It is the stretch run of the season and the matches (thanks to a reschedule of the Chelsea match) are coming hot and thick. The weekend's results (as well as City's victory over Manchester United) have ensured that the final three matches will be every bit as interesting at the top of the table as it will be at the bottom of the table. Regardless how it ends up, it is going to be wildly entertaining to watch both ends of the tables as the season wraps up.
The Chelsea match is tomorrow and there is previewing to be done, so I'll jump into today's news. Today: Alan Pardew, the gates of St. James' Park, Alan Pardew, Gaby Obertan, transfer rumors and the silly season starting early.
Reserves win County Cup
MICHAEL RICHARDSON struck the decisive penalty as Newcastle United reserves retained the Sage Northumberland Senior Cup last night. The ex-Walker Central midfielder made it 4-2 in a spot-kick shoot-out, after the Toon’s second string had been held 4-4 after extra time by STL Northern League Division Two champions Team Northumbria.
It is always good to win the matches that you probably should win, although I doubt that Willie Donachie will be over the moon that his charges were taken to penalties by Team Northumbria. It was always going to be a bit of a long end of the season after it was announced that many of the reserves were going to be allowed to move on... but the results the second half of the season have been a little rough.
Finding Gabriel Obertan
Obertan, speaking at a Show Racism The Red Card event, also lifted the lid on his injury agony. The player sustained an ankle problem after the 2-1 loss at Arsenal, and said: "It was going to be only two weeks, but it was worse than expected. "I had to work to strengthen my ankle and get my fitness back. "Hopefully, I'll be ready."
Not only has he spoken, but he was at a public event! Perhaps we will never solve the Mystery Of The Missing Midfielder... but he is back now. You may now rest without worry.
Alan Pardew Shuts Down Player Access
...at least that's what I envision has happened. The main news today is all based on Alan Pardew, so there must have been restricted access to the players.
Pledging to restore pride to United supporters in tomorrow’s crucial trip to Chelsea, he has also revealed that he may need to "bring down" a squad that has been talked up as potential Champions League contenders this season. The fall-out from Saturday’s comprehensive loss against a team fighting relegation appears to have been fierce. Pardew has made a habit of talking up his side this season but after a day analysing the data from the Wigan loss, he hinted at potential changes in personnel and system to address the mistakes that were made in Lancashire.
I don't know how much stock I really put into the idea that if you talk about a goal, it can ruin your focus on the task at hand. It's an easy way to assign blame for what you might consider a "bad loss" for sure, but I think that there are plenty of examples of talk not affecting achieving a sporting goal and if you consider it as a complete data set you would find that there is no real correlation.
The psychology now seems to be heads down, back to the formula that got them to fourth and get on with the football. It is all part of the mind games Pardew has to play with his stars. The first half at Wigan merited a crack of the whip from the management team. It has been fascinating to see how Pardew has challenged his players, collectively and individually, in different ways during the season. He's got most calls right thanks to the way his players have reacted.
This was a pretty interesting read on how Alan Pardew has man-managed with some success this season.
ALAN PARDEW has looked "into the eyes" of each and every one of his Toon players to see just how much remorse they had after the thrashing at Wigan. And the Newcastle United boss – who held an inquest first thing yesterday morning – is confident he will see a reaction from his players at Stamford Bridge.
"...to see just how much remorse they had after the thrashing at Wigan." Whether or not this kind of talk actually occurs between AP and the squad, it's certainly fun to read and listen to. There is talk that the loss to Wigan is going to prompt Alan Pardew to revert to the 4-4-2 formation that he favored earlier in the season, and injuries might dictate any potential change a little bit... I don't think it would be as much a response to Wigan as it would be reaction to Chelsea, though. I suppose I could see a situation where Hatem Ben Arfa starts in a pure right midfield role at the start of the game and then assuming positive play in the early going, it would be easy to slide into the 4-3-3.
EITHER side of the rivers Tyne and Wear there will be disappointment that Harry Redknapp has been overlooked for the England job. Not because Redknapp holds a North East mandate to take over the Three Lions – he was never the people’s choice, despite the narrative pursued nationally – but because it means he is free to continue talking up Tottenham’s interest in our region’s best players. Anyone forwarding the case that Redknapp carried public opinion with him would be best advised to survey the bars and offices of this region, where mention of the Spurs boss usually draws a venomous response
It never really felt like 'arry was the popular choice that the papers would try to feed us that he was. With Roy Hodgson being contacted by the FA, it is looking pretty much guaranteed that Redknapp (and his Newcastle United shopping list) will be staying with Spurs. While I don't feel that we're going to be a selling club over the summer, there is still enough of "fool me once" type feeling left over with Mike Ashley that nothing would surprise you. Demba Ba and Tim Krul specifically are going to see lots of ink connecting them with Spurs now.
Newcastle United has also started to put their name in the pot for the player with Alan Pardew setting up a possible £8 million move according to The Sun. However, Newcastle and Swansea is not the only clubs keen on making a move for one of the EPL’s currently hottest properties.
Sigurdsson has been challenging Papiss Cisse for the title of "Best January Purchase" and would be a tremendous acquisition even if we are log-jammed in the midfield. Manchester United have been linked at £10m and Liverpool have been linked with the player as well. I don't think we'll see Gylfi in the black-and-white, but I'm much more willing to entertain this rumor as an option than the next story:
Real Madrid legend Raul has admitted that he is seeking a summer move away from the Bundesliga, putting the St James’ Park side on red hot alert…The former Real Madrid star played his last game in front of Schalke’s fans at the weekend and has one game left for the Bundesliga club. Source: talksport.com Reports coming out of Germany this morning are linking former Real Madrid forward Raul with Premier League sides Newcastle and Fulham. The Tyneside club are considering an audacious bid for the Madrid legend, who is due to play his last game for German club Schalke this weekend.
Raul is still playing at a very high level having scored 40 goals in his 98 matches for Schalke... but he is to turn 35 over the close season. If Newcastle had struggled with leadership over the course of this season, I could possibly see a scenario that a player like Raul would be brought in, but the club has not suffered a lack of leadership. As a player who will not be participating in the African Cup of Nations in January, he makes a bit of sense, but that is the only way that this rumor does make sense. Perhaps it is an "old school Newcastle" move where you splash on a big name- and Mike Ashley has shown and guaranteed us that these type of moves will not be happening. It's out there... but color me shocked if this one happens.
The Gates Of St. James' Park
FOR decades they stood at the entrance to St James' Park - now the stadium's gates are going back on show. Former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall today revealed his plans to bring back the gates to celebrate the ground’s history. The multi-millionaire property developer is hoping to put up the gates, which stood at the Gallowgate End. The gates, which boast Newcastle United’s crest, were removed and taken to Woolsington Hall, a mansion restored by Sir John.
I don't have the minutes right now, but I am going to dig into this one a little bit to see the circumstances of the removal of the gates before I start trumpeting praises for Sir John Hall and his returning the gates of St. James' Park to the stadium area. My interest in this situation is piqued. In the mean time, totally put the gates up where they belong.