Saturday, 18 May 2013

New site

From now on I will be posting on rather than this site.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Integration time after safety secured

Well that wasn't expected. I'm feeling rather reflective but for entirely the wrong reasons. Following Newcastle United there should be a disclaimer everyone must sign acknowledging that they know it won't be an easy ride and this season it's been no exception.

But we're safe. We live to fight another day and we'll come back next season stronger. We couldn't possibly get any worse that's for sure. With a full pre-season under the belts of the full squad I'm confident we'll be an exciting prospect next year. The new signings will hopefully develop the form that they showed to convince us to sign them and the likes of Tiote and Cabaye - assuming he stays - find their feet once again. Pardew has a talented squad at his disposal and he needs to make the most of this summer. I've labelled Pardew tactically inept in the past and I hope he uses this summer to experiment with new formations, try out partnerships and to practise bloody corners. Hopefully the board has a few transfer targets in their sights, if we are to sign anybody I hope that it is wrapped up early so that we could integrate them also. Ashley isn't a fool, he won't make the same mistake twice. He'll strengthen. We've come to close to the drop this season to make everybody in black and white wake up. 

We've got winners in our side. Ben Arfa, Yanga-Mbiwa, Debuchy, Cabaye, Anita and Tiote have all won titles around Europe. We need to play a strong sides in cup competitions even if it is against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Look at Swansea and Wigan, I want some of that. 

I envisage us starting slowly as Newcastle tend to do before results start to pick up. We need to turn St James' back into what it was last season where only Chelsea, West Brom and Manchester City picked up 3 points as well as picking up points on the road. Newcastle fans deserve better and I'm not just saying that to be romantic, they truly one of the best supporters in the league. 

As for Pardew I'm assuming Ashley will stick by his man. If he is replaced I'll welcome it, if he stays I'll try my best to back him even if I really don't want to. Howay the lads, howay Pardew.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Season changing incidents

Sunday 17th March. I remember it well, it was my first away game supporting Newcastle United and I was ridiculously excited.

I remember the game vividly. From Debuchy's disallowed goal; the incidents pre-match; Beusajour's opener; Carver's scuffle; McManaman's tackle; Santon's equaliser and Kone's winner which secured all 3 points for the Latics. I've never been so angry at a football match and never witnessed as much injustice in one match.

For starters, there was McManaman's horror tackle on Massadio Haidara. It was high, it was reckless, it was dangerous and it should've resulted in a red card. Mark Halsey did not give the lad his marching orders as he claimed to have not seen the incident. Fair enough. His assistant however had and did nothing about it. This act of incompetence meant that young Haidara was writhing in agony and the lad who had injured him had escaped without a yellow card to his name. What infuriated me the most was the ignorance of the Football Association who decided not to intervene out of their own stubbornness. Less than two months later, the FA intervened to punish Luis Suarez for biting Branislav Ivanovic. The correct form of action without a doubt. There double standards seem to be sending out a message. You're allowed to attempt to break someone's leg but biting is unacceptable. If the lad was punished like the media and fans demanded then he would have sat out Wigan's next 3 games. He would've sat out the FA cup semi final vs Milwall. Instead he went on to score guaranteeing a spot at Wembley.

As well as this, Kone's winner was quite clearly handball. It was visible from the away end -at the opposite end to the incident - and from first viewing on television. How can the referee and the linesman fail to see something so obvious. Was it not suspicious that every Toon player in the penalty area appealed simultaneously? Confidence is pivotal in football. The fortuitous win spurred them to defeat Norwich in their next game whereas the defeat hampered NUFC's chances of survival. I said pre kick off at the DW that whoever won would stay up and I'm praying that doesn't come back to bite me in the arse.

If Wigan stay up at Newcastle's expense I will be angry. Of course it's purely hypothetical but doesn't mean it's not a vaild point. I recall Michael Owen having a goal disallowed for United in relegation season in 08.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

One change too many?

On Monday night, Gary Neville played devil's advocate and offered an alternative view on Newcastle's lack of success this season. Do Newcastle United have a few too many continental players or is it Pardew's inability/stubbornness to change his tactics that have failed him thus far?

Tactically, Pardew has been shambolic. At the back end of last season, Newcastle went on a run of a form which saw them blitz everyone and everything in their path securing six wins in succession. Furthermore this was all whilst using the 4-3-3 formation which accommodated Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and the creative input of Hatem Ben Arfa into a devastating attack. Chelsea, West Brom and Swansea were beaten away and Liverpool were beaten at home in hilarious circumstances. Pardew could do no wrong even when we succumbed to an embarrassing defeat away at Wigan.

However, this season I don't know what sport Newcastle have been playing. I'm unfamiliar with this long ball technique Pardew has employed that sees the ball launched up to Papiss Cisse on his own? It doesn't work. It won't ever work. Pardew reverted to a 4-4-2 formation at the start of the season in order to satisfy Ba's desire to play in the middle. That decision was suicidal and cowardly by Pardew, no player is bigger than the club and no player should have the right to influence a manager's decision. Ba justified his argument by scoring nearly all of Newcastle's goals at the start of the season but his selfishness cost Newcastle dearly. It cost them when he demanded to be moved into the middle and when he jumped ship in January.

Papiss Cisse is a goalscorer. He is paid to score goals. Pass the ball in the box to him and he will probably score. So why didn't we do this? Pardew's man management has been very poor, he admitted that the two could not play together so why didn't he have the bottle to drop one or sign another striker in the summer? Why persist for twelve months? Answers on a flippin' post card please! When Ba did depart, Pardew reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation which with our players should suit us. However, the form of our players has been dire, players such as Tiote has seemingly lost the ability to pass and Coloccini has looked a shadow of the enforcer he was last season which won him a place in the PFA team of the year. Pardew's ineptness tactically has made the toon suffer. Playing players such as Gutierrez at left back on derby day was suicidal, playing Sissoko in centre attacking midfield when he is a centre defensive midfielder is idiotic and playing Shola on the wing earlier in the season was pathetic. Play the players in the right positions Alan and we might have a chance of actually winning a game!

Since the arrival of the french imports, Newcastle improved gradually and put together a decent string of results. However, the last few games have been utterly shambolic from a United point of view. Losing a home derby to Sunderland is inexcusable and in the manner we did, sackable. Losing to Liverpool 0-6 at home is inexcusable and in the manner we did, sackable. Finding ourselves in the relegation fight is disheartening. We deserve to be there on the standard of football and inability to see games out. But when you compare NUFC's squad to the teams in and around them it's laughable. Do the players  know what football means to geordies, to this city? Perhaps Gary Neville was right.

The only way they can prove they do know is by staying up and starting next season in style. If we fail? God help us.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

My days in Toon #2

After getting my head down with one of my assessments I received an email from Rob inviting me to the press conference for my 2nd and final day of work experience. Initially it was for the West Brom presser before it was changed to the Liverpool match due to changed travel arrangements.

I met Rob at the Sir Bobby statue once more at 9.30 in my blue coat which I think he was sick of seeing. Once again, it was bloody chucking it down. Marc (@MarcJobling) was running slightly late so we made our way to the office he shares with the rest of the boys. Sky sports news was on in the distance, I caught a glimpse of Dortmund's or rather Lewandowski's goals from the night before. I sat down observing Rob sort out his desktop. Whilst he went to retrieve Marc I was given the opportunity to put something together on Rob's Haris Vuckic video. I attempted to implement a PiP effect and failed, my video editing only stretches to Windows Movie Maker although one of my videos did reach 150,00 views on YouTube!

After this, Marc and I followed Rob pitch side where we waited for the players to come out. He showed us his camera, showed us the features he would use and the different microphone settings before stopping to film the lads coming out. I couldn't believe it. The lads I pretty much worship - okay maybe not as much this season - were stood right in front of me. Then I saw Shola. In the flesh. Smiling. Laughing. jhgkjgkgjd. Rob filmed the lads as they went for a run and told us what sort of shots he could obtain. For example, Pardew was in the foreground and the players were just about to run past in the background. He caught this shot and before seeing that I hadn't appreciated the thought that went into camerawork.

We changed various positions around the stadium and I noticed something. St James' should never be empty, it feels wrong. Artistically, Rob positioned himself behind Ian Horrocks or 'Horrocksy' as he is referred to. The lads were still warming up and for a few seconds I forgot that I was on work experience. The temptation to shout 'I LOVE YOU' was overcoming but I kept shut. Then the lads changed to a crossing exercise and to be honest it was shambolic. In half an hour, they scored 5 goals.  Marc and myself were given the chance to film for a short period of time, Marc caught a goal and I caught a lot of wayward passes.

We went back upstairs and Rob uploaded the footage to his laptop. He showed us our footage and give us some feedback. He told us the focus should be the ball and that it should be central at all times. I anticipated the final destination of the ball rather than the actual pass at times. He edited out the clips that were not needed and gathered about 8 minutes of quality footage. What I didn't realise was that Rob had taken individual footage of players such as Coloccini and Tiote as he was anticipating that Pardew would talk about them in his presser and he was right. Derek Llambias walked in through the door, said hello to everybody, picked up the papers and said 'I wonder who we're signing today'. I wanted to shake his hand, Ashley and Llambias have got a lot of unfair stick and I wanted to say 'cheers' but as a fan.

Marc and I went for lunch and were told to head back for 1.15 as the press conference started at 1.30. We arrived back at 1.17 and were not retrieved due to a text message failing to send to tell Rob we were back. After the press conference Rob asked us why we were late and that in this industry it was unacceptable as it was a time sensitive job. He said it was a lesson we had to learn and don't worry I did. The presser itself was similar to the post-Southampton one but even still I thoroughly enjoyed it. I introduced myself to Lee Ryder and Miles Starforth but I stopped due to the start of the presser. There was so many questions I wanted to ask Pardew or lecture Pardew on but I knew I had no right to and that I'd embarrass Rob. I wouldn't have had the balls anyways.

Rob needed to retrieve a disc from the training ground and so we had the opportunity to visit. We piled into Rob's car with another lass (who's name escapes me) and headed to Benton. It was a much more relaxed conversation in the car then it had been previously. At the training ground, Rob retrieved his disc and introduced us to the analysts. That'd be an amazing job. He gave us a tour of the place where we saw the gym, the ice bath, the boot room and the indoor pitch. Whilst in the indoor pitch I started laughing as I realised it was the place they used to film a scene in 'Goal' where Erik Dornhelm tells Santiago Munez 'the name on the front of the shirt is bigger than the name on the back'. After this, we walked back through the corridors to Rob's car where I clocked the inspirational quotes on the wall and statistics for the upcoming match vs Liverpool.

Rob dropped us back, mentioned en route about the fight you need to succeed and encouraged us to get in touch for any advice or references as long as we're not inundating him! 2 unforgettable days that have spurred me on for more. In a few years, I'll buy him a pint.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

My days in Toon #1

'Sort yourself some work experience and then we'll talk' were the words the careers adviser muttered. 'I'll try my best' I replied. 'Experience is everything, you need a portfolio'. I knew that. I'd be trying for months to arrange something. Just as I was about to give up for a few months, I sent a DM on Twitter to Rob Scanlon of NufcTV and to my surprise he replied with some tips on how to improve my CV as well as a potential placement. 

Thankfully and fortuitously Rob did get back in touch offering me the chance to showcase my skills in the press box vs Southampton as well as shadow him filming and interviewing fans. Brilliant! I can't remember what I did but I probably did a Stevie T fistpump in excitement. 

I met Rob at the Sir Bobby Robson statue at 11.45 and it was chucking it down. Rob came out and introduced himself to myself, Marc (@MarcJobling) and Jubilee (@JJJubilee) who were also on placement. We piled into the elevator that took us to level 7 and Rob showed us the offices in which he works along with the rest of the media team. He sat us all down and explained the do's and the don'ts such as celebrating in the press box. That was going to be tricky, 3 days earlier I woke up the neighbour's bairn celebrating Shola's penalty vs Metalist.  After this, he outlined the itinerary. Due to it being 'french day' proceedings were different. Rob was required to capture more footage of the fans than usual such as those in fancy dress and wearing French themed face paint. As well as this, we stopped to film the french dancers which I don't think any of us minded. My job was relatively simple, alert Rob if we see anyone he may miss. 

This lad was on fire

After this, we headed to level 7 where my season ticket is located. Luckily, we didn't have to trail the steps like I do most match days, we took the lift. I observed Rob interview families and young children who were more than enthusiastic on camera. After this I was offered the opportunity to interview a boy of about 8 which I grabbed with both hands. I rattled off my first question and the young boy replied happily explaining why he was dressed up and who helped design it. I panicked briefly during it as words escaped me for a second before I regained thought. The young lad enthused about Yoan Gouffran and how he was his new favourite player and then the interview finished. Rob gave me some brief feedback, saying I spoke with clarity but that I started too quickly and that I should always check with the cameraman first. Silly me. Humorously one of the french dancers offered me a free t-shirt; she'd mistaken me for a little lad. Slightly embarrassing but I got a free t-shirt! We headed down to pitch side where Rob filmed some crowd shots before showing us to our seats in the press box. What a view. It was remarkable to see St James' from this perspective with the crowd filing in and the black and white shirts on display. As the teams came out of the tunnel to the french national anthem - which was utterly bizarre - I felt proud. The french flag began to form and I was smiling like a cheshire cat. 

As the game settled down, it was the Southampton fans making all the noise in level 7. They then had more reason to cheer when Schneiderlin fired home early on. A bloody frenchmen, irony at its finest. Here we go again I thought. I checked the replay to see if it was a legitimate goal and made a note of the scorer of the goal and the time it went in. I'd done a fair bit of research for the game and had prepared a sheet with the player's names, numbers, goal time and formation which I added to before kick off. 

In the half an hour before Sissoko's equaliser I imagined what Ryan the fan would be doing right now. More than likely, I'd be going mad, letting my mouth go a bit too much and calling them all useless. But I was calm. When Gouffran raced down the left side menacingly, I could feel the whole stadium creep forward on their seats and when Sissoko poked in, nothing happened on my part. Astonishingly, I sat as if we hadn't scored. I turned to see the lads celebrate and I looked round at the Gallowgate and to the Leazes to see the geordie faithful going nuts. When Cisse hammered home that monster of a volley I did nothing as well. Don't ask how, I don't know! I must've been in the zone; smiling no doubt. 

At half time I was about to start typing the start of my 400 word match report that I'd be assigned to do by Rob but before I could begin I was whisked off to the press room where I was easily the youngest there. I had some tea and tasted the nicest brownie ever. As I looked around me, I couldn't believe who was in the same room as me: Supermac, John Anderson and pretty much all the journos I follow on Twitter. 
Rob told me that he'd like the match report pretty much completed by the 90th minute. I started it and just as I'd formed a decent structure, Lambert equalised for the Saints. Not to worry, we have a game on our hands now I thought. I ended up changing my report 3 times and managed to have it done on the final whistle.

How could I not love these guys?
After the game we went back into the press room and I watched the press interview Pardew and Pochettino which was a really interesting experience. As I walked out with Rob back to his office he explained what he's do with the footage, showed us what he'd made for the Kharkiv match and then went onto explain what our second and final day of work experience would entail. What a brilliant day. I learnt a lot and every question I asked was answered. I was told of the not so glamorous side of this line of work but it's spurred me on more.

I think I thanked Rob about a thousand times. I'll say it again for good measure, cheers Rob.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pride and Parity Need To Be Restored

Losing isn't nice. Losing to Sunderland isn't nice either and in the manner we did, inexcusable.

In blunt terms, we've been nothing short of diabolical. We've failed to reach realistic expectations and to build upon last season's fairy tale. When we have played well - rare occasion I hastily add - it has only been for one half. We have failed to dominate games, dominate teams nor dominate the derby like we have done in recent years.

Next season, things have to change. Is the manager to blame? Is he tactically inept? Is he stubborn? Does he motivate his players enough? These are the sorts of questions that many have tried to answer on forums, on Twitter and in pubs. Assuming he stays, Newcastle have to hit the ground running in August. We cannot blame the Europa League and we cannot blame lack of depth. Hopefully Ashley will allow whoever the manager is to strengthen in the summer, another striker and creative midfielder would be preferable and I pray that he learns from his mistakes last summer when we failed to strengthen and it cost us.

As a die hard geordie, this week has been torture. Losing 0-3 to the mackems on our own patch was arguably as bad as the feeling Sunderland felt when they were demolished 5-1 in 2010. When the fixture list comes out, I want the players to be eager to make amends. I want them to walk the walk instead of just talking it. I want to batter them.

When you look at our squad of players, it's evident that on talent alone Newcastle don't deserve to be lingering near the bottom half of the table. It's quite laughable when you compare Stoke City's squad to our own, we should be in the top 8 comfortably and consistently. But we aren't and we don't deserve to be. For the sake of this football club, for pride and for monetary reasons we need to be there again as soon as possible. We need to find a formation that suits us, we need to hit form, we need to cut out the silly excuses, we need to have more players contributing goals and we need St James' rocking again. Too much to ask for?

For my sanity, restore parity Newcastle.