I’d like to start on a positive note and say huge congratulations to Jamie Vardy in his incredible achievement this weekend (scoring v Man Utd to make it 11 consecutive scoring games). It would be good to see him add a few more.
Then we plummet straight into the negative. Yet another defeat, no, another collapse, capitulation, humiliation and a battered goal difference, AGAIN!! Pardew, Carver, McClaren – it doesn’t seem to matter who is in the dugout does it.
Ah yes, the players, without them then there is no football so it is these people that we are indebted to for our weekly fix of entertainment (yes I know we haven’t seen much of that in these parts in a very long time).
Kevin Keegan has spoken about the current state of NUFC and pointed a large slice of blame at the players. I suppose what he was really getting at was that the people who are buying the players are not capable of doing their job, as they seem to continually obtain the wrong kind of players.
Mike Ashley’s spin doctor told him to tell us it was the “footballing board’s” job to sort the team out. Maybe he needs to appoint some footballing people, instead of lap dogs Charnley and Carr to those vital positions, if he wants to preserve his investment. I have no idea what Moncur brings to the table. I still can’t get my head around having the manager on the board either? Maybe Steve thinks he can somehow change the transfer policy, or at worst give himself a vote of confidence in the morning. However, most of us wish Mike would just do us all a favour and do one himself with his continued poor leadership.
I’m sure, or maybe I dreamt it, that we were told not that long ago that NUFC would sign only the “right kind of player”, part of which included “players of the right character”. I think if you have been a regular at St James’ over the last few years you’d have already come to the conclusion that most of them do not have this character prerequisite that we apparently have in our rule book.
Maybe this is down to the fact that they are allegedly being sold a dream of using NUFC as only a stepping stone to something better. Objectively if this is the case, then why do most of them invariably perform so poorly if the goal is to use NUFC as a shop window for the ultimate transfer to a club who has ambition?
Whatever happened to signing a player that had some sort of Premier League track record? Well I suppose there are those in that category that can flatter to deceive. Several spring to mind from Chelsea (Geremi, Babyaro, Parker, Duff) and Man United (Butt – ok he was fine in the Championship, Rossi, Obertan) who were effectively their cast offs. I’m sure you will all have your own personal waster to bring to the party.
To me the sign of a good manager is dropping a bollock with a signing, realising it and moving them on. Not us though. We’ve still got the likes of Obertan and Marveaux who either aren’t good enough or are never fit (or have a face that fits) but seem to manage to hang on in there. They will be like new signings at some point.
Duff amongst others made a fortune out of us and was largely terrible. Owen took the pi** for his own benefit until England gave up on him too.
At the minute we tend to sign midgets, carthorses (did Mike say something about that too), or players with no pace or proven ability. Then we play them out of position.
Sissoko, the most powerful player we have, stuck out on the wing, and we play Anita and Colback in the middle!! Then we have left backs playing right back, full backs playing centre half, strikers playing in midfield or centre halves playing full back.
Our captain though is the one that takes the cake. Earlier in this series of moans I questioned why McClaren was lauding the extension to Colo’s contract. We had a chance to offload him and again we decided he was worth another go, OMG I believe is the “modern” expression.
I can only hope that his continued appearance in defence does not send the promising Mbemba the same way as Yanga-Mbiwa before him. Maybe having Williamson alongside him helped boost his standing, which is no reason at all to persevere. This guy is the figurehead of my club on the pitch and that annoys the f*** out of me. There is nothing about this person (I struggled with the word man) that I like. I’m afraid two and a half good seasons in seven (one of which was in the Championship) does not a legend make, never mind a club captain. Having a poor squad means we are probably stuck with him, unless we just tell Lascelles this is his chance.
Then you get the odd ones that do work such as Demba Ba, Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye but this leads to an unsavoury departure when they decide on Champions League and take a huff until they can go. It seems such a shame that the likes of these 3 could have stayed and become legends in black and white instead of becoming bench warmers, and in Ba and Cabaye’s case, ending up at clubs that we at least would deem inferior.
Ayoze Perez will surely be the latest gamble that paid off, to move on, and when he does, I hope it’s for a team where he will actually get a game. I feel sorry for Cisse who just doesn’t fit into the current system of play. I can’t believe the sh** he gets considering how he burst onto the English scene in an attacking team with help up front and then later when his goals effectively staved off relegation. People have short memories.
Then we have Mitrovic, unproven really but with potential in a good team, looks god awful slow in a poor team and prone to rolling around on the floor like a big girl’s blouse for no apparent reason (no offence to girls or blouses intended). I thought he was supposed to be some kind of Serbian Shearer?
The 3 Foreigner Rule
In my view the 3 foreigner rule has brought English football to its knees!!! Not that I give a toss about the national team really, other than to have a bit of interest in summer tournament footy for a couple of weeks (it never lasts a month does it).
For me this is one of the most devastating issues that has brought about the demise of “Modern Football” rather than enhanced it. That is not because I am anti-foreign players, far from it. But the problem is it has meant the influx of sub-standard players that then stifles the progress and opportunities of home based players. The fees of Cabella and Thauvin combined would surely buy you some decent British talent wouldn’t it?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I understand the freedom of movement within the European community in terms of employment rights. But that is not to say the football community could not maintain a rule that a team can only field a maximum of 3 foreign players at any given time. This would mean you are not impacting on freedom of trade, as if you want to sign 20 Frenchmen and pay them wages that is fine, but only 3 of them can be selected on match day. You’d have an awfully big squad twiddling their thumbs though. Can you imagine turning up for work and the gaffer saying…
“Ya alreet Geordie, wi divent need y’ the day kidda, gan an spend some quality time wi your lass and the bairns, an divent worry aboot ya pay, ya still on full wage son”.
It was around 1995 when Jean-Marc Bosman challenged the courts that things began to change around Europe. By December 1999 Chelsea had become the first team to field an all foreign starting 11 in a game. By February 2005 Arsenal fielded an entire squad of 16 non-British players, although I’m sure the quality of those players far exceeded any squad of foreigners we could ever assemble.
On the abolition of the 3 foreigner rule, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association stated:
“I think this will lead to a flood of foreign players coming here, which I believe will be to the detriment of our game.”
It certainly seems to be to the detriment of Newcastle United, I don’t really care about how it affects the national team but I think that is more what Taylor was alluding to.
To see the change even in the names of players, I have randomly looked at some line-ups (and some of the players first names) down the years, starting when I had my first season ticket:-
Starting 11 v QPR (h) Aug 1982 we had Steve, Peter, Jeff, Wes, John, Peter, Chris, Mick (Irish), Kevin, Imre (He’s English too) and John. Kenny was our sub!!
Starting 11 v QPR (a) Jan 1994 under Kevin Keegan we had 11 Englishmen, although Pav was on the bench, but he’s a Geordie anyway.
Starting 11 v QPR (a) in May 2015 the team only had 2 Englishmen and a Welshman and that was it. Tim (Dutch), Daryl (Dutch), Paul, Ryan, Jonas, Fabricio, Jack, Remy, Moussa, Emmanuel, Ayoze. QPR had 7 Englishmen and a Scotsman – we lost 2-1.
Starting 11 v Sunderland (a) Aug 2011 for our last derby win. 5 Englishman (Shola is only Nigerian for the purpose of International competition). They had 5 plus a Scotsman.
Starting 11 v Sunderland (a) Oct 2015 for our last derby, three UK and Ireland based compared to their 5.
I’m sure you can all decide for yourselves whether less home based players is good for football or not. My view is we just continue to gamble (waste money) on finding someone from abroad who can cut it in England and those are very few. More John and Dave, less Julio and Gabriel please.
Applying this to European competition you get a classic recent example of how it can impact on the identity of not only a club but a nation, in the form of the 2011 European Cup Final featuring Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan. How many Italians featured in this game do you think? Inter win under the flag of Italy but those representing the club couldn’t be less Italian. The answer to the question is ONE and that came in injury time when Marco Materazzi made a substitute appearance. In fact Inter’s starting line-up featured only 3 European players so hardly representative of Europe, never mind Italy!!
Over previous seasons both Pardew and Carver developed this fixation on playing with one up front. I felt sorry for Cisse and then Perez trying to battle against 3 or 4 defenders and having to cover the full width of the pitch. You can’t tell me a Cole or Shearer would have done much more.
It’s alright if you’re one of the big clubs who play a similar formation but the difference being that they have the midfield players capable of bombing up the pitch to support the striker and counter attack. How many times would our lone man get hold of the ball and then have to spend 30 seconds trying to fight to retain possession because our midfield are standing with their hands on their hips watching.
At least McClaren has restored the 2 up top format which seemed to coincide with more possession and attacking efforts if not results, funny that (alright that seems far too positive for a club second bottom – apologies).
In the “modern game” this seems to be the norm though. Maybe it’s because the lesser teams fear being outnumbered in the middle, so set up like for like and are forced into the more usual 4-5-1 formation. Every week I have a quick look at the formations laid out in the Daily Mail (again not for any political stance, it’s got a good TV supplement). This week was no different to the weeks before. Out of the 20 Premier League teams, the journalists identified only two that were likely to set-up with two strikers; Watford and the Mackems.
I wonder if the iconic “Four Four Two” magazine are going to consider a name change to move with the times?
Reserve Team Football
This is another one of those “bee in the bonnet” moments for me. We have a first team which almost picks itself really ever since the Llambias days of “purple players” and all that. The problem then comes when one of your other colours has to step up to the plate.
Now to suddenly perform on a football pitch without playing regular competitive football is a difficult thing to do, no matter what level you’re at. Match fitness only comes with, well, playing matches. To expect a “modern day” reserve to hit the ground running is in my book unrealistic.
I found it staggering that Siem De Jong (I can hop backwards faster than he can run) is asking if he can have a game for the reserves to get himself fit (ha ha, yeh right). It should be absolutely mandatory that any player likely to be required by the first team is playing at least one game a week in the reserves, who should be playing a similar formation, to provide some kind of consistency and smooth transition to the senior team.
The first eleven should be shadowed by a second eleven who are the reserve team, ready to step into the breach. A reserve for each position give or take the odd utility man who can cover more than one role. Maybe they could even provide some competition for a first eleven place, imagine that!!
The biggest obstacle that managers usually quote to this is the risk and fear of injury. But what the hell is the point of the reserves if that is the case. Dave Beasant can drop a bottle of salad cream on his foot in the house, never mind risk a snapped fingernail actually playing a game. I’d probably argue that you’re more at risk of injury from being asked to throw yourself into the rigours of a Premier League game from a cold start, as opposed to someone who at least has the chance to put in a crunching tackle or run at full speed on a weekly basis.
Manager after manager informs us that the players “look terrific in training” but then fail to perform when it matters. Any clues as to why that may be then?
So if we go back to the 20 Frenchmen scenario I mentioned earlier, then these blokes would currently be getting paid a full wage to effectively train a couple of hours a day and then sit on their arses for the rest of the time. It’s no wonder they lack any kind of motivation or desire to be involved.
So this is what we have currently representing us; our community, our region, our identity. A group of players who probably don’t know or even care what NUFC means to the people, who before the advent of SKY and their multi-billion pound deals, were effectively paying their wages. I don’t think any of them know what the identity of NUFC is these days. I’m beginning to wonder myself!!
I’m not sure how much blame I attach to McClaren, other than signing up to the current policy of the club.
He did say it would take 3 transfer windows to make inroads to the squad by which time it may well be too late. The damage has been done by the inactivity in several windows before, which is hardly his fault.
I don’t think there are many managers around who would come and do any better with the tools (not meant to be a put down but I understand if you choose to see it that way) at the manager’s disposal. From Moyes to Guardiola, they’d still be left with a squad of deadwood that probably wouldn’t even burn if you poured petrol on and tried to ignite it.
One final observation which in my mind sums up the current state of the playing staff at NUFC. Be honest with yourself, how many of the current lot would you be proud to have the name of on the back of your shirt?
For me that speaks volumes as I’d be embarrassed to have any of their names on my back, even if I did have the inclination to buy a replica kit at the minute. That is how far the playing stock has dropped in the “modern game” on NE1.
My one year old will just have to make do with “Daddy” on his back if I ever do get around to introducing him to the chaos and turmoil of being a fan of this bastard of a club of ours.
If it seems possible after all of that I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and I’ll catch up with you in the New Year, when no doubt we’ll be faced with the same old “modern day” problems.