For the first time in a long while I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a Newcastle United supporter over the last week. I thought we put in a good effort against Man U and but for the incompetence of Mike Dean might have got more from that game. Obviously, our performance and result when we faced an in-form West Ham side was far more satisfying but I noticed I wasn’t the only one out of my seat on a regular basis howling at officials and emitting the primal screams and growls which make SJP such a great place to be on a cold, dark January afternoon with United taking the game to the opposition. Saturday was a proper Newcastle United day.
After the desperate performance and result at Watford in the FA Cup it was critical McClaren’s team came back with something to keep the support on side because I feel had we suffered two disappointing results this last week, the club’s relationship with many of us may have broken wide open again.
Obviously one of the key talking points of last week was the debut of Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea. Shelvey was a player wanted previously by Pardew but also by McClaren last summer. He is also a player mentioned numerous times by Mags as the kind of performer we’d like to have seen arrive at United and form the key part of a spine throughout the team. His performance on Saturday gone was the most impressive from a midfielder since Yohan Cabaye was here and although his range of passing brought a completely new dimension to our play and one which beautifully complimented Wiljandum, Sissoko, Perez and Janmaat it was Shelvey’s competitiveness and leadership which also shone out. With Shelvey fitting my own preference for tall, hard, fast, skilful bastards I do hope that now we will no longer struggle against physically stronger teams. We shouldn’t be quite so vulnerable from corners and set pieces into our box with another big, strong lad helping out the defence but to be fair at the other end Shelvey can take a corner himself and might not be so bad from set-pieces either. Yes, I’m rather taken by the new lad and very optimistic we have a player who might just be capable of taking the arm-band from Colo when he finishes with us at the end of the season.
We did score two sublime goals against a strong West Ham team on Saturday but really but for some profligacy in front of goal we might have been out of sight by half time but we did miss others in the second half as well. The main culprit of those squandered opportunities was Mitrovich. To be honest, I’m yet to be impressed by the Serbian but in my opinion he probably, arguably had his best game for us on Saturday. His hold up play looked reasonable but in my opinion I don’t think he is as fit as he could be and missing good chances isn’t something that can be tolerated indefinitely.
Obviously there are those who defend him and point to his youth but I’m sorry, that’s not going to wash. He is the player brought in for £12m with wages to match and putting the ball in the net is his whole reason for existing. Not that we shouldn’t have other goal-scoring options because as we’ve been banging on for God knows how long, we are painfully short of striking options and it should have been addressed by the club way before now. Charlie Austin’s move to Southampton for only £4m was a big point of discussion at the weekend but my take on this is the board who apparently make these decisions were never decided 100% on him even though I’ve no doubt McClaren wanted him desperately. I can rationalise the reasons for and against with the cons – his fitness record, his age all playing against him. That’s fine, if the club believes he was too much of a risk but they have to have an alternative. If we don’t and Austin does well at Southampton and we were to be relegated then this failure could be the epitaph for Charnley, Carr and McClaren at United.
I’m quite keen on Townsend coming from Spurs. He’s another, like Shelvey who might bring instant PL experience to the team and his pace would be just the ticket for us as on occasion we are ponderous getting up the other end of the pitch. He also appears to want to come to SJP and I see that as a positive. Mind, with SJP at its bearpit best as it has been in the last week, I’d wonder about how any footballer who wouldn’t relish playing in that arena.
There is a theory we have to sell to buy at United but I have to say if reports are true that we will get a fee of £8m for Tiote from some daft team in China then I might start to tip a hat in the direction of Charnley. For me Tiote has done very little for the thick end of three seasons and nothing I hear about him off the park is positive. I don’t think he’s a player I’d want to see stay at United for a multitude of reasons. I’m glad to see the back of him. We haven’t seen enough of Saviet to form any judgements but let’s hope he can deliver.
There is strong talk that Thauvin in on his way back to Marseille and I can’t say I’ll be disappointed if that were to happen. He’s a lad that is not without talent but he sorely lacks a work ethic and a good slice of courage. Townsend or Thauvin? If that’s the choice I’ll take the Tottenham lad every time.
If the noises in the media are to believed (ahem) we are still very much in the market for a striker. Hopefully that isn’t dependent upon Cisse leaving because the clock is now ticking loudly and this business needs to happen now otherwise we are going to face a big fight to stay in this division.
Who can say whether the club is really serious about Lacazette or Berahino or Gomis or Bost or whoever but a high quality goalscorer has been required since Ba left. Personally, despite jerking us around how many times I’d take Remy in a flash. He’d fit straight into this team and would be a success again I’m sure. The name of Wilfred Bony has been mentioned on loan and I’d relish seeing that lad in a United shirt.
But away from possible transfers and back to performances, I desperately hope that when United travel to Watford on Saturday they play with the same sort of appetite and intensity that did for West Ham last week. A win at Vicarage Road would build a nice kind of momentum and put us in a good place for the tough trip to Everton and the must-win match at home to West Brom.
Everybody at true faith was saddened to hear of the death of Cliffy Ahmed. It’s fair to say that anyone who has followed United for any length of time will know Cliffy. That Newcastle United was Cliffy’s life is something of an understatement and he was definitely a character to say the least. I came across Cliffy a few times when I’d catch the Metro from work in South Shields to Newcastle for a night time match and he would engage people in rather intense conversations about United and later when selling hard-copy issues of true faith outside reserve games at Kingston Park. Cliffy would look in my direction and shout back at my sales pitch with a direct “I get it sent!” obviously referring to the fact he was a subscriber. I’d give him a thumbs up as an acknowledgement and he’d smile. As was said on Saturday when the news broke – I’ve had many a conversation with Cliffy but I haven’t a clue what any of them were about.
He was as much a regular at away games as the sadly departed John Alder (aka The Undertaker) and whether it is an urban myth or reality that he sold his mother’s fridge to fund a trip to Everton I can’t confirm but such was his fanaticism, it’s eminently believable. In line with other football publications I received many a contribution from Cliffy which were, how shall we put it, a little unconventional, given they arrived as parcels bound with God knows how much sellotape and written on the backs of serial packets, bus tickets and anything else he could get his hands on and all dispensing unique Cliffy wisdom. It’s hard not to think of Cliffy and not smile. The lad was completely harmless and so far as I know never done anyone a bad turn in his life. That counts for a lot in my book. He was a big part of Newcastle United’s support for so long and he was a well-liked character in the community around our club. As I understand it Cliffy suffered a heart attack outside SJP after the Man U game and later died. I think it’s fitting that Cliffy should pass away so close to St James’ Park and only minutes after he’d been in the company of his fellow supporters and having celebrated a fantastic goal in the last few minutes of a good game of football that was scored by a fellow Geordie to square the contest against one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Is there a lesson in the early deaths of Pavel and now Cliffy within less than a month of each other? Yes, be nice to each other, we’re not here very long.
Did you notice the Sports Direct Shame banner at St James’ Park during the Man Utd game? Of course you did. Mind, you might not have noticed it had it been left to the reporting of any of the Trinity Mirror titles which obviously includes The Chronicle, The Journal and The Sunday Sun, based at Thomson House in NE1 but also The Mirror (aka Daily Mirror). As much as their journalists may deny it in their own private Twitter accounts, there is definitely a rabbit off with Trinity Mirror and its relationship with Sports Direct. Mike Ashley isn’t going to give The Mirror exclusive access to the press conference of a new manager for nothing and whether this amounts to a full blown media partnership between the two I can’t say. Something however is unquestionably up. The Chronicle in particular is desperate for advertising revenue and so will publish some of the most tedious and low brow material to attract clicks on its site because there has to be a way of making their paper pay its way now we no longer buy it from the local paper-shop (have you clocked how many are closing these days by the way?). The Chronicle obviously knows football is massive in the region and the whole nature of its coverage has changed materially since the days when Alan Oliver was Freddie Shepherd’s puppet-master for the local press-pack and the national media’s man in the know on Tyneside. So, it was extremely curious that The Chronicle should be so sluggish about publishing a Newcastle United-related story when to be frank, it has pushed out quite a bit of complete banality under pressure to drive advertising (indeed I believe this is something of a point of lively disagreement between the NUJ and Trinity Mirror nationally). I’d ask you to compare the Trinity Mirror’s sluggishness in dealing with the appearance of the Sports Direct Shame banner on Tuesday and its enthusiasm for the naked PR stunt, doubtless orchestrated by Keith Bishop for his boss, Mike Ashley in pushing traffic on the Sports Direct websites and getting the company all over the media with a positive-ish story only weeks after news broke of the company losing half a billion on its share value. The Mirror looked like it was pushing the story as if it was of genuine news-interest but this was naked advertising and you have to wonder what this lot is up to.
The Mirror is notionally a left-of-centre newspaper (one of the very few which isn’t controlled by an offshore billionaire with a poisonous right-wing agenda) but has apparently aligned itself with a company whose lief-motif is zero hour contracts and some of the most abysmal working practices in the UK and which is bring opposed by the Trade Union, Unite and others. The Thomson House titles were banned from Newcastle United for some quite justified coverage of the club a few years ago but has now had full privileges restored. I wonder what the deal was?
I once had it explained to me that the local press was essential in holding local institutions and business to account. A noble cause I agreed at the time and essential in a society that claims to be democratic. Whether that claim was wind and piss as it applies to the North East, I’ll leave you to decide but one thing I am absolutely sure about – we need to keep a very close eye on this lot.
This could be a big week for United in terms of new signings and a few departures. No-one can be sure what is going on (I’m not convinced McClaren is across everything in honesty) but business definitely needs to be done. Our team’s performances will definitely improve if we sign good footballers. That is unquestionable. Whether they are from Holland, France, Belgium, England or wherever doesn’t really matter anymore. Whoever we sign has to come in and they need to deliver NOW. There is no room for settling in discussions or anything of that nature. Signings need to happen this week and we need to go to Watford and win. It is as simple as that.
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
As you can see issue 123 of true faith is still available for you and it is absolutely and completely FREE. Simply click on the image as below and you will be transported to some of the best fanzine writing in the UK. true faith is Newcastle United’s number one fanzine and the most widely read fanzine in the country. We all hope you enjoy it.
NORTHERN THREADS – Extra 10% Off CP & Paul and Shark Next Post:
true faith : WEEKLY PODCAST – (Featuring Rob Lee).