No Chance Now Of A Top Class Coach At Newcastle United
I sit here in sunny Sardinia having watched the (Pacos) friendly game last night. With our DoF rumoured to be on the same island recently, I was hoping our paths would cross so I could have a little chat and air a Toon supporter’s views, but sadly it was not to be.
Anyway, looking at the game, I managed to see all the second half and part of the first (including the opening goal) so forgive me if my analysis of it misses a point here or there.
Often, pre-season games are the opportunity to blood in new players, to see where they fit into the already established squad and work on relationships and understanding between players ahead of the premier league opener. A wake up call for others, to see that their places are not set in stone and that there are new, fresh recruits relishing the opportunity to grab their starting place. Nothing kills complacency like a bit of competition.
No chance on this one though, with no senior player arriving. Whilst other clubs are getting some exciting players onto their books, we have yet to get off the mark. If we are not careful, we will be trawling through the leftover bins, looking to mop up those deemed unwanted, unnecessary or over the hill, just to pacify the fans with a signing. Then reel out the statement that ‘we were not prepared to pay this or that’ for our targets!
Okay, so even going with the fact that we had no new arrivals, perhaps this was a chance to try a new style of play, to actually play to the strengths of our players. Play the ball on the floor. Support each other. Stay close to one another and be available for an easy pass. Retain possession. Don’t stand still.
Instead, it was the same old story, a few sideways passes or backwards, then a hoof up front to see what Shola could do with it. Is that the best our coaches and manager can do? Because if it is, I honestly believe I am in the wrong profession. It doesn’t work with our players. It is ineffective. We don’t score with it. We don’t have a rock solid defence. And most of all, it is dull to watch.
Less than dull. It is demoralising and slowly sapping my enjoyment and excitement of watching the club I love. Every game I see, I sit down somehow hoping that we’ll finally play to our potential, or at least show glimpses of it. I can’t remember which player it was, but a season or so ago, part of Pardew’s recruitment speech to a player (it may have been Cabaye) was that we were going to play exciting, attacking football on the floor. Well, we’re still waiting for it!
Last night would have been a wonderful opportunity to try Campbell up front, perhaps with Ben Arfa and/or Vuckic behind him. A speedster with an eye for goal feeding off the sublime passes from a creative player. Nope, let’s just stick with Shola up front and give Campbell 5 or 6 minutes at the end. As if that will tell us anything we don’t already know. It baffles me and I don’t understand the logic in it.
Shane Ferguson has gone on loan to Birmingham again, a good little player, versatile and arguably the best crosser of a ball at NUFC. Considering all last season we lacked any sort of dangerous ball for Cisse to feed on, why not give him a chance? If we stick with the same players as last year, players who were not up to the task even though they were given chance after chance, how are things going to be any different this year? Our current brand of football (I use that word in its loosest form) is being picked to pieces unmercifully by more technical teams, teams able to adapt, with more than one game-plan that they are able to seamlessly adopt.
Our lot don’t seem to work as a unit. Each player passes the ball and then for most of them, that is their job done. Instead of taking up a better position and looking for a return pass, they stand still. So what we usually get is players static when they get the ball and those who want it just stand still and wait for it. Why aren’t they working up the pitch in little triangles, passing and moving, supporting each other?
Are you telling me that teams such as Swansea, Southampton and Norwich have better technical players than we do? That is not to undermine those teams, who played some very good, attractive football last season. Although I support NUFC, I am not watching the game with blinkers on and can appreciate good football from other teams. It just galls me when so many of them are making giant steps forward, both in terms of playing style and new acquisitions and we remain stubbornly standing still or are actually regressing.
It wasn’t many years ago that the arrival of a top class coach would have been a real possibility at Newcastle, seen as one of the ‘big ones’ outside the top four to work for. Not anymore. Benitez was bandied about by many but was never likely to come here and now Hiddink is available. One can only imagine what the Dutchman could do at the Toon.
Why are these coaches no longer a realistic option? With the passion, gate size, financial footing and tradition we have, you would think we are tailor-made for a reputable coach to take us to the next level. There is a lot of talk of whether Ashley got stung when he purchased the club, looking for a quick sale at a profit that never materialised.
Now there is a lot of speculation as to the true situation and his motives: is he trying to get Pardew to walk by constant undermining, to save paying a lump sum?
Does he really believe his new choice of Director of Football is the man to raise the club to new heights?
Has he got another manager, such as Poyet, lined up in case Pardew goes?
Is he tired of being constantly abused by the fans and not really bothered with the fortunes of the club, just so long as it stays in the top flight?
Regardless of the truth, with a little bit of smart football nous, he would be in a win-win situation. Sort out the personnel to provide the entertaining football, playing to the undoubted strengths of the team, and the club would surely climb the table and be consistently top ten at least. This would bring in more revenue, making him a richer man as it pays of the debt he took on when he purchased the club. A more successful club playing attractive football in the upper echelons of the league would also be a more attractive proposition for potential new players and a buyer. So either way, he is on to a winner! The problem will be is if he is content just to keep the club ticking over, in which case we are stuck with the current regime and brand of football.
We finished a lowly 16th last season, only missing relegation because of the actions of other teams. We finished 5th the year before, so one could argue the truth lies somewhere in-between.
Personally, I think the fifth place finish, whilst incredible and a fine achievement, was not indicative of where we stand. Cisse lit the premiership up with some spectacular goals and I remarked to a good Geordie mate of mine that too many of them were highlight-reel goals, the sort that are not possible to get on a weekly basis.
When it came to just putting the ball in the back of the net, he struggled last season. I still believe he is a deadly striker given good service, but with the Wonga row going on, it remains to be seen if he’ll wear the stripes again. However, in order for him to get the ‘bread and butter’ goals that any striker needs, rather than the all spectacular, he should sit down and learn the offside rule.
In our golden season two years ago, there were a number of games where luck played its part and I know that has been something we’ve been short of in many seasons. But there were a number of games where I thought we were going to get spanked the way we defended and we didn’t, then last season it started to happen.
The Liverpool and Sunderland results were no flukes in my eyes. If anything, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more regularly with the way we play and ball watch. Our defence rarely pick up runners into the box, instead gazing at the ball while opposition players stream into the area unnoticed. This is something that they are taught when they are kids! Pick up the runners! Watch the man, not the ball! Get goal-side of the attacker!
Goodness me, it beggars belief. There are people running this club; manager, coaches and the like, being paid the sort of salaries most of us can only dream of to impart their wisdom on a daily basis so this sort of childish naivety doesn’t happen, yet still it does. Why?
The bottom line is, it is not good enough. Football is a business. Mr Ashley would not run one of his stores this way yet is happy for this tragedy to continue, to be played out in public. Hardly a glowing endorsement of his business acumen. But football fans have short memories and were Ashley to ring the changes, no matter how he does it, and get the team playing attractive football, lighting up the premiership again, then he would be swept away on the tide of euphoria.
Newcastle has so much more to be offering the football world but is being shackled by the current restrictions imposed by the staff.
If Mr Ashley needs this advice imparting on a daily basis at club level, I will gladly volunteer my services.
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