For an extended period of time this past weekend, listening intently to the radio broadcast of Newcastle United's FA Cup clash with Blackburn (for some reason it feels more dire when you can't see the action, doesn't it?) it seemed that we were going to inflict upon the world just one more Blackburn v. Newcastle match. Nobody needed that, but #HatemBomb and Spiderman made sure that (if only just), Newcastle gained some measure of revenge on the club that bounced them from the Carling Cup. It capped off perhaps one of the more brilliant weeks of the season, a week marred only by the departure of Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba to their respective national sides following United's 3-0 win over the defending champions. Time, though, marches on so let us jump in and check out the news around the Toon!
On the FA Cup And A Very Good Week
Alan Pardew spoke of "a lack of electricity" in the stands at Newcastle United as, across the country, "sold out" signs were noticeable by their absence. FA Cup third-round weekend used to grip England in January football fever but, this year, crowds have dropped by virtually a sixth compared with a normal Saturday and Sunday Premier League and Football League programme.
I mentioned in the live thread that the atmosphere seemed weird (at least so far as one could tell over the radio broadcast)-- Newcastle's fans really weren't vocally involved until well into the second half. I have no frame of reference, but it seems that unless you are a supporter for the lower league teams, the FA Cup doesn't have as much mystique as it must have at some point. That said, I still want it. I want it pretty bad.
Reflecting on the Blackburn game, in which he made his first home start, Abeid said: "We didn’t want a replay. "We have played a lot in the last month or so. "It’s good that we win, we can have more rest for the Premier League games. "Our recovery can be good and gives us a chance to win more games." And Abeid underlined that United were up for the Cup with his closing comment. He said: "We wanted to win the game. "We are really trying to win this competition so we are really happy with it. "Long may this continue."
It's a challenge to make any kind of judgement on particular player performances without the visual aspect of the broadcast, but by all accounts Mehdi did very well on his full home debut. In my head, a first half moment where the radio broadcasters mentioned that Mehdi was completely behind the back 4 to pick up a ball which is clearly less than ideal... but halftime came and Pardew tweaked his perspective and he stayed a little further up the pitch in the second. That's about all I can say specifically on Mehdi. Also, I'll say again to Spiderman: Thank you, sir! Thank you for saving the world a FIFTH meeting between Blackburn and Newcastle (counting a match not yet played.... but the specter looms).
Pardew saluted the 30,000-plus crowd which meant Newcastle provided one of the best attendances of FA Cup third round day. However, he feels they can only have been thrilled by a strike undoubtedly one of the best goals ever seen at St James’ Park. Pardew told the Chronicle: "I would have paid good money to have seen that goal. "I am so delighted for the 30,000 who could afford to come and see that goal."
Hatem Ben Arfa's goal is another exercise in social media and the reliance on visual input. Ben Arfa's goal was a great exhibition of individual skill. The supporter at large that wasn't at the match was not able to view the goal until some 6 hours after the match... and all the while social media was burning about it. The hyperbole built and built and got more and more grand until (at least for me) it was a bit anti-climactic to finally see it. All inputs together made for a very interesting study. Now- I've viewed the goal many times and I have a better appreciation for it than I did initially... but let us not ignore Jonas' goal which didn't involve the mazy run, but was every bit as much class in the finish.
"Lionel Messi or even Maradona would have been proud of Hatem's magnificent goal," said Gutiérrez. The Argentinian winger is sympathetic to Ben Arfa's struggles to adjust to the intensity of English football. "We know Hatem is a good player with the ball at his feet. But in France football is not as physical and it's been difficult for him to adjust, especially after the injury, but we know how hard it is to try to tackle Ben Arfa when he's on a run like that. We can't do it in training. "The goal reminded me of Diego Maradona's against England in 1986. What we keep saying to Hatem is, when he gets the ball in the last quarter of the pitch, to take on players because he has the skill and he's so quick. In the middle of the pitch we tell him just to keep it simple, not to do anything flashy and pass. Be safe. He must do his fancy work in the final third."
I agree that when HBA is on the ball, he needs to run at defenders. It seems that in every appearance he has at least made one electrifying play that created himself a goal scoring chance...
However, Pardew is satisfied his side was able to maintain the high level of performance shown in the win over the Red Devils. He told the Chronicle: "I don’t think this was as important as the Manchester United game. "We needed to beat a top team, and to do that in the style we did means it has been an unbelievable week for us. "In the second half, we were as good as we were against Manchester United, make no mistake about that, and with different personnel. I am absolutely delighted with the players."
It was very very good to have this week happen. Our form through the holiday programme was very very poor, and there was no better way, really, to fully announce that we had at least turned the ship in the right direction. We still have to confirm that there are goals in the squad without Demba, but we are at least on the right track.
On Demba Ba
Redknapp said: "Demba Ba’s done great, hasn’t he? Everybody’s looking at him suddenly. "Anybody could have had him a year ago. Full credit to Alan Pardew, he took him. "He’s done a fantastic job. What a strike-rate he’s got. He’s probably the most in-form striker anywhere at the moment. "They say there’s a release clause in his contract, that’s what we all hear. "He’s certainly done well, and it will be interesting to see what happens there, but at the moment he’s doing great things for Newcastle."
/takesdeepbreath I sincerely hope that Alan Pardew has already reported Harry Redknapp to the FA for his continued attempts to usurp our squad, to wit: attempting to get Demba Ba signed away from us. I've got some ideas percolating on this whole thing, so I'mma leave it at that for now. Also: GET THAT CONTRACT FIXED.
Seven years ago Demba Ba failed trials at English lightweights Barnsley and things were so bad for the budding Senegalese forward that only a French Third Division side, Rouen, could offer him refuge. Earlier trials at French clubs Lyon and Auxerre had also ended in failure for Ba. Another English lightweight, Watford, were not so sure and, to minimise their risk, offered him a one-year contract in 2005 but after manager Ray Lewington was fired, his replacement Aidy Boothroyd felt Ba wasn't good enough, and froze him out of the first team. He quit and moved to the French Third Division from where he was signed by Belgian club, Mouscron, in 2006 but, after scoring in each of his first three games, Ba fractured his tibia and fibula and was out of action for eight months.
This piece is an interesting read, chronicling Demba's struggle to get a foothold in England (and football in general). A lot of times I skim the news, but I got sucked into this one - until a rather interesting accusation regarding exactly why Demba could not initially gain purchase in his climb to where he's at now. I have no way to fully refute the accusation, nor does the author have any way to prove it.... so I'll just leave it out there. Take a read and let me know what you think.
Demba Ba admits he would welcome the opportunity to turn out for PSG at some stage of his career, but says he will be going nowhere in January.
The interview with MSC went floating around the twitters yesterday along with commensurate panic. The good thing about the canned stories we get (particularly, it seems, in football coverage) is that I didn't even have to translate it from the French to know what it said and reject it as a reason to worry. It may be something to watch as we get to the summer window; PSG are pulling a Manchester City over there in France... but I don't think it's anything to worry about now.
When I clipped them, it didn't seem like the news was quite as massive as it had been the last several days. Clearly I was wrong. Enjoy!