Well, it is almost over for another season, for those that follow cricket they can switch off from the the poorly run organisation that is NUFC to one of the countries finest sporting clubs Durham CCC. The gap between how these two sides are run on the playing side is immense, with Durham producing a number of fine players over the years, and targeting trophies and silverware. Still, we have one more game to put ourselves through, and it may well not be pretty – not that much has this season, even when we win.
Liverpool may be highly unlikely to win the title now, given their slip up against Palace, but it isn’t impossible. If City draw, they would have to beat us by at least 13 goals – even with our sieve like defence we shouldn’t concede that many. For players like Gerrard and Suarez in particular they won’t give up hope privately until it is done and dusted. City could slip up on the final day, and I’d imagine that with that possibility in mind Liverpool will still come out all guns blazing. As Palace showed and it has been evident throughout the season, with a bit of attacking intent and organisation to your play Liverpool are vulnerable at the back. Liverpool have conceded 49 goals, the same number as Fat Sam at West Ham, and more than Crystal Palace. It is this flaw that will have cost them the title, as their attacking play, as much as it pains me to say it, has been outstanding this season, and made them far and away the best side to watch – scintillating going forward, leaky at the back, remind you of anyone?? Sadly, the current side are almost the anti entertainers.
A 3-0 win in the final home game wasn’t enough to paper over the cracks. It was another poor performance, against an awful Cardiff side, who other than in a couple of patches didn’t really show the urgency of a side that were facing the drop if they failed to win. That said, they had several good chances that they should, and on another day, would have scored. Two late goals in front of a depleted crowd by that time didn’t really help anyone. It isn’t going to suddenly make Ashley realise the side or manager need an overhaul, it doesn’t really benefit our league position, it was largely immaterial for a fan base who are now more disillusioned than ever, and I can’t imagine that it will have influenced the mind of those players who are considering joining and, more crucially leaving.
The game was barely relevant in terms of a football match, instead it became a stage to make clear many fans feelings on the issues at the club. It was a shame the walk out wasn’t better co ordinated, with people walking out at 60 minutes, and 69 minutes, as well as in between. Because of the staggered leaving times, you couldn’t really see the true impact, and has led to some media sources referring to hundreds, rather than thousands of fans leaving. Even the fans that stayed continued the abuse aimed at both manager and owner. Whether it will impact upon Ashley is anyone’s guess – he doesn’t seemed to bothered by bad publicity or controversy in the past. People say that he showed it upsets him when he banned the media, personally, I can’t agree with that. Surely he must have realised, he isn’t stupid, that by getting on the wrong side of the media, you are just going to make things worse. I think it was more of a power play on his part than a show of weakness. As for Pardew, well, he claimed that the atmosphere in the ground affected the players and made it difficult for the team. Funny that both Anita and Taylor came out and said it had no affect, Anita virtually saying it barely registered as they were so focused on the task at hand. Hiding in his dugout, skipping the lap of ‘honour’, all more than predictable from a man who probably has a mirror on the inside of his little black notebook so he can gaze at himself as our team fall apart. While I dislike Fat Sam for many reasons, at least he isn’t a coward, and when he is getting abuse he is more than willing to stand up and be counted on the touchline. Surely, even a man as delusional as Pardew has to realise that his time is up. Yes, he has been dealt a rough hand at times, but he has come out and backed the board, dedicated wins to Ashley, and overseen some of our worst form and results in recent memory, as well as some stretching back further than that. If Ashley is to make a change, it has to be next week, I won’t be holding my breath.
With the Malawian league now in full swing, Silver, the reigning champions are clawing back the 9 point deficit from their points deduction. 3 games in they are up to -2 points. That makes them one of four teams still to suffer defeat this season in SULOM, the others being Blue Eagles (the Police side), Big Bullets, and MAFCO (One of the Army teams). Silver have a lot of work to do to make it back to the top of the table. The bankers have the most talented squad in the league, which people may view as a good thing, depending on the success of the Malawi national side against Chad in the AFCON play offs, it could see them having a largely depleted squad for nearly a third of their games this year as games continue even during international weeks. Malawi have to go through two play off rounds to qualify for the group stages of qualification. The match will be played at home in Blantyre’s Kamuzu Stadium on the 17th May. The home side go into the match as favourites, but have been largely unimpressive when playing friendlies against South African and Tanzanian club sides in resent weeks. They were without Kamwendo, Gabadinho and N’Gambi for those games, and with all three set to play against Chad they will expect to put in a far better showing. The winner will then take on the winners of Sao Tome e Principe and Benin. Once again, Malawians would be disappointed to lose to either of those sides. The expectation is that they will join Mali, Ethopia and Algeria in Group B of the qualifiers, in what looks to be a difficult group for the Flames to qualify from.
It wouldn’t be right to not mention the upcoming World Cup, and as seems to be the case nowadays, England have picked up an injury scare just weeks before the tournament is due to begin. No, I’m not talking about Andros Townsend or Phil Jones, I’m not even talking about the Brazil World Cup. The annual Lilongwe World Cup is due to be played on the 7th June, and in the first Cricket match of 2014, I have broken the Medial Cuneiform bone in my right foot. the 6 week healing process takes me to the day of the World Cup, so I am still hopeful I will be able to play (I am generally a quick healer/play through a bit of pain). After losing the final on penalties last year to a Switzerland side, we are aiming to go one better. The Swiss have lost their two star men, and while we have lost our captain of last year, we still have a pretty strong side. England have never won it before, so this is our year hopefully. Although as Stuart, the Scottish team captain keeps informing us, we will still have one less title than Scotland even if we do.
On a more serious World Cup note, congratulations to Shola for his call up to the Nigerian preliminary squad. I know he is like marmite with Newcastle fans, but I for one will be very pleased for him if he makes it onto the plane to Brazil, and will be cheering him on when they play. Please don’t give him a contract extension though!!
I will leave my final words to Pope John Paul II (also known as St John Paul the Great) in the vain hope that Mike Ashley regularly reads True Faith, and my blog. I’m not really religious, but these words seem like they should be expressed to our current owner.
“Football shouldn’t become submerged by financial interests. It ought to be more about the excellence of performing than about possession.”