A 2-1 defeat against a top 3 side, hardly surprising although it is a new manager at Southampton who has progressed with them.

Earlier in the season we highlighted that some managers can integrate new players into a squad with immediate impact. Instead of berating our own, Koeman deserves congratulations and recognition for an excellent work in progress. Perhaps he has illustrated why we should be looking for a foreign coach.

remi gardeThe studious crowd contributed a thoughtful approach to proceedings. The quietness rivalled that of a library.

On the pitch, we saw what we knew. Ayoze is a worker with talent. Sissoko is capable of playing with power despite the lack of options, Colback is tidy, Anita can be when given the chance. We lack bodies attacking the near and far post. Most of the talking points, however, are off the field.

Carver for the job?

Watching the recording of Sky coverage, one thing was noticeable. Where we usually expect to see at least one shot of the Directors’ Box during the game, we saw none. Was the person in waiting at the ground today? When coming back, Keegan was easily spotted. Those in the know report that when Ashley was not seen at games, he was in fact watching behind dark glass from other boxes.

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Sky interviewed Carver afterwards. His view on the ‘penalty’ incident was that it, “makes a difference to livelihoods and futures.” Despite the Chronicle telling us why he has ‘the credentials for the job’, the solitary draw and 3 defeats suggest otherwise. Who would he not be prepared to work under? Does the transfer policy affect his thinking?

He was also asked if he would be prepared to take the job until the end of the season. His reply was, “I’d have to think about it.” Does he know more than he is letting on? If his support for the regime is less than wholehearted, one would have to question if he is the right man to take the team on a jolly, sorry, serious warm weather training programme.

Having had the Chronicle supporting Carver all week, Lee Ryder’s post-match verdict reverted to the apparent honesty that we saw when they were not getting free seats at St James’ Park. There may be news to come!

Backroom staff

It has also been interesting to see what has been going on in the back room. Dave Watson appears to have had a higher profile this week. It will be remembered that a significant portion of the coaching staff at the start of the season had a strong connection. Pardew, Watson and Donachie all completed the 2003 Pro Licence course together, along with former Newcastle staff Fazackerley, Joe Joyce, Nigel Pearson and former number 9s, Peter Withe and Mark McGhee.

Carver himself completed the course the following year, alongside Steve McClaren and current number 2 at West Ham, Neil MacDonald, a former United right back.

Currently the most successful coach at the club is Peter B. Watson has a win rate of about 33%, Carver 0%, Peter B having 7 wins in 10 league games to go alongside a decent cup run. Questions should be asked by our local press, why has he had so much lower a profile than the others?

Woodman who has privately expressed a love of the North East continues to be a part of the team, joined this week by his son in preference to Jak Alnwick.

Homegrown players

One of the highlights of this season is the number of local players coming through. Sammy Ameobi looked a threat when he came on, his older brother is now available after returning home from the borders of the Syrian civil war.

We had a few who started the game; Welsh Geordie Paul Dummett who was mysteriously replaced by Williamson. Given no tactical advantage, we can only assume injury or bad management. Dutch Geordie, Tim Krul, also counts as ‘home grown’ as does Killingworth lad, Jack Colback, even though in footballing terms he was raised in a pretty dismal area South of here.

Although conceding to a masterful Gouffran effort today, Forster has more clean sheets this season than any other Premier League keeper, his transfer providing Ashley with a cash windfall in the summer. Clearly, Ashley’s system has produced some benefit.

Meanwhile, James Ward-Prowse produced the sort of performance to back up Pardew’s assertion that if we want home grown talent we should look at the middle class, or players who have a double barrelled name.

League position

The Southampton game means that we are now on 27 points after 22 games. Ostensibly all looks good for safety and Ashley’s millions in TV income.

One of the two decent Chronicle articles that have been written over the last month (apart from John Gibson and former players) is credited to Mark Douglas, warning of ‘drift’, referring to Norwich who were relegated having been in the top half.

He could have gone further. In 2008, Derby gained 4 points in their last 16 games. In 2006, Sunderland got 6 points from 16 games. In 2003, Sunderland lost their last 15 games (rock bottom with 19 points), West Ham going down with 42 points. In 2000 Wimbledon had 2 fewer points than we do now and were relegated by a 3 point margin. In 1998 Palace had 4 fewer points than we do now and were relegated by a 7 point margin.

sunderlandCrucially, in 1997, Sunderland were relegated having a record after 22 games of W7 D6 L9. Their goal difference at the time was -8, one better than ours is now. If you are responsible for appointing a manager, Messrs Charnley and Carr (and Ashley), please take note.


Just a quick word for our departed manager, showing more flair than he did here for the last 3 years. In 2 PL matches in charge, he has come from behind to win, almost equalling the same achievement in 4 years here. Is this down to motivation, having a reported 250% pay increase? Could this be a lesson to Ashley, that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, or managers who act like them?

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