When the 2011-2012 Barclay's Premier League season kicked off, most people were certain that Newcastle United would have a lot to play for in the final four matches of the schedule. The question of "Which competition will they be competing in next season?" was certainly one that many felt would still be in play at this point in the season. None expected that the question would be in reference to European competition. Newcastle are far from the relegation tips that they were getting from many pundits (and fans, mind) and Tyneside is buzzing.
It's Monday, and we've had a day to decompress from a second comprehensive defeat of Stoke City, a loss by Tottenham giving Newcastle sole possession of 4th place and Everton valiantly fighting against Manchester United and only just missing out on the full 3 points that would have delayed the European qualification parties in Toon. There are, however, four matches left in the season... matches on which United's ultimate European fate will be decided. The club are keeping their heads down and focusing one match at a time... but we as fans will likely find some combination of reality and fantasy over the next week. Take the jump for some reality!
"Mike's put something like £273 million into the club and he's not taken anything back,'' Pardew told the Sunday Times. "Since I've been here I have not really shouted his corner. Politically for me it's a minefield. I want to keep the fans in a good place but I would say to them, before they get emotional about it, that Mike has invested something like 25% of his personal wealth in this football club. "Ask me for 25% of my money and you've got no chance. I don't care how good your idea is.''
I'm not smart enough to know what to do with this information. I do know that: a) I do not believe that number is accurate within the context that it is portrayed here and b) I do not believe that Mike Ashley has not taken anything back. Maybe he hasn't taken back the volume of £ that he does from Sports Direct or any of his other business interests (which you can keep on track of if you have him on your google news bar). That's neither here nor there, however, as the results financially and on the field render all arguments against Ashley invalid, even if he is a spiteful, petulant man. (Give me my St. James' Park back, sir!) (Good morning, John!)
"Whatever we do now, it’s an outstanding season," manager Alan Pardew said. "But of course, we haven’t lost sight of what the city hasn’t lost sight of. "You can feel it in the crowd, you can feel it in the city, that there’s a chance for us to do something really special (and qualify for the Champions League)."
Alan Pardew is absolutely right in these quotes... Playing in meaningful matches at the top of the table has got the Toon buzzing and dreaming... and even though the fixture list looks a little rough, it is all setting up in front of the club "to do something really special". Howay the lads!
The balance of the Newcastle midfield is brilliant. Cheick Tiote sits and pulls the strings, Jonas Gutierrez has vision and then Yohan Cabaye gives them vision and finishing ability. You wonder if they're strong enough at the back, but Fabricio Coloccini's commanding presence seems to have settled everyone down and behind them you've got to beat Tim Krul. I couldn't have been any more impressed with what I saw on Saturday and with Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea not bang in form then at this moment a top-four finish is there for Newcastle. But Alan Pardew's not stupid and while he hopes they will play that well in their next game you just never know.
It's interesting that the questions about Newcastle United now mirror to an extent the questions that existed about Newcastle United at the beginning of the season. While the paper-thin depth at the back still has got to be a concern, it must also be reiterated that Newcastle have kept 9 clean sheets (including v. Manchester United and an active streak of 3 in a row). I understand the concern still existing, but evidence and results are suggesting that we may be able to keep it together through to the summer.
SAMMY AMEOBI is back up and running for Newcastle United. The teenager has been out since January with a knee injury but has been working with Newcastle’s fitness experts and will be ready to join in with the main group in due course. It remains to be seen whether Ameobi can force his way on to the bench for remaining games after Stoke City today, but Manchester City, Chelsea or Everton could be a possibility should things continue going to plan.
Cabaye told the Chronicle: "I was young but I remember David Ginola playing here. "They were fighting with Man United for the title and they beat them 5-0, and I remember Ginola’s goal. "We are proud to share some records with them."
The days of The Entertainers were heady days, both for the results that were achieved as well as (importantly) the style of play. It was a maximum gratification, maximum potential heartbreak situation which suited. If this club were to emulate the heights of the Entertainers, I think we would all be beside ourselves.
And Tiote is treading a cautious line on their Champions League bid, as the mantra continues to be taking one game at a time. The Ivory Coast midfielder said: "I don’t think the other Champions League teams fear us yet. "There are too many good teams in the Premier League – we still have a lot of games to play and we must do everything we can to win every game. "As soon as we start to think we have done it, we will go in bad form and lose one game which could be important. For now I am focused on the Wigan game, all of the team are. We are not thinking about the Champions League."
Along with this mandatory "We're focused" quote, Cheik also admits that European qualification makes it more likely that we will keep our star players... interestingly he says it as though he is not part of that "Please don't leave!" contingent.
The crowd was swelled with the cricketers from Hem Heath and Stone, whose North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division game was washed out. By 3.20pm, we were all wishing rain could stop play at the Sports Direct Arena (St James' Park to you and me) because City were 2-0 down and looked completely stumped. "This is the biggest stroll in the park you could ever see in a Premier League game," said summariser Craig Burley at half-time. Not many of the Hem Heathites gloomily nursing their lagers disagreed. Those pints might have looked half full, but after that dreadful 45 minutes, I can assure you they were half empty.
I think that this story made my reader through a mention of Demba Ba... but I clicked through and read it anyway. It was a fun read from a Stoke City journo's perspective. Perception was reality it seems, as both sets of fans were looking at the play on the pitch the same way.
Cup Final Football!
NUWFC First Team Captain said "We’ve finished the season in the best possible way, 20 games unbeaten resulting in promotion into the Northern Premiership. The cup final is all about rewarding ourselves after such a fantastic season. No matter how the game goes NUWFC will be collecting more silverware to add to this year’s collection. Both teams deserve to be playing in this game. It’s a pity the girls have to go out against each other; however every player has something to prove. We are playing for our shirts and our positions. Friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes; it will most definitely be a very competitive game."
1900 GMT tonight, Newcastle United Women's Football Club will begin a match that will bring the club silverware, one way or the other. The First Team will square off with the Reserves for the Sagicor Northumbria Football Association County Cup. Howay the Lasses!