Happy Friday to you all... this last week has flown by and we are in the final approach to the Stoke match tomorrow. In the mean time, let's start today off with your news, links and thoughts about what is going on around the club.
Speaking in his native France last week, Ba said: "As a striker, you like to be in the striking position, but now the coach has made the decision, and I do what I have to do to balance the formation." And Pardew has sensed a quiet determination from Ba on the training field this week ahead of the visit of Stoke, the club which pulled out of a move to sign him in January last year over an issue raised in a medical. "Demba is looking a little bit better this week, and I’ve got the feeling he could be the match-winner on Saturday," Pardew told SportMail. "I think he’s had a little shift in mood. Sometimes you have a little shift in mood, and I think he realises that he can offer us a lot more, and I think he will on Saturday."
Much to no one's surprise, Demba is struggling with the idea of not being directly in the center of the forward formation. It's not really anything that we needed to hear Demba say (although he finally has said it); several times since Papiss Cisse's arrival you would have been able to see Papiss and Demba trying to populate the same area when we're attacking, and it's always been Demba drifting in. I hope that Alan gets into Demba's head a bit... There are goals to be had from that outside position... just ask Hatem Ben Arfa.
Forgotten Transfer Target
The highly-rated midfielder, who will be out of contract in the summer, rejected a new deal at Oakwell but the Tykes, under FIFA rules, will still be entitled to compensation because he is under the age of 24. Barnsley manager Hill thinks Newcastle, who are fifth in the Premier League and chasing a place in the Champions League, need to make a decision quickly before the other clubs take a lead in negotiations. "If Newcastle want him, they should phone Don Rowing (Barnsley’s general manager) and say ‘Listen, we want Jacob Butterfield. We are willing to make this financial offer for his services’ because I know full well that teams within the top four of the Championship are 100 per cent trying to recruit Jacob Butterfield.
I can usually keep on track of most of the rumors and connections that are made in the transfer speculation area... but I had completely misplaced this one until he started making the headlines again in the last couple of days. As a 21 year-old center midfielder, one has to wonder where his future would lie within the current setup. Right now, we already have Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic and Dan Gosling as very young, highly rated prospects in the center of midfield behind Jonas, Cabaye and Tiote... not to mention Danny Guthrie. I'm all for getting the best players you can, but logjammin' the central midfield could lead to attitude problems in the long term, it would seem... unless we're ultimately heading to Steve Sampson's genius 3-6-1 formation.
We're Close To Qualifying For Europe... Let's Compare Squads And Managers!
RESURGENT Newcastle are chasing Champions League qualification for the first time since the glory days of Sir Bobby Robson. And the similarities between Robson’s squad and the current one assembled by Alan Pardew are striking, according to John Carver, loyal lieutenant to both men.
John Carver takes a position by position look at the similarities between this club and Sir Bobby's last European qualifying side. I'm not going to lie... I was hoping for a touch more substance, but it's fun anyway.
The former defender on the night Newcastle made it to the group stages of the competition after a last-minute winner against Feyenoord
Here's a minute long mash-up of video with Robbie Elliott speaking on European memories. I always enjoy these kind of things for some reason. There is a second video that I have not been able to get to work, but it may just be my computer, so I'm going to link it here in case you all can get it to work. Robbie talks about similarities between Alan Pardew and Sir Bobby Robson.
He told the Evening Chronicle: "My future is at Newcastle. I'm playing for Newcastle and I have to finish this season strongly and help the team get into Europe. If we do that, it will be good for the club and the fans. We are in a great position now." Tioté has played a central role in Newcastle's return to prominence and, while the Africa Cup of Nations and injury have interrupted his campaign, his partnership with the summer arrival Yohan Cabaye has been key.
Cheik has stopped short of giving the kind of glowing quotes that we might hope for... but one thing this season has done is give us a slight purchase in the battle with Chelsea and Tottenham for players like Tiote. At least for next year, there's not much gap - European sides are European sides, right? It will be incumbent upon the club to qualify again next year to help solidify our position as peer with those clubs, which is always going to be the challenge. At the very least, however, the sell against Newcastle United being "EUROPEAN FOOTBALLL!!!!!111one!11!" is invalid for next season. It would be splendid if that were enough to keep the squad mostly intact.
Newcastle United will break new ground this weekend for the visit of Stoke City, becoming the first team in the Barclays Premier League to produce their official matchday programme in 3D. The striking effect covers over 80 per cent of the programme, and the end result is an 84-page magazine packed with eye-catching images to go with a whole host of interviews and news.
I'll confess... I'm not the guy running out to see anything and everything I can in 3-D... but this might be kind of awesome.
Looking Forward To Stoke: Injuries And Possibilities
The injury list for Newcastle United is going to be the shortest it has been since the beginning of the season, if I'm recalling correctly. Two bodies (Steven Taylor, Sammy Ameobi) are for sure out, and there is perhaps one body that could be classified as "probable". With degrees of Europe on the line, it's a great time to be getting healthy.
The United manager said: "Tim had a little spasm in his back, we didn’t see a problem with that. "It should go away. If not, Robbie Elliot will play and Robbie’s been absolutely brilliant in the background here. "In some ways I wouldn’t be against him playing so if I think Tim is in any doubt, he won’t play."
Umm... this just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Surely Tim will play... but egad. I agree with Alan Pardew on one thing though... Robbie has been absolutely brilliant in the background here insofar as it is brilliant that he has not been playing. Confidence level if Tim does not play: 0.