny Guthrie as suitable replacements. I don’t. The delay in announcing the Routledge deal hopefully signals that Newcastle have a superior replacement lined up for the right side of midfield, allowing Barton to occupy a more central role from which himself and Ivorian battler Tiote can dictate games. I would like to see us bring in a pacy winger that can take on opposing defenders, beat their man AND put in a decent cross on a consistent basis. These are all attributes that Routledge possesses, yet he cannot seem to implement them either together or consistently.

We have the basis of a good team yet our squad remains poor, as evidenced by our humiliating giant-killing at the hands of League 2 ‘minnows’ Stevenage. In the short term, a good right winger is a must and should be enough to see us through to the end of the season with Premier League status secured. In the longer term, it is imperative that both Joey Barton and Jose Enrique are tied down to the same sort of long-term contracts that have recently been given to the likes of Carroll, Steven Taylor, Williamson and Ranger.

Jose Enrique & Joey Barton are irreplaceable on current form

On current form, it would be incredibly hard, if not impossible to replace either the Scouse schemer or the Spanish Bull. Rumours of clubs wanting both players have surfaced and while Barton’s sentiments of wanting to stay at the club for the remainder of his career seem genuine, it’s hard to see Enrique staying should the rumoured interest from Bayern Munich or Manchester United actually turn out to be true. Enrique’s absence was felt at White Hart Lane in December when he missed the game through injury and deputy James Perch was at fault for Spurs opening goal. Cover for left back is therefore also a priority, although Shane Ferguson and Tamas Kadar may have something to say about that.

At the end of the season, should we survive, we can re-evaluate the situation and move forward. Up front, as good as the recent form of Best and Ameobi has been, it seems that for the club to truly progress, a new partner for Carroll will be needed. Whether that partner can be Nile Ranger remains to be seen.

Mike Ashley hasn’t changed

For the more optimistic among us, we had hoped that promotion back to the Premier League in the summer might finally stop Mike Ashley from making his seemingly tri-annual massive blunders that shake the club’s foundations and anger the supporters. Relegation (stadium naming-rights aside) seemed to have settled him down a bit, giving Hughton the job on a full-time basis followed by backing the manager in the January transfer window and again in the summer, without breaking the bank in doing so. The new, non-meddling, money efficient chairman had been slowly improving his public image. That was, until he angered not just the Newcastle fans, but the wider footballing world by relieving Hughton from his duties at the start of December, only to replace him with a man sacked by a League 1 outfit in August. For a man who supposedly shies away from the public spotlight, Ashley certainly doesn’t mind being Public Enemy Number One on Tyneside. For Toon fans, it seems the best advice with regards to Ashley is ‘expect the unexpected’.

Ashley returned to his old ways with the sacking of Chris Hughton


Andy Carroll is the future of our club

Not many could have predicted the rise of Andy Carroll from raw, lanky teenager two years ago, to Newcastle and England’s number 9, as he is today. In our relegation season I saw enough of him to know that he could head the ball and had decent chest control, but not much other than that. It turns out that relegation was a blessing in disguise for the club in many ways, but perhaps none more so than for the chance it gave Carroll to gain first team experience. Had we stayed up in 2009, it is probable that the likes of Owen, Viduka and Martins would have stayed on under Shearer’s management, leaving Carroll to either warm the bench or go out on loan to a Championship team unable to offer him the service that he thrived on last term. With Ameobi often injured, Carroll led the line alongside Peter Lovenkrands, scoring an impressive 19 goals (17 league) on his way to being named in the Championship Team of The Season. His value to the team has become even more important since returning to the top flight. Handed the prestigious number 9 shirt by Chris Hughton in the summer, Carroll has flourished, scoring 11 goals and assisting 6 more on his way to becoming one of the most coveted players in World football. With a price tag in the region of £20 million, the Gateshead born striker has many admirers, yet his sale would be a disaster for the football club. At the age of 21, he has the potential and time to become Newcastle’s greatest ever goalscorer. He is the future of the club.


We CAN win away in the top flight

One of the most pleasing aspects of Newcastle’s change in fortunes since they last (dis)graced the Premier League has been their much improved away form. In the 2008/09 season, we registered just 2 wins away from St James’ Park all season. Compare that to half way through this season where we have already picked up wins at Arsenal, Everton and West Ham. Perhaps the main reason for this upturn in away performances is down to attitude. For far too long Newcastle have been poor on the road, with players seemingly content to only ‘try’ at home. That changed after relegation. If Newcastle wanted promotion, they simply HAD to start picking up points away from home; and they did. This mentality has carried through into the Premier League and, combined with the extra defensive cover that Tiote provides, has seen us a lot more solid on the road.

Newcastle's away form has been the best for almost a decade so far this season

Joey Barton has a helluva cross on him

Since Barton signed for the club under Sam Allardyce in 2007, its fair to say he contributed almost nothing on the pitch; until this season that is. Continuing to enhance his growing badboy reputation, the Scouse midfielder was jailed in 2008 and when he hasn’t been behind bars or suspended for reckless lunges (Xabi Alonso) or needless punches (Morten Gamst Pedersen), he has invariably been injured. Broken metatarsals and cruciate ligament injuries had seen him play only 47 times in his first 3 seasons at the club. When he did play, he didn’t appear to offer much. However, after Chris Hughton stuck by him through another injury hit season last year Barton has already played in 17 games so far this season and has become the team’s most creative player, excelling from dead-ball situations and in delivering crosses from the right wing. His presence was sorely missed when he served a 3-match ban for his punch on Blackburn’s Pedersen and he showed how valuable he was when he returned for the Liverpool game and set up Nolan’s opener (with the help of Carroll) before prodding home the Mags second in a 3-1 victory. Often deployed in an unnatural right-wing role this season, he has benefited from a prolonged run of games in the team, making him one of the first names on the teamsheet.


Routledge is NOT a Premier League player

Wayne Routledge arrived 12 months ago in the January transfer window of 2010 and helped to propel us back into the top flight. In the Championship, the little winger confidently beat his marker before launching crosses onto the heads of Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands. However, the wee man has found life tough since returning to the Premier League for the first time since playing a solitary league game for Villa in the 2008/09 season. Routledge’s top flight credentials have been questioned before, simply by the fact that he has earned the ‘journeyman’ tag, having played for no fewer than 7 clubs since leaving Crystal Palace in 2005. It seems that clubs have signed him, having seen his potential, but unable to coax consistency out of him, have shipped him on to another team that believes they can get the best out of him. He showed last season with QPR and then the Mags that he is undoubtedly an excellent Championship player. However, this season his delivery has let him down, not to mention the fact that he possesses neither the pace nor trickery to beat his marker. His main weakness though, is exactly that. He is physically weak and often muscled off the ball. He may be a decent squad player, but Premier League starter he is not.

Wayne Routledge has failed to deliver in the top flight so far

Cheik Tiote is sensational

Drawing comparisons from former manager Chris Hughton with Chelsea’s Ghanaian midfield engine Michael Essien may have drawn howls of derision from football fans up and down the country, but not from those of a black and white persuasion. Ever since his first start for the club at Goodison Park in September, the diminutive anchorman has far exceeded the fairly low expectations of him, as he arrived for the paltry fee of £3.5m from Dutch champions FC Twente, formerly managed by Schteve McLaren. At halfway in the season, others are starting to see what the Newcastle fans have seen all season; a tough tackling midfielder that rarely loses the ball and barely misplaces a pass. His energetic and committed approach also has its downsides however, with the Ivorian leading the way in the League’s yellow card count. The anchorman has added much needed steel and consistency to United’s midfield and become a firm favourite with the Toon Army in the process.


We’re sorted for goalkeepers

We started the season with the reliable Steve Harper, the Dutch under-21 captain (Tim Krul) and the reigning Norwich City players Player of the Season (Fraser Forster) on our books as our three main goalkeepers. The fact that our third choice keeper is on loan at and first choice for SPL giants Glasgow Celtic is proof that in the goalkeeping department, we have strength in depth. Those who doubted Krul’s credentials have seen him slot in seamlessly since number 1, Steve Harper was injured at Goodison in September. Although his kicking could be improved along with his decision making, as his gaffe against Man City shows, he has proved himself as a good shot-stopper and is confident in coming for crosses. As Harper returns from injury it will be interesting to see how the battle for the number 1 slot pans out, let alone what happens to Forster if and when he returns from his so-far successful spell at Celtic Park.


Kevin Nolan is an enigma

Although our prolific attacking midfielder seems to divide opinion among the Toon Army surely noone can criticise either the effort he puts in on the field, or the job he has done as club captain off it. Nolan divides opinion however, not because of his work rate, but more because of certain attributes he lacks. The Scouser is occasionally found wanting for both pace and awareness in the middle of the park, often guilty of surrendering possession too easily when dwelling on the ball. However, what he lacks in these departments he more than makes up for in the opposition’s 18-yard box. I found myself in the rare position of actually agreeing with Sam Allardyce a few months back. In the Sky studios as a pundit for the mackems game, he described Nolan as an average player in the middle of the park who comes to life in the penalty area. I couldn’t agree more with his assessment. I’m not sure how he does it, but sure enough if the ball falls loose in the box, the odds are he will be there to -more often than not- prod the ball home, either with neat sidefoots (West Ham & Liverpool) or the spectacular (Sheffield United & the mackems overhead kicks). Whilst his contribution in the middle of the park will always spark debate, it is hard to argue with his goal-scoring record, whether you view him as a midfielder or a forward. Long may it continue.

Captain Nolan cannot be faulted for his work-rate nor his prowess in the box

We have a good team, but a poor squad

Highlighted since the 5-1 loss to Bolton in November, Newcastle’s squad has been shown to be lacking strength in depth. Until the Bolton game, Newcastle coped admirably with their Premier League opposition when most outside the North East predicted a season of struggle. The fact that Hatem Ben Arfa and Steve Harper aside, the team had virtually no injuries or suspensions until November showed that the starting XI is capable of mixing and matching it with the best in the league. However, with the suspensions of Barton, Coloccini, Williamson and Tiote all coming in the last two months for one reason or another, we have seen the side struggle to replace them. In particular, the absences of Barton and Tiote for 3 and 1 game(s) respectively showed up the lack of strength in depth in United’s midfield. The loss of Jose Enrique through injury for the recent reverse at White Hart Lane also showed up our lack of cover at left back whilst the injury to Andy Carroll that sees him miss this week’s crunch ties at Wigan and home to West Ham is a real concern. Whether Alan Pardew will add sufficient strength to the squad in the upcoming January transfer window remains to be seen.


Mentality is everything

Despite what many people outside of Newcastle think, we were not relegated because our players were ‘not good enough’. We sank without a trace at Villa Park in May 2009 because throughout the season there was managerial upheaval, creating a loss of confidence in a playing squad that by and large couldn’t give a shit what division the club would be in the following season. This, and the lack of team spirit that now seems evident in the current Man City squad plagued the club on and off the field. Relegation turned out to be a blessing for us as Chris Hughton and the senior players pulled the club together, instilling a fantastic togetherness not seen at Gallowgate for years. In August, the predictable call from pundits was that we would be relegated as our playing squad was the same, if not weaker, than the one that took us down a year previous. However, they had discounted the effect of mentality upon a teams performance. The much talked about team spirit that now exists within the Newcastle squad has been vital in securing the mid-table position that the club presently occupies. Our relegation just goes to show that money doesn’t guarantee success and whilst it builds a squad, it doesn’t make a team. Manchester City beware.

 

What else have we learnt about the club at the halfway point of the season?

 

Happy New Year from Toon Barmy!

Newcastle’s near 3,000 strong away support tonight left Upton Park in equal measures of delight and surprise. Delighted that Newcastle once again showed that they are a force to be reckoned with on the road in the Premier League this season, yet surprised at the ease at which they rolled over a poor West Ham side. The opening quarter of an hour aside, West Ham showed little to suggest that they will still be in the Premier League come May. Bursting out of the starting blocks, West Ham took the game to United and found success in deploying the ball over the top for the pacy Obinna and Piquionne to race onto. The warning signs were already in place before Carlton Cole capitalised on Newcastle’s sluggish start firing home from point blank range in the 12th minute after Piquionne lost Coloccini to race onto a long ball from Mark Noble releasing him into the left side of the 18-yard box. He didn’t hesitate to pick out an onrushing Cole, who brushed past his marker, Jose Enrique, with relative ease. The goal was the least West Ham deserved after starting the game much the livelier of the two sides. However, with only one win this season and the nervous home crowd behind them, West Ham receded into their own half, content with their one goal lead, allowing Newcastle possession of the ball. The goal, and the Hammer’s reluctance to extend their lead seemed to stir the Newcastle players into life.

Carlton Cole opened the scoring for West Ham, yet the goal had a positive effect on Newcastle's game

Almost immediately Newcastle began to bombard the West Ham box with crosses, aiming to capitalise on the attacking 4-4-2 line up which saw Messr’s Ameobi and Carroll partner each other from the start of a game for the first time this season. With Barton pushed out wide to accomodate the return of club captain Kevin Nolan to the team in central midfield, the onus was upon the controversial Scouse schemer and Jonas Gutierrez to provide both width and crosses to supply the strikers with. Barton duly delivered in the 23rd minute with a good cross to the back post which a combination of Carroll and the shoulder of an unwitting West Ham defender knocked back into the path of the predatory Kevin Nolan whose carefully placed shot evaded the sliding legs of Scott Parker and found the bottom corner of Rob Green’s net. As with the first goal, the equaliser reversed the domination of the game, as West Ham awoke and again began to find flaws in Newcastle’s backline, testing keeper Tim Krul from corners and set pieces. The young Dutchman stood up the test however, calmly collecting several high balls before distributing the ball out to the flanks from hand, allowing Newcastle to counter attack without much success.

At half time, the game could have gone either way, with both sides looking decent going forward but also vulnerable at the back. However, the second period was as unexpected as it was enjoyable for Toon fans. West Ham could not string 3 passes together and Newcastle dominated the half from start to finish, with Skysports showing impressive possession stats of 66% to 34% in favour of the Mags at one point.In particular, Cheick Tiote showed why the immobile Alan Smith was dropped so quickly by Chris Hughton following the Ivorian’s arrival. The diminutive defensive midfielder has drawn comparisons with his African counterpart Michael Essien from boss Chris Hughton this week and the ex-FC Twente player certainly lived up to the hype in an all-action display at Upton Park, controlling the midfield despite having to contend with the competitive duo of Mark Noble and Scott Parker on the opposing lineup.

Cheick Tiote has been exceptional since signing in the summer, drawing comparisons with Michael Essien

Tiote showed incredible composure to continually shield the ball and evade challenges before starting Newcastle counter-attacks by spreading the ball out wide to the advancing Gutierrez and Barton. It was via this outlet that the Magpies deservedly took the lead in the 69th minute, with Barton sending Shola Ameobi scampering down the right-hand touchline with a neat through ball that split the West Ham defence. Ameobi turned, holding up the ball, before passing back to Barton who hit a first time cross that begged to be scored. The ball, starting off towards Rob Green in the West Ham goal, curled  and dipped delightfully onto the head of the diving Andy Carroll, whom evaded his marker with surprising ease to plant his firm header past Green from 6 yards out. Although Newcastle created few clear cut chances, they thoroughly deserved their lead, by virtue of their domination of the game, combined with West Ham’s incompetence and apparent lack of desire. For the remaining 20 minutes, Newcastle continued to dominate proceedings without really threatening to extend their lead, half chances for Gutierrez, Ameobi and Barton aside. At the other end, the only moment of slight concern for Tim Krul, who barely touched the ball in the second half, was a set piece from West Ham’s right wing that found defender Manuel Da Costa whose attempted bicycle kick from the edge of the area saw the ball fly well wide of the target.

Krul was hardly tested at Upton Park by an inspid West Ham side

The win is a massive timely boost for Newcastle, who move up to 9th in the table, with a mid-week Carling Cup tie against Arsenal standing in the way of next Sunday’s visit of Sunderland to St James’ Park, where local bragging rights are at stake. The 3 points taken from Upton Park should help to ease the tension and allow Newcastle to play with a more freedom at home against a free flowing mackem side in what promises to be one of the most intriguing Derby’s in years. Today’s performance epitomised the teams new found team spirit and although noone had a particularly outstanding game, Joey Barton and Cheick Tiote impressed in the engine room, with Barton’s service from out wide undoubtedly key to Newcastle’s win. It is however, the two goalscorers that will take the headlines from the win at Upton Park, after a troubling week for United’s young number 9 in which the man he assisted for the equalising goal became his housemate and landlord. By supplying one, and scoring the other, Carroll must surely have earned his keep at the Nolan household, at least for this week anyway.