Posts Tagged ‘NUFC’

The manner of Dalglish’s sacking at the hands of FSG will seem very familiar for Newcastle United fans.

The owners of a well-supported club installed their final manager before selling up and moving on, much to the delight of the club’s vast fanbase. The club’s new owners are wealthy benefactors who promise a return to the glory days and instantly back the manager they inherited, only to relieve him of his duties after just 6 months in charge. The manager wasn’t popular with the fans and the new owners knew as much.

Now the owners – wanting to win over the club’s fans – decide to bring back the club legend in a move hailed as ‘The return of the King’. Said legend served the club with distinction as a player and later as manager, yet he’s been out of the game for years. Some question his credentials in today’s modern game. The fans claim he understands the club like no one else. The good times are set to return…

Well… that’s what was supposed to happen anyway. In reality the club legend briefly restored the fans’ passion and pride in the team before being unceremoniously dumped, much to the outrage of the faithful.

The club I’m referring to? Well, it has to be Liverpool, surely, and FSG’s hiring and firing of ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish. You’re only half right. For those departing, unwanted owners, instead of Hicks & Gilett, read Shepherd & Hall. For Hodgson’s disastrous 6-month tenure, read Sam Allardyce. The new owners universally welcomed with open arms? For FSG at Liverpool read Mike Ashley at Newcastle. As for that club legend, well, for King Kenny, read instead King Kev – former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan.

For a while now I’ve been following FSG’s tenure at Liverpool with much interest, mainly because I felt like I’d seen it all before. As it turns out, in a way, I have. As a Newcastle fan I watched Mike Ashley arrive to a hero’s welcome before he gained even more fan popularity by dumping the unwanted Sam Allardyce before he could even negotiate the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in 2007/08. Allardyce, after half a season in charge, was axed on the 9th of January.  Almost 3 years to the day later, Roy Hodgson departed Liverpool in similar circumstances.

In stepped Messrs Keegan and Dalglish, both of whom saved their respective clubs’ seasons from disaster by the end of the campaign in May. Both were also given Directors of Football to work with, put in charge of player transfers & scouting. In hindsight, perhaps the appointments of Dennis Wise and Damien Comolli showed an inherent lack of trust from the two clubs’ owners in their newly appointed managers to spend their money, especially at Newcastle.

Eight months after returning to Newcastle, Keegan was gone, with the club subsequently admitting in court that they had undermined their manager and lied to the fans. It turned out Mike Ashley wanted to run the club on a budget, whilst Keegan wanted to continue Freddy Shepherd’s policy of paying top dollar for ageing stars past their peak.

Needless to say, despite the blip – or blessing in disguise – of relegation in 2009, Ashley got his way and the rewards are there for all to see.

The only difference, it seems, between the start of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle tenure and that of his American counterparts at Liverpool, is that Ashley was ruthless enough to realise his blunder of appointing Keegan and to ditch him before he could spend any of his money.

The same cannot be said of FSG, who let Dalglish spend over £100m on overpriced British players who spectacularly failed to deliver last season, leading Liverpool to their worst Premier League finish since 1994.

FSG, with their history of implementing the low-budget ‘Moneyball’ scouting and transfer techniques in baseball, will be looking to use Mike Ashley’s Newcastle blueprint – minus relegation – to propel the Anfield side back into the Champions League.

For the fans, the departure of the King may not seem the right move at the moment, I know, but trust me, I’ve been there before. Perhaps it’s for the best.

Advertisements

“Newcastle will struggle”, they said. “They’ve sold their best players”, they said. “A club in crisis”, they said…

‘They’ were the media and an assorted collection of so-called football ‘experts’ giving their views on Newcastle United prior to the start of the current Premier League season back in August. The club was in trouble, apparently, and would do incredibly well to avoid a relegation battle come next May.

They were wrong it seems, so far at least. Newcastle’s fantastic unbeaten start means that should they win against Wigan tomorrow, they will have amassed a quite incredible and equally unexpected total of 19 points from their opening 9 games. Far from relegation form, 19 points from 9 games would represent an average of 2.1 points per game. To put that into context, that is the exact average that won Manchester United last season’s Premier League title with 80 points, so in other words, title-winning form. Of course, we are only less than a quarter of the way through the 2011/12 season and no one expects Newcastle to keep up their blistering form.

“To put that into context, that is the exact average that won Manchester United last season’s Premier League title with 80 points, so in other words, title-winning form.”

Sterner tests lie ahead for the new-look Newcastle team, that much is obvious. The end of November looks particularly ominous for the Magpies with successive away trips to Manchester followed by a home game against a strong Chelsea outfit at the start of December. That Newcastle have yet to face any of the Top 3 partly explains Newcastle’s excellent start to the season, or does it? ‘They’ were quick to proclaim in the run up to last week’s Tottenham test that Newcastle occupied a false league position, virtue of a kind opening fixture list – it is a claim that is only partly true.

Many said Newcastle's opening fixtures were 'easy' but an away win at local rivals Sunderland was anything but

Yet to play anyone good…

In their eight league matches so far, Newcastle have played no less than five of last season’s top 10 teams (Arsenal, Sunderland, Fulham, Villa & Spurs), taking 9 points in the process including 3 at hated rivals Sunderland. Add to that a home game against bogey-team Blackburn & tough trips to QPR and Wolves and Newcastle’s “easy” start suddenly looks anything but, especially with the televised QPR clash falling on the Loftus Road side’s relaunch night following Tony Fernandes’ takeover and the purchase of several players, not least a certain Joey Barton.

Tottenham would put Newcastle back in their place; knock them down a peg or two, they said. Only they didn’t. The Magpies matched their North-London counterparts every bit of the way in last weekend’s enthralling draw, earning plaudits along the way yet still a minority queued up to knock them down. It seems some may not be able, or indeed willing, to praise a Newcastle side that was deemed by many to be in crisis only 8 weeks ago, until they have faced the league’s elite teams.

Surely though, how Newcastle do against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester’s United & City is largely irrelevant over the course of the season. If it mattered, Newcastle would surely have finished higher than 12th last season, with Man City the only team of the 2010/11 Top 6 to take 3 points from their travels to St James’ Park. Indeed, Newcastle’s problem for many a year has not been matching the best, rather beating the worst. Last season Newcastle failed to take maximum points at home to Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Stoke, Wigan and West Brom – all of whom finished in the bottom half of the league.

This season, it finally seems as though Newcastle have added consistency, as well as resiliency to their game. It is the matches against the likes of Fulham (2-1), Blackburn (3-1) and Sunderland (0-1) that will really determine where Newcastle will finish in May, not the occasional media-worthy match against England’s elite, as Champions League chasing Spurs will no doubt testify to, having lost heavily to both Manchester clubs so far this term.

Some may be reluctant to offer praise, but surely no one can argue that Newcastle have improved under the stewardship of Alan Pardew. Analysing Newcastle’s results so far against those from the corresponding fixtures from 2010/11 offers a good indication of the Tyneside club’s vast improvement over the summer:

The Improvement Table Explained

The table above shows each of the current 17 Premier League teams that participated in last season’s top flight, ranked in order of their improvement upon last season’s corresponding fixtures so far.  Matches against the newly-promoted trio of QPR, Norwich and Swansea have been marked ‘void’ and not included in the analysis. The teams have therefore been ranked by average Points Per Game improved upon the corresponding fixtures from 2010/11.

For example, in Gameweek 2, Newcastle took on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, gaining 3 points courtesy of a Ryan Taylor free kick. In comparison to last season, where the corresponding fixture resulted in a 1-1 draw, Newcastle improved by 2 points, with Sunderland worsening by 1 point.

The table does not analyse how well or poorly teams are playing this season, rather how they have played in comparison to the same fixtures from last season. For example, Man United’s fairly low placing does not imply they are playing poorly this season, just that they are getting similar results to last season (mostly wins). Likewise Bolton, – suffering their worst start to a top-flight season for more than a hundred years – are remarkably shown to have actually improved upon their corresponding fixtures from the last campaign.

Newcastle lead the league

Liverpool, Spurs and Stoke feature near the top of the table but the undoubted leaders in the improvement table are Newcastle who have improved upon their corresponding 2010/11 fixtures by a total of 10 points. As they played newly-promoted QPR in Gameweek 4, the result for this match was excluded, giving Newcastle a total of a 10-point improvement from 7 matches, or an average 1.42-improvement points per game. Their 10-point improvement haul is nearly double that of 2nd placed Liverpool and demonstrates the consistency that Newcastle have added to their game against teams outside the Top 6.

Newcastle are yet to fail to match the results of any of their corresponding fixtures from last season and with Wigan, Home (2-2 last season), Stoke, Away (4-0) & Everton, Home (1-2) coming up next for the Magpies, they have a fantastic opportunity to continue their incredible improvement and defy their critics. Long may it continue.

Over the years, Newcastle United have been linked with everybody and anybody under the sun. Whilst a large proportion of the myriad of players linked to the Toon would probably never even consider moving to Tyneside to ply their trade, some of football’s biggest names were actually closer to adorning the famous black & white stripes than many would imagine. This article looks at some of the best players that, perhaps surprisingly, Newcastle almost, but never had…

 

Zinedine Zidane

Regarded by many as one of the world’s greatest ever players. Often grouped just behind Pele and Maradona with the likes of Cruyff and Best, the Algerian-born Frenchman etched his name into the history books by scoring two goals in the 1998 World Cup final as well as this spectacular effort in the 2002 Champions League final at Hampden Park:

Yet before Zidane had gained his reputation as one of the world’s finest, he was just a young Bordeaux midfielder when the then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan turned down an option to sign the future 3-times winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1996. Zidane was offered to the Magpies for the paltry fee of £1.2m but was rejected as he was ‘not good enough to play in the first division (Championship)’. Zidane did go on to wear black and white stripes; however they were those of Italian giants Juventus, for whom he won 2 league titles before moving to Real Madrid for a world record £45.7m, or £55m in today’s inflation-adjusted market.

 

Dennis Bergkamp

The Iceman, as he is fondly known, is something of a cult-hero amongst football fans. Highly regarded by those that watched him play, the Arsenal legend is often, unfairly in my opinion, overlooked in debates about the ‘greatest players of all time’. The Dutch striker was a flop at Inter Milan when Arsenal came calling in 1995. A £7.5m bid ensued and he never looked back. However, things could have been so much different for the Dutch maestro had Kevin Keegan chosen to opt for him, instead of plumping for QPR’s Les Ferdinand. As it was, Ferdinand proved to be a huge success and Newcastle, like Bergkamp, never looked back. However, whilst Sir Les only lasted 2 years at Newcastle thanks to a certain Scotsman, Bergkamp saw out his career at the Gunners, delighting the fans with moments of genius like this:

Whether or not Bergkamp would have been a success at Newcastle and outlasted Dalglish on Tyneside is something we’ll never know.

 

Clarence Seedorf

Ruud Gullit didn’t do much good work in his ill-fated spell at St James’ Park but he was close to doing one thing right. The Dutch legend’s sky-high reputation in his homeland very nearly persuaded his fellow countryman Clarence Seedorf to St James’ Park in the summer of 1999. The Sunday Mirror reported on the 2nd of May ’99 that Seedorf had called Gullit to confirm that the contract offered to him by Newcastle was acceptable. A fee of £5.5m was mooted yet the deal for the much-celebrated attacking midfielder fell through – reason unknown. Whilst Gullit spent over £6m on Elena Marcelino, Seedorf moved from Madrid to Milan, playing for two years at Inter before moving to city rivals AC Milan, where he remains to this day. Newcastle meanwhile, turned their attentions to Kieron Dyer instead, depriving the Toon Army of moments of brilliance like this:

 

Rivaldo

One part of Brazil’s famous ‘Three R’s’ (Ronaldo, Rivaldo & Ronaldinho) at the 2002 World Cup, Rivaldo came to the world’s attention when, after scoring more than a goal every other game for Deportivo La Coruna, he moved to Bobby Robson’s Barcelona in 1997. He went on to score a remarkable 130 goals in his five seasons at Barca, yet despite his undoubted quality, he was released from his contract following Brazil’s victorious 2002 World Cup campaign.

Prior to the World Cup, Newcastle were rumoured to have agreed terms with the mercurial Brazilian, who was reportedly keen to work with Bobby Robson again. Newcastle had lined up a £10m bid and Freddy Shepherd looked odds on to recruit the 30-year old at one point. However, his successful world cup and free agent status attracted new suitors and he moved to AC Milan instead. He became something of a journeyman after that, playing in Greece, Uzbekistan and now, at the age of 39, he is still playing in his home city of Sao Paulo.

 

Ronaldinho

A year after the club’s failure to land Rivaldo, Newcastle tried, again in vain, to tempt his compatriot and second member of the ‘Three R’s’, Ronaldinho to Tyneside. The goofy-toothed Brazilian was Europe’s hottest property at the time and having finished in a disappointing 11th place in France’s Le Championnat with Paris Sant-Germain, he was keen on leaving France’s capital for pastures new. Newcastle, facing stiff competitions from Europe’s elite, attempted to woo him to Tyneside by offering to double his wages. The transfer bid itself was rumoured to include Laurent Robert, who had joined the Mags from PSG two years previous, plus £3m in cash.

The deal failed to materialise however, as Ronaldinho was at the centre of a three-way power struggle between Man Utd and Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona. With Barcelona’s new president Joan Laporta having included David Beckham’s acquisition as part of his election maifesto, only to see ‘Golden Balls’ opt to join Madrid’s Galactico’s project instead, Laporta was under pressure to appease Los Cules and he subsequently signed Ronaldinho for a fee in the region of 30 million Euros. In the process, Ronnie disappointed the Toon Army, excited by reports of the Brazilian magician leaving a London nightclub with the Newcastle chairman’s son, Kenny Shepherd.

 

Wayne Rooney

Probably the most famous example of Newcastle attempting to, if not nearly signing one of the world’s most wanted players. Fresh with cash to burn following the surprise departure of perma-crocked Jonathan Woodgate to Real Madrid for £13.5m, Newcastle looked to respond by appeasing their fans with a big-name signing. Spearheaded by Freddy Shepherd rather than Bobby Robson, Newcastle made the first move in bidding for Everton’s rising Scouse superstar. Their initial £20m was immediately rejected and although they upped it towards the region of £25m, the wonderkid eventually moved to Old Trafford for £30m. Many a conspiracy theory (including upping the price for Man Utd) has since been put forward as to Newcastle’s reasons for bidding for Rooney when a defender was so blatantly needed instead but for me, you can’t look too far past Freddy Shepherd’s insistence upon creating his own Galactico’s Upon-Tyne project. Fast forward 12-months and Sir Bobby Robson had been relieved of his duties, Graeme Souness was in charge, Jean-Alain Boumsong was the club’s first choice centre-back and Michael O**n was paraded around after becoming the Toon’s record signing. To add insult to injury, Rooney scored this screamer plus many, many more against us in the years since his move to Manchester:

Rooney would most likely have moved on soon after joining a Newcastle side in decline but at least the club have seen a return on their investment, unlike the massive total they received from the departure of Owen: £0.

 

Luis Figo

Another FIFA World Player of the Year winner, Luis Figo was the figurehead of Portugal’s supposed ‘Golden Generation’. Having started his career at Sporting Lisbon before transferring to Barcelona in 1995, Figo appeared at St James’ Park in the Champions League in 1997, when he was part of the Barca side that lost 3-2 to a Tino Asprilla inspired Newcastle side. It wasn’t until eight years and ten trophies later though, that Newcastle registered their interest in the free agent whose Real Madrid contract expired in the summer of 2005. At 32 years of age, Figo was rumoured to be close to joining Newcastle on a one-year contract with the option of a further year.

Eventually interest from Italian giants Internazionale arose and the former Portugal-captain unsurprisingly opted to head for the San Siro rather than listen to Graeme Souness’ inspiring teamtalks. Figo played on for a further four seasons before announcing his retirement in 2009. He might not have lasted long at Newcastle on his high wages after Shepherd broke the bank to sign Owen and because of his age may have proved to be more Patrick Kluivert than Alan Shearer on Tyneside, had he joined Souness’ short lived revolution.

 

Luka Modric

Perhaps the closest any of the players on this list came to actually signing for Newcastle, Luka Modric was maybe not so well known at the time, but his performances for Tottenham since arriving in North London have been nothing short of spectacular. The diminutive Croatian playmaker has confirmed himself as one of the world’s best midfielders and is currently attracting interest from Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City following Spurs’ failure to re-qualify for the Champions League. Rewind 3 years to 2008 and it was actually Newcastle who led the queue to sign the former Dinamo Zagreb man.

Newcastle, fresh from having appointed Kevin Keegan and chief youtube-watcher Dennis Wise were supposedly looking to splash the cash on up and coming players from the continent. The likes of Andrei Arshavin and Arda Turan were linked prior to Euro 2008 but it was Newcastle’s interest in Modric that proved to be the most serious. Indeed, at one point, Modric was odds on to be wearing black and white after he was flown to Tyneside to meet the club’s officials and view the facilities. However, Tottenham also had a bid accepted and managed to persuade the little maestro that his future lay at White Hart Lane, a decision the Modric surely has no regrets about following Newcastle’s subsequent relegation in 2009.

 

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

After yesterday’s release of the new Newcastle United home kit for the season 2011/2012, featuring waistcoat and tie as seen below, the club today released images of the new change/away kit for the new season.

New NUFC Home kit – 2011/12

The new NUFC 2011/12 home kit sports a fashionable waistcoat and tie effect

New NUFC Away / Change kit – 2011/12

The new NUFC away kit is similar to the home shirt but includes bow-tie instead

The new away shirt looks remarkably similar to that which will be used when Newcastle are playing at home, except for one major change. Gone is the black tie and in its place is a blue bow-tie, a colour often used in Newcastle’s change strips in recent years as the third colour of United’s adopted bird, the Magpie.

Toon boss Alan Pardew apparently didn’t say “The new change kit is very stylish and will not only make our players look smarter on the pitch, but will give the fans a multi-purpose shirt to wear for all occasions off it.” “I believe that is the angle Mike is pushing with the new price-tag of £60. He feels that it is an excellent deal as you are effectively getting two outfits in one.”

The new dual-outfit design is thought to have been inspired by the strict rules that disallow club owner Mike Ashley from entering the director’s box at away stadia with his replica shirt on. However, the new, smarter design should enable him to wear his change shirt to away matches hassle free.

Mike Ashley is also believed to have cut costs on the players suits, used for official travel to away matches. One St James’ Park  insider said “The players will now both travel and play in their new multi-purpose change kits and they’re not happy about it.”

Newcastle today released images of the new Puma home shirt to be worn next season (2011/12):

The new Newcastle United shit. Sorry, kit.

The shirt is available to pre-order now and will be released on the 19th of May, three days before our final game of the season, at home to West Brom where the kit will presumably be worn by the team against the Baggies as history tends to suggest.

Fans will obviously have their own take on the new strip but my personal opinion is that I don’t like it. I’m not saying I haven’t disliked shirts before, only for them to grow on me, but from the moment I set eyes on the – what proved to be accurate – leaked design several weeks ago, I felt that it was too simplistic and lacked one basic ingredient – Stripes.

The new kit could pass as a jockey's uniform

The lack of white stripes on the edge of the body make the shirt look like a solid black top with white sleeves, leaving room for just 2 white stripes. Also, one of my main bugbears from this season’s kit design is the use of a tacky, plastic badge, seemingly ‘stuck on’ as close as possible to the right-sided white stripe. I’m certainly a fan of the classy, embroidered badges on shirts of old compared to the plastic ones that Puma seem to favour.

Or, perhaps it is just the latest in a long line of Mike Ashley induced spending cuts? Either way it continues this season’s impression that Puma have simply selected a shirt from their 5-a-side or Sunday League catalogue and, quite literally, stuck on the Newcastle badge and Northern Rock logo.

The long-sleeved version looks like even more of a joke – like one of the outfits you see alongside the words ‘Ruby Walsh’ and ‘Epsom 2.15’ on the wall of a bookmakers.

The new, mainly negatively received shirt may divide opinion like Shola Ameobi divides opposing defencesbut one thing is for sure. It will sell well, as Newcastle United shirts always do. We follow the club, the team and whilst it is often said you follow ‘the shirt’, you don’t follow it because of its design, no matter how good or bad. Just look at last season’s atrocious change shirt offering. Slated so badly by the media and opposing fans, it garnered a cult-status among the Toon Army and saw one of the best returns on the pitch in terms of points per game of any NUFC away shirt ever.

Last season's awful away strip gained cult status as it proved to be successful on the pitch

So whilst my first impressions of the new kit are not good, I have learnt from past experience that only time will tell whether I will eventually like it or not. What will certainly help, however, is if the team on the pitch performs well in their new, shit kit.

What are your thoughts on the new shirt? What is your favourite home shirt of all time?