So- Long Break Between Matches has hit day 2. If you missed it, we had a pretty interesting discussion about where our hopes should lie through the last 5 matches of the season on Day 1. I'm not certain that Day 2 will provide the same fireworks, but who knows?
Today's links have some massive efforts... those who have read for a while know I don't single out very many links as "must-read" variety, but I think that there is at least one, maybe two of that variety in today's stories. In the news today: Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, "Who is the pressure on in the final 5 matches", Hatem Ben Arfa, changing long-break training strategy, Hatem Ben Arfa and more!
A Very Sad Note On Which To Start
FORMER Newcastle United boss, Freddie Fletcher is seriously ill after having emergency surgery. Newcastle United’s former chief executive is understood to have been diagnosed with the asbestos-related lung cancer mesothelioma, but has also picked up an infection. Doctors at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary have been treating the 71-year-old Scottish-born tycoon for more than a week.
I figured this would have to go first in the links out of respect, even if it's very bad news. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Freddie... it's very sad that both he and Sir John Hall are fighting cancer (Sir John's being terminal).
A Change In The Training Regimen
He told the Chronicle: "We have changed it. The previous times we have had this period we have not won. "We are giving the boys time off now and then we are going to be in at the weekend. "Then we have a week’s training and hopefully that will work better for us."
Clearly some sort of change is necessary... Newcasatle have yet to win after one of these long breaks this year. In fact, it was their little mid-season jaunt to Tenerife that coincided with the launching of the "darkest days" (such as they were) of this season. Hopefully this newest idea works... I will be deeply saddened if we lose to Hoofball City. WORD OF WARNING- if you are reading the links at work, ALL of the Chronicle Links today have auto-play video on them. Mind your speakers!
Hatem Ben Arfa Has Skills... But Does He Have *THAT* Many?
"I believe that I have found the serenity that will allow me, as soon as I have regained all my physical ability, to go forward. How far, I don't know," he said. "I have matured and grown, especially with this long injury but, deep down, I remain the same. The other day in training everybody shouted at me because after tricking the goalkeeper I then waited again to trick him again and then shot wide. I know it annoys everyone and I know I won't change. But, it's that kind of football that I like. "However, I am adapting and I am correcting myself to fit into the professional mould because I know I am paid to win matches and not to amuse myself, but learning to adapt doesn't mean I will forget my instinct. "I feel right here. I do not want to leave England. This is real football, it is here that you have it, with passion, excitement, and the public. I have already played in Milan, Madrid and Barcelona but it is here that I feel right on the pitch. And also it is here that the players are respected. You need to realise and can you believe it that when Newcastle was relegated in 2009, the players did a lap of honour and the fans still applauded them during that last match
This is number 1 of my MUST READ links today. It's a really well-written story that goes a little more in-depth than just calling Hatem a "maverick" or "difficult to deal with"... It's a little opening through which you can see how Hatem views football and was very interesting to me. It's included in the quote above, but I really feel I have to dig this out for special comment: "[E]vereybody shouted at me because after tricking the goalkeeper I then waited again to trick him again and then shot wide." Funny, but fascinating.
Toon legend Nobby Solano is just one of many to have highlighted the unmistakable similarities between Ben Arfa and Argentine player Maradona in the wake of Monday’s game. He said: "I took one look at Hatem Ben Arfa’s goal against Bolton Wanderers and knew straight away it was a goal of world class standard – even my old mate Diego Maradona would have been proud of that. "Already people have compared it to Maradona’s solo effort against England in Mexico during the 1986 World Cup – and having played alongside one of the greatest players in the world, I feel that in terms of technical ability it was just as good." Both goals, despite being 26 years apart, saw the players come from their own halves before going on to out-run and out-skill the opposition’s defence at remarkable speed before tucking the ball neatly into the net - all within a few seconds.
I've seen the opinion (one that I share) around here that the Blackburn goal was better than HBA's Bolton goal... but the Bolton goal happened on Monday and everyone would like to fawn over it, which is fine. Initially when you hear (again.. just like after the Blackburn goal) "ZOMG It's JUST LIKE MARAONA!!!11One!one!!1!" you sit back, have a little chortle and continue on with life... at least I do. But then when you start breaking it down and looking at particular aspects of the goals and take names out of it... the comparisons start to make sense a little bit. WORD OF WARNING- if you are reading the links at work, ALL of the Chronicle Links today have auto-play video on them. Mind your speakers!
Papiss Demba Cisse- Respecting the Number 9 Since January, 2012
"I know the No 9 shirt is a huge thing in Newcastle, it's a monumental honour for me." Papisse said. "Alan Shearer has set the bar very high and I must try to follow the path that he’s set. I need to be aware of the past and what the shirt means. "I’m doing all I can to be worthy. Alan Shearer is the example I have to try and follow. "I’m not trying to prove I am as good as him — but to live up to what the shirt means.
Well... that's a quote that doesn't suck. As you know, I'm a sucker for the history and symbolism of this club, and I'm tremendously pleased to read this. I am more and more impressed with Papiss every day that passes.
Shola Believes Someone Is Under Pressure- But Who Is It?
"There are a lot of very good teams above us who probably think they deserve the Champions League spot more than we do," said Ameobi. "It’s who can get out of these next five games on top. It’s about who can manage their expectations, and go out and execute what they have to execute. "We’ve got no pressure on ourselves. We want to play in Europe. That’s what we want – European football. "People talk about the Champions League, but let’s focus on the next game and making sure we stay in a European spot. "That’s as far as we want to look. If we get more than that, great, but we what want to do is secure European football."
This sounds like "athlete speak" to me... don't run your mouth and get it out there that you're expecting one overachievement over another just in case you miss the one. Or maybe it's not. Maybe the club really still are aiming for the Europa League. I still think that it is misguided to not take the ring that is in front of you... but hey. That's why opinions exist... and on the whole they smell better than the other thing that everyone has, as the expression goes.
Mr Nolan said he got chatting with Mr Savage, 37, when the midfielder bragged about a goal he scored for Leicester against Newcastle. He said: "We were third in the table at the time and I said to him: ‘I bet you we finish in the top four'. "He couldn’t believe what I was saying and started laughing. That’s when Robbie wrote down the bet on one of my receipts and signed it. It was for £10,000." Mr Savage asked the cabbie to come forward after Newcastle beat Swansea 2-0 on Friday.
Here is another good reason to root for a top-4 finish from our lads.
Breaking Stereotypes Of The Newcastle United Supporter
"Like a lot of my mates I had no time for Pardew when he was appointed, just thought he was another waste of time," he said. "But he's proved me wrong. Now there's a real chance we might even get to Europe. Though knowing us we'll probably bugger it up at the last." Even get to Europe? Don't you Newcastle fans, I said to him, think you should be doing a lot more than that? "Why? We've not won anything domestically for 60 years. What on earth makes you think we think we should be winning things? Do you know a single Geordie who wakes up in the morning and thinks today's the day we're going to win something? Because I don't." The truth is, realism long ago became the lot of the Newcastle fan. Which is why this season has been such fun. A good team, a good manager, good prospects: what a contrast to the views most of the fans had last August, when all they could see ahead was another year of turmoil and dismay.
This is my second MUST READ link of the day. Outside of our community (the Toon Army, that is, not specifically the CHN community), there is a certain perception of what Newcastle fans are... and it really couldn't be any further from reality. You owe it to yourself to read this one... it's excellent.