Sewera Mpira Afrika 14.08.14
It has been a while since my last post and the World Cup is fast becoming a distant memory as the reality of
Europe’s top leagues resuming fast approaches. Tragedy struck for many families who had loved ones on the ill fated MH17 flight, but the tragedy was brought closer to home with the news that NUFC fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney were amongst the fatalities that day. My thoughts go out to their families, loved ones and friends. There is little I can add or say, that hasn’t been said a thousand times. It has brought all football fans together, and proved the great Bill Shankly wrong; football isn’t more than life or death. The compassion shown by football fans of black and white, as well as the incredible gesture and compassion shown by fans of other clubs, most notably Sunderland is proof that we are all one and together when it matters most. A fantastic tribute to 2 incredibly dedicated fans of the club and sport. Hopefully the club can give them something to cheer as they raise a glass with Sir Bobby when we kick off against Man City.
A lot has happened in the time between my last post bemoaning those in charge of the English game and player development. Over here, Malawi have faced a number of matches in their quest to be a part of the AFCON in 2015. In their play off tie against Benin they had to recover from a 1-0 defeat in the first leg after former mackem wide man Sessegnon scored the only goal of the match in Cotonou. The flames had been missing a duple of players who had not been released by their clubs for that game, and prior to the second leg all the focus in Malawi was on ensuring that star midfielder N’Gambi and their top young striker Gabadinho Mhango were going to be allowed to travel to Blantyre for the match. With Mhango’s club playing an important cup match on the Friday evening, he eventually arrived in Blantyre for the second leg just a few short hours prior to kick off on the Saturday. Hardly ideal prepartation for the match, and it did show in Mhango’s performance. Fortunately, John Banda scored a goal that could grace any of the Premier Leagues grounds this coming opening weekend with a delightful scissor kick volley from just inside the box. That 1-0 win took the tie to penalties which Malawi won 4-3 to send the Flames through to the group stages of qualifying. They will face Ethiopia, Mali and Algeria in that group, and in all honesty will most likely finish bottom of the group.
As far as Newcastle interests go, Ivory Coast and Cheik Tiote are expected to qualify comfortably from their group with Cameroon, DR Congo and Sierra Leone to beat. Cisse’s Senegal have a much tougher ask, facing Tunisia, Egypt and Botswana. Senegal will be desperate to make amends for their performance in 2012, and their subsequent exclusion.
In the domestic game here Big Bullets became the first team to win the Carlsberg Cup twice. They beat second tier Zomba Utd 2-0 last Sunday. As expected it was a very comfortable win for them, although I’m sure they would have preferred to win by a bigger margin. BOB’s are currently looking into entering the next Carlsberg Cup tournament, the side had entered in the past and hopefully we can get permission to enter again. We are going through a bit of a rebuilding phase due to the departure of a number of players, but some of the new lads look decent footballers so hopefully we can make it past the first couple of rounds!
Onto the Premier league, a new season and fresh optimism? Not exactly; there seems to be a slight increase in positivity as we come up to the first match, although Pardew’s contradictions of himself continue. Talk of Champions league has reduced to 48 points being a good season, but we are hoping for more. Not exactly inspiring, if the club are serious about gradual progression then top 8 should be the aim this year. Anything less than that is not good enough. Have we improved sufficiently to achieve that? I’m not so sure, big questions still remain both in the centre of defence and up front. In attack we have bought Riviere, Perez and Ferreyra; Perez is a kid, and most likely will be mainly used in cups and the ‘development’ squad. Riviere hasn’t set the world alight with his goals in the French leagues. He has had a decent pre season, but that means very little really. I hope he proves me wrong, but I don’t see him scoring sufficient goals. Ferreyra did okay when he played in the Ukraine, but rarely started games there for whatever reason. He had a very good year before moving to Ukraine though, and people who follow South American football closer than myself seem to rate him. Will he settle though? The two together could probably get the goals required for the club, but if we play 2 centre forwards, then that would probably lead to one of Sissoko, De Jong or Cabella missing out.
De Jong and Cabella could potentially add goals from midfield, both are clearly very capable players in their own domestic leagues, but the big question is how quickly they settle in to the Premier leagues style of play. We need them to settle quickly as they’re goals and creativity will be crucial for us to have a good season. Colback is a decent signing, although I think he will feature a lot more then his ability should really allow. He is the ideal Pardew type player, energetic grafter with decent ability on the ball. I expect he will be the preferred partner to Tiote this season (provided we keep Tiote).
At the back, only 1 change, Janmaat replacing Debuchy. Seems a fairly like for like swap with the only unknown being whether Janmaat adapts to the Prem. I don’t think he will have too many issues with regard to that. We have no back up to him, and it looks like that will be MYM’s role. A role he demonstrated he wasn’t comfortable with last season. The centre of defence is my biggest concern though. Saylor and Willo are both at best, bottom half standard defenders. Colo is ageing and is starting to look like a spent force. MYM seems out of favour and is yet to fully adapt to the rigours of the Premier League. Given all of that, it is a bit odd that we allowed Lascelles to go back to Forest on loan. He is young enough not to take a space in the 25 man squad, and given our centre halves injury records over the last few years would surely get reasonable game time here. I imagine that deal is more about reducing the transfer fee over the requirement for our side. Par for the course under Ashley. Rumours coming out today that we are after Coates from Liverpool but that doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. He has never looked great for them, and spent most of last season out with a serious knee injury. A loan deal gives us a bit of leeway, but I don’t see anyone coming in unless we offload one, and whether it is financial or due to ability, nobody seems to want any of them.
Finally, it wouldn’t really be right not to mention the other ongoing saga at the club. Stubborn, arrogant, immature and selfish; pretty much sums up both Pardew and HBA. Both had a chance to put the past in the past when they returned to training. HBA turns up out of shape, and Pardew ostracises him dumping him with the kids. Wonderful. Why neither could be the bigger man and put their differences to one side for the good of the club is beyond me. HBA should have turned up in shape, and if he had really wanted to resurrect his career should have been working on it all summer. Pardew on the other hand should have put last seasons fall out behind him, and given him a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the squad and side. Currently nobody is winning this. HBA should now leave for the good of his career, but it would appear nobody really wants him now. Although through his agent he has also said he will sit out his final year. A crazy decision by the lad. Pardew won’t want to lose face by recalling him either, so we are stuck spending £40,000 a week on someone who won’t be involved.
City on Sunday? Well I’m just hoping we don’t get a hiding. The barman in my local laughed at me the other night when the advert for the game popped up. I think they expect us to lose badly! Let’s hope we can catch them out given some of their players haven’t been long back in training.
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