We have reached the downhill portion of the very long break opened up by the rescheduling of the Chelsea match, which means that Stoke City are now squarely in the frame. Before we completely shift focus, however, there is a small matter of today's news stories (and a few from over the weekend). With 5 matches left in the season and the club in contention for European competition, the news has a pretty happy slant. There's Yohan Cabaye talking about targets for the rest of the season, Shane Ferguson training with Gazza (not much to do with the season specifically there, but... awesome) and Alan Pardew insisting this season is not a one off.
I present to you, then, the Monday morning links!
While studying for his coaching badges, Gascoigne came face to face with Fergie at Little Benton and, fully kitted out in Newcastle training gear, the Geordie genius was assigned to work alongside Ferguson for a week in a dream meeting of minds for the Northern Ireland young gun. In an extensive interview with the Chronicle, Ferguson said: "I was injured one time and Gazza just happened to be working at Newcastle. It was probably the luckiest thing that’s happened to me. "I was coming back from injury. It ended up being just me and Gazza doing fitness work together. It was a dream come true. Here I was stood next to Paul Gascoigne in training, he’s such a legend. "He was talking to me all the time and giving me loads of tips. We trained for a week. He’s a great man, it was a brilliant experience."
I don't suppose there is anything bad that could come from this type of association. Well... so long as it stays at the training base. Let's not have Gazza helping Shane with his form at the pub.
It was his blistering run against the Potters last term that almost resulted in a goal as good as Hatem Ben Arfa’s against Bolton. The clip has attracted thousands of hits on YouTube, but this time Ferguson is hoping he can cap such a great run with a goal. He said: "I hope so – hopefully this time it ends in a goal. It would be great to be involved in the squad again and get another chance. "But to repeat what I did last year but this time put it into the net would be great."
So... the idea of Hatem Ben Arfa on the right and Shane Ferguson on the left with similar skill sets does not suck. Hopefully we see Shane on the weekend... hopefully not in the role of "rescue this dire match" that he filled last Monday v. Bolton. Not that I wouldn't welcome that... but I just don't want to watch another awful half of football.
Qualifying For Europe And Related Stories
Newcastle United find themselves at the starting post under Alan Pardew going into the last five Premier League matches with Tottenham and Chelsea for company. The black-and-whites would have to blow up in spectacular fashion to finish outside the top six, a position they have not relinquished since January – and it would take a sequence of results we’ve not experienced since the 2008/09 season, when the Mags lost five first-team games in a row.
Never say never, and we've seen spectacular collapses before, but if we can take full points from Stoke this weekend, it'll be pretty much sorted. Any way it sorts out, this has been a tremendous accomplishment for Alan Pardew and the entire squad... especially in light of the paper-thin depth on the back line which we aren't talking about much anymore.
But Cabaye says he won’t be tuning in. He said: "We have to stay focused only on us, on our games and our results. We just need to keep playing. Just leave Chelsea and Tottenham – they aren’t our problem." Cabaye would love to play in the Champions League in the colours of Newcastle having already played for Lille in Europe’s top competition.
While the results of Chelsea and Spurs will have direct influence on our ultimate league position, it is true that the players can't do anything about what those clubs are doing. I really wish that I would be able to adopt a similar "Just leave Chelsea and Tottenham - they aren't our problem" attitude. I'm figuring I'll be paying a little more attention than Yohan.
"From day one I’ve tried to be open and honest about the financial model we’re operating. I understood the fans’ initial resentment. "Mike [Ashley, the club's owner] set out to make Newcastle self-financing and I knew exactly what that framework entailed when I took the job in December 2010. I’ve aimed to be transparent with the supporters and give them clarity about what we are trying to achieve and how we will operate in the transfer market. "They know that in certain circumstances we will sell players. "At a club like this, where huge money was spent in the past on top players such as Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, it was inevitable that some would not be happy with our spend. Many were unhappy with the sale of Andy Carroll – but that £35 million has helped us build a team that has exceeded all expectations this season.
We are all going to have to adopt a wait-and-see approach to our reaction to this season. While it is quantifiable that the club is miles closer to a sustainable business model, it will remain to be seen if we have gotten any closer to a sustainable on-field performance model. It remains to be seen what manner of player retention or recruitment we are going to see if we clinch Europa League competition or even Champions League competition. Even more than the January window (which I saw as a stern test of what Ashley's intentions were for this club), this coming summer is going to tell us loads about where we can expect our club to go in the near future.
Reasons For Optimism?
Vertonghen is believed to also have interest in Newcastle, and if Pardew gets the chance to use his powers of persuasion, it could eventually see a formidable centre-back pairing alongside Fabricio Coloccini. Papiss Cisse and Davide Santon both admitted that the Toon boss had succeeded in selling the club to them. The sighting of Pardew on scouting missions is usually a key sign when it comes to transfers.
I had all but ruled Vertonghen out in my mind... but it seems that the club have not. If Arsenal do indeed go a different direction, it could turn out to be very much to our benefit. The question then becomes, do we still bring in Douglas?
With Demba Ba having a release clause of just £7million there are worries that a club will lure the forward away from the Sport Direct Arena in the summer and the club may need to find a replacement. Dost has now taken his tally to 24 goals in just 13 games as he continues to show that he is deadly in front of goal. His treble helped Heerenveen claim a 4-2 win and continue their push for Champions League football.
Bas Dost is scoring loads of goals in the Eredivisie and I have seen reports that his price will be right in the neighborhood of the £7m that would come into the club if Demba Ba does leave on this escape clause. I don't really want to see Demba leave... but there is an amount of benefit to swapping one of our players likely to be involved in the ACON with a Europe-based player so that we're not completely without 2/3 of our starting front line next January.
You Take The Good, You Take The Bad
Newcastle United Women were presented with the Northern Combination league trophy after their final match of the season against Bradford City. United won the league on Sunday April 1, 2012 with a 4-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday. They will now be promoted back to the Northern Premier League just one season after they were relegated from it. Club captain Stacy Crooks told Sky Tyne and Wear: "To get relegated last season and the way we have all stuck together is just amazing, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Congratulations again to NUWFC on an excellent season... and still a Cup Final coming up between NUWFC and the NUWFC Reserves. Howay the Lasses!
And versatile Toon player Taylor has slammed his fellow professional’s behaviour on the field. He raged: "Ashley Young is an absolute DISGRACE. He's the biggest cheat in the league. His antics are a joke...." [sic] And Tottenham star Jermaine Jenas, who was on loan at Aston Villa before injury curtailed his season, added: "Never a pen the refs having a laugh!" [sic]
There was a little uproar about Ryan Taylor's comments, particularly on other Newcastle blogs... his comments really didn't bother me that much. We're talking 2 weeks in a row that Ashley Young has "earned" a penalty through diving.. last week also "earning" Shawn Derry a three-match suspension for a club fighting a relegation fight. It is disgraceful. I reckon that if it's an issue, it's a PFA issue.