Pardew and the players have done their job. The wins over Chelsea (h) and Spurs (a) were of course great days out for us and will keep us warm over the winter months but for me, beating Norwich and West Brom at home was vital and they have done it over the last fortnight. I was particularly pleased with the win over The Baggies. West Brom always seem to give us a game and Shane Long has long been a handful for Colo to cope with – the Irishman seems to have a mix of pace, touch and strength on the ground and in the air that makes it uncomfortable for our Capitano. Nevertheless, we came through it and won the game, so no-one can really complain about what is going on in front of us over the last month. I thoroughly enjoyed the West Brom game – two quite evenly matched sides, playing committed but decent football under St James’ Park lights on a cold, dark Newcastle night and a big crowd with a decent amount of beer inside it and a good atmosphere. What’s not to like? Well, a couple of the malcontents I shared a post-match Irish Stout with found something, namely an unhappiness at Pardew’s tactics and substitutions in the last 10 – 15 minutes when it was felt the manager allowed The Baggies to come onto us and it might have been the opportunity to bring on HBA to keep the ball – though whether he always manages to do that is a moot point of debate. Vurnon Anita has his admirers and whilst the former Ajax man is energetic and willing, I’m not 100% sold on his actual contribution. I think that’s probably being picky after a four match winning run though, so I’ll leave it.
Twenty Three points by the end of November puts us in a good position and should we end December on Thirty points from games with Swansea (a), Man Utd (a), Southampton (h), Crystal Palace (a), Stoke (h) and Arsenal (h) then I think we can kick on into the second half of the season in half decent shape. Anything better would of course be brilliant but Pardew has built up a decent cushion for us, so any run of 2 or 3 defeats over December shouldn’t set the alarm bells off as they might have but for this nice little run of four wins.
I think it’s fair to say both Debuchy and Sissoko have now settled into the team and into English football as they come up to their first anniversary as Newcastle United players. I felt a bit for Mbwia being dropped as he has generally been doing okay but I suppose when the club captain and someone is influential as Colo is available, he has to be selected. What was beyond discussion was that Mike “Iron Mike” Williamson (aka Willo – cough) remained in the team. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been Williamson’s biggest fan, his distribution can be appalling and he has committed some horrendous blunders that have made me pine for the days of Nikos Dabizas but er, Willo’s performances this season have been top drawer. Long may it continue. Likewise Shola Ameobi. I’ve never known a player divide opinion as much as the Fenham Eusebio but there is no doubt in this World Cup year, St James’ Park’s very own Super Eagle is turning in some rather Super Magpie performances. His work-rate, often the biggest bone of contention has been excellent but his strength, passing and aerial ability has added something to our attack which was missing last season. I’m sure if you asked Loic Remy about the reasons for his success he’d point to Shola and it’s no coincidence our Lone Ranger makes a bee-line for our Nigerian World Cup bound man whenever he scores. Shola has become a leader at Newcastle United.
Of course it wouldn’t be Newcastle United if there wasn’t a shadow ready to be cast across the club and an almost tangible feeling amongst Mags that as things are progressing so well on the pitch, the stage is set for Ashley to pull off one of his stunts aka as shooting us accurately in the foot. Whether this means going through January without adequately strengthening again and/or cashing in one of our assets remains to be seen. But if the man in charge follows his form book then we can almost expect some monumental bollocks of something or other.
Bizarrely, United chose Saturday match day to release news of a new refit of the training ground at Darsley Park. I say bizarrely as the club hasn’t even applied for planning permission yet and the drawings are curious to say the least – with what looks like a goal placed in front of a glass window. To be fair, it might be a volley ball net but well, that raises more questions. The gen is here.
Of course, the cynic in me wonders whether this news wasn’t rushed out with quotes from Kinnear and everything to act as a diversion to other news regarding fees paid by United to agents. We haven’t had time to analyse these fees or do any comparative studies, but rest assured, we will. The club’s statement is here
It is curious the club should be so on it with news of the training ground refit given the almost 100% news blackout and lack of comment they have made about the Academy achieving Category One status. We all thought that had at last been sorted in the summer but the lack of comment and news from United makes you wonder.
As with everything at Ashley’s Newcastle United, the truth is out there but you have to look very hard to find it.
Regular readers of this tosh will know we have been giving our backing to the Time 4 Change group who recognise the abysmal manner in which the club is being run. A run of four wins doesn’t alter anything. Recently they, true faith and our friends at The Mag have all been collectively been putting questions to the club but to use a Mafiosi expression, the club appears to have gone to the mattresses and is answering nothing, hinting all will be revealed in the utterly discredited Fans Forum, now little more than an opportunity for a handful of supporters (well-meaning and otherwise) to be patronised and used by the club to meet its obligations to the Premier League. Nothing more. We’ve been here before in the days of Shepherd-Hall and it seems history is being repeated on the Ashley watch. There may be some superficial achievements but nothing really of substance. Nevertheless for the avoidance of doubt, here is a summary of what we think are questions that need to be answered:
Why has Newcastle United’s commercial income halved since 2007?
Why does Sports Direct and other companies owned by Mike Ashley pay nothing for wall-to-wall perimeter advertising at St James’ Park and on club merchandise in the most watched league in the world?
NUFC.DIRECT is the online Newcastle United merchandising arm but it is owned 100% by SPORTS.DIRECT and run from Sports Direct HQ in Nottinghamshire. Where does the money, spent by Newcastle United supporters on Newcastle United merchandise actually go?
In its latest accounts Newcastle United paid Sports Direct almost £500,000. What was that payment for?
Newcastle United’s accounts show the club paid Ashley £11m in a previous accounting period and that a further £18m was due to be paid in the last period. In the summer, the club insisted no payment had been made to Ashley. Has that payment now been made but if it has not, what is the intention regards that £18m?
Officials at United might want to kick these questions into the long-grass of the Fans Forum but a failure to address them timeously raises suspicions and increases cynicism at Ashley’s intentions amongst supporters.
But back to the football. We have two aways this week which will be extremely tough for us for different reasons. Of Swansea (a) and Man Utd (a), naturally, I think the biggest opportunity for us is in South Wales. There is lots to admire in Swansea – in many ways they are as close to the kind of club I’d love United to be – namely accountable to fans and from this distance run in as responsibly and intelligently a way as you can expect in the PL in 2013. I’d guess at some stage Laudrup will move to a bigger stage as his predecessors Rodgers and Martinez have done but the people at Swansea seem to know football so the future is bright for them I think – and hope. That said, much as I cheered their League Cup win last season, I’ll be wanting us to get something down there. They are unquestionably feeling the strains of the mental Europa League format and the demands its places on clubs without the rewards to meet that and the whisper is both Bony and Michu may be missing in the game against us. That gives us an advantage and hopefully we’ll take the game to the Swans. Obviously the trip to Old Trafford (happily with a 3000 following given the club taking a full allocation and despite rip-off prices) to face the Champions will always be a formidable challenge and so it will be this time, despite hoped-for wobbles following the transition from Ferguson to Moyes. As it happens, I think Man U are hitting a bit of form and will be a difficult prospect on home soil. Anything we get there will be a massive bonus but if we lose, we can lose no time in dusting ourselves down and focusing on Southampton at home the following week – another big challenge for us.
Anyway, despite fears about what is and what is not going on at the club behind the scenes, the football in November has been encouraging and we’re all enjoying the winning feeling. We’ve got a busy week here at true faith – we’ve got loads lined up for you with previews, TIFOSI, Fanzine craic, History files, Video Blogs and Podcasts as well as the Saturday Special to all those who have signed up for our weekly newsletter. Obviously we all hope you enjoy it all and its part of your football diet.
Have a great week.