Blog Archives

Newcastle on the verge of Papiss Cisse signing (Video)

The little yellow newsbar is scrolling on Sky Sports again, this time with the news that Senegalese forward Papiss Cisse is on the verge of a move to Newcastle – apparently for around £10m. Cisse is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, ironically with Demba Ba, so any potential debut will have to wait until the end of his country’s involvement.

Mike Ashley seems at long last to be willing to loosen his grip on that Andy Carroll revenue. Shocker.

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Newcastle vs QPR: Preview

Sunday 1.20pm, St James’ Park

Newcastle 1.72 Draw 3.50 QPR 5.00

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A strange time for both clubs. QPR for obvious reasons; a new manager and new faces imminent. For Newcastle though, the kick of the Africa Cup of Nations is about to be felt, as Chiek Tiote and Demba Ba are both absent.

Danny Guthrie and Leon Best(f/g) will likely replace the notable absentees for the home side, and their ability to offer the same kind of contribution will obviously be key to how Newcastle cope with this January period.

Mark Hughes’ first team selection will tell us a lot about who has a future at Loftus Road and who doesn’t. It’s always dangerous to second-guess the impact of a new manager on a club, but expect – this weekend at least – the team to retain a Warnock-like feel to it. Bids have already been lodged for Alex and Chris Samba, which suggests that the future may not be bright for Danny Gabbidon – the Welshman is also expected to bolster his front-line at some point this month, so whichever forwards don’t start on Sunday probably need to be placing calls with their agents sharpish.

The loss of Demba Ba and Tiote is an obvious, yet pertinent, point. I don’t think Newcastle have enough substance without them. Certainly, if you take Ba out of the equation, you’re removing 15 of the 29 total goals that they’ve scored this season. That’s a concern, because while Leon Best is a decent player, he doesn’t offer anything like the presence of his Senegalese teammate. Danny Guthrie? A blue-collared player for sure, but with a Championship feel to him – if Yohan Cabaye(f/g) is to continue to prosper, Guthrie needs to play above himself in anchoring that midfield.

I think QPR will get something on Sunday. They’re obviously not a huge attacking threat, but they’ll be competitive – and they are marginally better away from Loftus Road. I don’t expect Bothroyd and Helguson to get much change out of Coloccini(f/g) and Williamson, but then neither do I think that Newcastle have enough edge up the other end to do any damage.

Rangers to be competitive enough for a stalemate – 0-0.

Struggling to understand the release clause in Demba Ba’s Newcastle contract

Who thought this was a good idea?

Reports are mixed over how much it would actually take to activate the release clause in Demba Ba’s contract, but by all accounts it seems to be below £10m.

I don’t know what to think of Newcastle’s ownership anymore. One week shrewd, one week naive – but always with the vivid background of self-interest.

A quick question for Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias. On the basis that top quality goalscorers are at a premium in this country, wouldn’t allowing such a low release clause in Ba’s contract make you incredibly vulnerable. If Ba was a success, which he has been in the North East, was it not inevitable that clubs would start sniffing around the focal point of the team in January?

In a world where a club is willing to pay £35m for Andy Carroll, sub-£10m transfers represent a drop in the ocean. It’s unlikely – given his ACN involvement – that Ba will be anywhere else but St James’ Park on February 1st, but it’s not wholly unrealistic, and if he did depart it would spectacularly derail Newcastle’s season.

I don’t want to always be cynical about the Cockney Mafia, but you suspect that they had one eye on Net Player Sale Revenue when they signed this contract – allow a player a release clause if you must, but at least afford yourself a semblance of security with its value.

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Newcastle vs Manchester United: Preview

Wednesday 8pm, St James’ Park.

Newcastle 5.00 Draw 3.60 Manchester United 1.72

Reprieved by Manchester City’s loss to Sunderland, there’s no such margin for error tonight for Manchester United. I think if Sir Alex Ferguson was honest with himself, he’d accept that he and his players took Blackburn a bit lightly on New Year’s Day.

Newcastle will be without Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands, but Gabriel Obertan(f/g) should be fit to face his old club. Manchester United could include Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling for the trip to the North East, while Wayne Rooney will likely be reinstated following his ‘resting’ last time out.

The victory against Bolton aside, Newcastle have had a mixture of bad luck and poor performances stretching back to November. In all fairness, Alan Pardew’s side have endured a tricky run of fixtures too; Manchester United, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, and Norwich away were always going to be a stern examination. Last time out they were well-beaten by a fairly average Liverpool team, and it was a disappointing surrender given what they’ve already shown themselves to be capable of.

Pardew will hopefully twin Leon Best with Demba Ba(f/g) up front tonight, as that clearly gives them the best chance of maintaining possession in the opposition’s half – Ba, for all his qualities, doesn’t look quite fit at the moment, and could do with a willing runner alongside him. Chiek Tiote’s return to the side is a big plus, and he’ll look to dominate the midfield – where United are clearly weakened at the moment.

With Wayne Rooney(f/g) back in the side, expect Dimitar Berbatov to drop to the bench – and I don’t think anyone will expect a repeat of the Rafael midfield experiment. If fit, Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand will take their places at centre and right-back, with Antonio Valencia moving into his more natural wide-midfield habitat. Anderson and Michael Carrick will likely start in the centre of midfield.

Manchester United are vulnerable at the moment, and this game will be decided by how much belief Newcastle have in their own ability to get at the Champions. A good atmosphere, a good work-rate, and a good level of discipline, and the hosts should make this a very awkward evening. I expect Manchester United to start well, with their manager’s ire still lingering in their ears, but the weight of Newcastle’s desire should be enough over 90 minutes. United are there for the taking at the moment, the reputation with which the beat so many teams wont be enough tonight.

Newcastle 2-1.

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Modibo Maiga on the collapse of his move to Newcastle

Something that may have slipped under the radar, is the proposed transfer of Mali international Modibo Maiga to Newcastle – which has collapsed due to concerns over the forward’s long-standing knee injury.

“I wanted that move to Newcastle badly. However, it did not happen as they said my knee has a problem – but I feel better than anything.

“There is a player at Newcastle now [Ba], he was told at a Premier League medical that he had a knee problem, he then went to another and started scoring goals before his move to Newcastle.

But I am strong in my head and up for it. I like Sochaux, but I am having a difficult time with the fans, they do not understand me.

I love the Premier League and I want to play there, hopefully I will have another chance, my health is very good and my knees are strong.”

The obvious difference is that Demba Ba arrived at the club on a free transfer, and so the insurance aspect of his transfer was slightly less significant. If Sochaux were asking a big fee for Maiga, then it sounds like Newcastle were just being prudent.

Here, courtesy of a prematurely-titled YouTube clip, are some highlights…

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Newcastle’s Alan Pardew waivering on Cheick Tiote

“You never know with the window — it’s such a minefield of possibilities. I think I’ve learned from the Andy Carroll situation and outside of Manchester City, every club has a player that is vulnerable.

We have one or two players here that top clubs, I’m sure, would be interested in.

The one thing I would say is that they will have to pay a lot of money to take anyone out of here because we’re in a good position — not just on the playing side but financially.

Cheick is a big target because he’s a great player and great players will be targeted.

We value him very highly here and I think, on my part, I expect him to stay.

But that does not mean to say something might not come out of the fire.

If he did go, it would have to be for a silly price.”

That’s Alan Pardew on the possibility of Cheick Tiote leaving Newcastle.

Why not just say he’s not for sale? All Pardew has done here is give encouragement to any sides that are sniffing around his midfielder – he’s basically confirmed that the Ivorian is for sale at a certain value. You can’t really blame Pardew, because I suppose that he’s aware that his owners will sell any of his players for the right price, but it’s just a shame to hear this kind of comment after the start Newcastle have had.

If I’m a Newcastle fan, all that’s happened here is that it’s been reinforced to me that we’re a selling club – and that there’s a ceiling to our progress. Brilliant.

This is why Mike Ashley shouldn’t own a football club, because if he’s ever forced to make a decision between trophies and cash, he’ll choose the latter. Sometimes you have to ignore the economic benefits of owning a football club, and focus a little bit more on rewarding the fans.

Andy Carroll was sold for a ‘silly price’, but that was never properly reinvested in the squad – so what’s the upside of a similar scenario with Tiote from the supporters’ perspective?

“We’ve sold the lynchpin of our midfield for an exaggerated transfer fee!”

“Great, who will you buy with the money”

“Oh, nobody – our owner will just use the funds to erect SportsDirect marketing material around our stadium.”

“Great.”

Newcastle to beat Swansea? 8/11 with Paddy Power.

Norwich vs Newcastle: Preview

Saturday 3pm, Carrow Road

Norwich 6/4 Draw 13/4 Newcastle 7/4

A real test this for Newcastle. Beaten by Manchester City, lucky against Manchester United, and done a refereeing disservice in their last game with Chelsea – three games, but ultimately only one point out of nine. Don’t underestimate how important this game is for them – losing, regardless of the opposition, is a habit – and they now haven’t won a game for over a month.

Norwich are better than their 5-1 humbling at Etihad Stadium made them look – they’re neat, they’re resilient, and they can be physical. Steve Morison and/or Grant Holt will cause a problem at some point for a Newcastle back-line that will be without Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor – and worryingly one that will include James Perch.

Newcastle will likely again be without Cheik Tiote – and worse still, Danny Guthrie picked up a groin injury in the loss to Chelsea that will keep him out until January. This will be the true test of how good this Newcastle squad is, because the Premier League is not a competition that relies solely on a first-team – Alan Pardew has to be able to cope with these kind of periods if he wants to keep the club’s momentum facing upwards.

The makeshift centre-back pairing that Newcastle will be bringing in to Carrow Road really worries me – and neither Ryan Taylor nor Danny Simpson has looked particularly secure as of late. Expect Wes Hoolahan to be fairly prominent, and expect to see one of the home side’s battering-ram forwards on the scoresheet at some point.

Norwich 1-0.

Sam Jacks’ Gary Speed T-Shirts defining bad taste at Newcastle game

Whoever came up with this idea should be ashamed of themselves.

Anybody who watched Newcastle/Chelsea yesterday, or who was at St James’ Park, will have seen the Gary Speed tribute t-shirts that were issued by Sam Jacks – a Newcastle bar. Apologies, but I can’t find any images if you missed them.

I’m all for remembering Gary Speed and paying a proper tribute, but did the name of the bar really have to appear on the t-shirt as well? At no point during this ‘marketing initiative’ did anybody say ‘maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to be seen as trying to profit off such a tragic situation’?

Really, nobody? Nobody thought that they might be seen as completely tasteless and inappropriate. It’s calculating and cold-blooded, and absolutely revolting – there are no mitigating circumstances.

Whoever you are, you used suicide as a means of advertising your bar – dressing something up as a tribute, but all along it’s just a Trojan Horse to widen a profit margin.

Classless.

Newcastle vs Chelsea: Thoughts from St James’ Park

– Probably Chelsea’s best performance of the season. For all the criticism Andre Villas-Boas takes for the fragility in his defence, his side are starting to attack with the creativity and originality associated with his Porto team. Steps in the right direction.

– Mike Dean’s failure to dismiss David Luiz was disgraceful. Dean can offer limp excuses about Demba Ba ‘not being in control of the ball’ if he likes, but he’s fooling nobody; Luiz stayed on the pitch because the referee wasn’t brave enough to send off a Chelsea player so early in a game. If the refereeing as a collective body want to hear the end of the accusations about favouritism towards the bigger teams, then this kind of decision has to stop reoccurring.

– This felt like the tipping point for Newcastle. The collapse at the end, the obvious fatigue of the players; it’s been such a good such a good start, it would be a dreadful waste if they slumped now.

– Tim Krul was obviously excellent, but when your goalkeeper is making so many one-on-one stops you have to ask questions about your defence. Yes, Newcastle lost Fabricio Coloccini early, but the home side’s main issues were in their full-back channels – as good as Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata were, neither faced much resistance. You can perhaps excuse Ryan Taylor on the basis that he didn’t have the usual support of Jonas in front of him, but Danny Simpson was made to look very average by his opposite man and Gabriel Obertan predictably offered nothing in either direction. Alan Pardew needs to have a bit of a rethink against teams that posses such attacking depth.

– Oriel Romeu and Ramires were both excellent for Chelsea – Romeu in particular seems to have every attribute you could want in a holding midfielder. Without banding about the lazy ‘new Makelele’ comparison, he showed the kind of discipline and care for the ball that Chelsea haven’t had in that position since the Frenchman left.

– David Luiz is just not a centre-back. I’ve heard a couple of commentators complain that he’s being judged too early, and that he frequently produced defensively excellent displays for Benfica – which is essentially a justification of his price tag. Well, so what? It’s the Portuguese league and he was playing for one of dominant teams in it – it’s a false reality. Just like with goalscorers, buying defenders from inferior leagues is always a risk, because there’s no context for their ability. Why Chelsea are willing to sell Alex and play this clown in the first-team is beyond me.

Newcastle vs Chelsea: Preview

Saturday 12.45pm, St James’ Park

Newcastle 7/2 Draw 3/1 Chelsea Evens

Cheik Tiote is again ruled out for Newcastle, while Sylvain Marveaux is sidelined until at least January – Leon Best returns though.

Chelsea captain John Terry has controversially served his one-game suspension and returns to lead the side, and the visitors have no fresh injury concerns.

7/2 on Newcastle? First impressions are that that’s a little bit high. A stuttering and unconvincing Chelsea traveling to a hostile ground where the hosts are in extremely good form – it’s brave money that takes the visitors on an outright win.

Much has been made of Andre Villas-Boas tactical ‘failings’ – or at least his stubborness in trying to change so much so soon – but do Newcastle have the firepower to exploit the transitional phase that his side are subsequently enduring?

Didier Drogba will presumably start again for Chelsea, as Fernando Torres still shows no signs of emerging from his malaise, and it will be interesting to see how Newcastle’s full-backs handle the pass and craft of Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata – Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor have been unsung heroes this season, but this will be one of their biggest tests to date.

I’d like to see Alan Pardew set his side up to have a real go at Chelsea. All across that backline they’re vulnerable – so hopefully Leon Best’s availability will mean a starting two up front. Two of Chelsea’s three losses this season have been against sides that have attacked them – Arsenal and Liverpool – and that’s very much blueprint for success. Out of form or not, you still can’t afford to play passively against this team.

Chiek Tiote is a big loss here, because he was the proverbial blanket to throw over Frank Lampard, but I still think Newcastle have enough to take something from this – maybe look at the home side on a draw no bet at 5/2.

Newcastle 2-1.