Hey, it's Wednesday! This is the only good part of the long two-week breaks that sometimes populate the Premier League schedule (or in this instance are recreated through rescheduling)- the second week always seems to just fly by. Alan Pardew and his merry band of lads will be installing their latest plan to counter Stoke's hoofball tactics which we will all hope to be as effective as the last time we met. I was tremendously impressed at the time and still think that the first Stoke match is in the Top 3 of Alan Pardew's Greatest Tactical Hits Of 2011-12.
For our part, let us start our Wednesday by taking a run through the stories in and around Toon. Today: Mike Ashley, Toon Superfan, Dutch players, David Ginola and Alan Pardew resigns... so why not take the jump and see what is happening.
He told the Chronicle: "Players like Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa were already well-known stars in France. "It’s no surprise that they are helping Newcastle push forward towards Europe. "Cabaye won the double last season with Lille and is a born winner. "Hatem is an amazingly talented player from France who we all knew about. "He is a player that can produce magic when nobody expects it. "Fingers crossed, he will be on the plane with Les Bleus for Euro 2012."
Not that the current crop of French Magpies needed the stamp of approval from David Ginola for us to know they were awesome... but it certainly never hurts. Here is hoping for continued success with Newcastle and for an injury-free European Championship for such Mags that make the trip!
"When you play in non-league football, you meet a cross-section of characters that you don’t meet in professional football. "You might have a company chief executive and a dustbin man playing side-by-side in the same non-league team, so you come across many characters from different walks of life whereas in professional football, you have football-focused individuals who have based most of their upbringing on football because it was going to be their career from day one. "Due to the playing route that I took, I have experienced diversity of character, so when I come across what may be classed as a ‘difficult or enigmatic character’ in the football world, it’s not much of a problem for me."
Perhaps Alan's background does help him with his man management... but more than that, it has given him a unique exposure to the fan-media-club relationship as well. Lost in his performance this year is how he has masterfully handled the numerous wildfires that Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias insist on setting within the Toon Army.
However, the team's recent revival and surprise charge for a Champions League place, led by manager Alan Pardew, has seen a thawing of the fractious relationship between Ashley and the club's support. Indeed there is a growing belief that the owner's desire to run Newcastle as a self-sufficient business is winning over initially sceptical supporters.
I'm glad for Ashley that he feels he can get out amongst the fans again. I think that's nice, and I think that the ownership and support should be able to drink together. Those of you who would like, enjoy it. For my part, I'm going to start doomsday prepping and I'll see you on the other side of whatever new explosion is coming.
PLENTY of sweets, a nip of whiskey and cream liqueur and a TV package to keep up with Newcastle United’s matches are the key to a long and happy life, according to 100-year-old Margaret Grey. The great-grandma will celebrate her landmark birthday with a family party tomorrow – but come Saturday she will be glued to the screen as the Magpies take on Stoke. "I just love football, I always have. The goals are always exciting. I loved Jackie Milburn but I’m a fan of anyone in a black and white shirt and still watch all the games," said Margaret, who now lives at Covent House residential care home in Birtley, Gateshead.
Plenty of sweets - check. Cream Liqueur - Check. Guess I need to develop a taste for whiskey. I love and respect a fan that has spent a lifetime supporting Newcastle United. Just for frame of reference, Margaret was 46 when Wor Jackie was calling time on his Newcastle career in 1957.
Tavernier is a right-back by trade, but can also operate in the centre of defence, as he did on his first-team debut last season against Accrington Stanley in the Carling Cup. He was then sent on loan to Gateshead, playing 17 times, before stints at Carlisle, Sheff Wed and MK Dons this season. And now he hopes that he can challenge the likes of Danny Simpson, James Perch and Mike Williamson, though he admits he is still on a ‘learning curve’ as a player.
We have a couple of big-time young defensive players coming up that will be ready for first-team consideration sooner rather than later - Tavernier, of course, and Remie Streete (who is currently recovering from a knee injury). I catch myself hoping that the current crop of centre halves will make it possible for James and Remie to not fall into the path that caught Tamas Kadar, who was supposed to be great but has not caught the fancy of the current manager, clearly. With Captain Colo and Steven Taylor, though, I think our back line (particularly at CB) has better leadership than it has in quite a while.
Guthrie, however, has warned the club they can’t rest on their laurels – and says they must look to strengthen the squad again in the summer if they are to maintain their new-found success. "We will have to build in the summer," said the midfielder, 25 today "Every team gets stronger in the summer, so we will have to keep up. "If we get a top six finish then the next season is always important as you don’t want to fall below the standards you have set."
This particular article doesn't have much by way of earth-shattering insight... but I included it with a view that "it sounds like Danny is thinking in terms of a Newcastle future"... Who knows what is going to end up happening, but I can say that it would be a little sad to see Danny Guthrie in the claret and blue of Aston Villa.
Alan Pardew is desperate to improve his side's defensive options, and in conjunction with chief scout Graham Carr, the Magpies manager has identified Douglas, a centre-half at FC Twente, and Pieters, a full-back at PSV Eindhoven who is also capable of playing in central defence, as his preferred options. Preliminary discussions are understood to have taken place with FC Twente, and while Steve McClaren would like to keep Douglas for one more campaign, his Dutch employers are ready to cash in on the £5m-rated Brazilian. Newcastle have received similarly positive noises about Pieters, a player who has been attracting their attention for the best part of 18 months.
It is going to be interesting to see where the transfer budget ends up this summer. We've seen recent reports of anywhere between "1 or 2 players in" to "4-5 players in if we qualify for Europe"... Clearly that is going to influence any potential charge that we may take at Vertonghen... but we've been reported to be well into the process with more than 1 or 2 players: Douglas, Erik Pieters and Romain Amalfitano (who, granted, is on a free).
They have a fine European pedigree in the Premier League era, but for me, rather than make a huge leap into the Champions League – as attractive as that seems – there is an argument they would be better off getting used to the demands of Europe again in the Europa League, where the intensity isn’t as high and the spotlight less glaring? I fear I’m arguing a lost cause and few will agree with me, particularly as the Champions League riches would, in theory, fund player purchases. The only problem is, they’d still have to navigate their way through a qualifying round before the Group Stages begin and they were knocked out by Partizan Belgrade in 2003 before getting to the money spinning stage.
I am never, never, never going to understand this argument. The Europa League is viewed as a lesser competition... but that does not mean that it takes less of a toll on a club physically. Both UEFA competitions will require a "Qualifying Round" home-and-home fixture (assuming a 3rd place league finish to be out of the question). Both them move into a 6-match group stage. Both competitions have a round of 16, 8, 4 and Final for a total investment of 12 matches... but the Europa League (thanks to the dumping in of Champions League flunkies) adds a Round of 32 match, making a 13 match total investment if the club were to make it to the final. The only quantifiable difference between the two competitions lies in one area: £££. While I'll be glad to take the Europa League, let us not try to talk ourselves down from Champions League hopes on the grounds of "The Champions League will take too much of a physical toll!" because it's BS.
Special bonus link!
'I resigned for one reason only. I wanted the chance to speak to West Ham about their managerial vacancy. It was a chance I had been denied,' Pardew explained. 'Given the forthcoming fixture, I will be taking time away with my family over the weekend to consider my future outside of Reading Football Club'. It is understood that Pardew's Reading contract included a clause allowing him to talk to Premier League clubs, but critically West Ham's relegation in May meant that, despite their credentials and aspirations, the clause was useless in this instance. The whole sorry episode has not escaped the ever-watchful eye of the League Managers Association, who are calling for an investigation into the affair concerned that the circumstances surrounding Pardew's attempts to quit the Royals may contravene their code of conduct.
In his "Welcome Reading" piece yesterday, Robert made mention of Alan Pardew's interesting history with the club... so I went and dug out an article from 2003 that fills in the blanks some.