Mindblowing Waste Of Talent At Newcastle United
Why I won’t be attending a Newcastle United game anytime soon and what a waste of talent at St.James’ Park.
For those of us who follow football, there’s nothing like attending a top-level game, particularly if you’re watching the team you support. It’s a joy to see your heroes and their sublime skills, the effortless ridiculous tricks that underline why your own Sunday League exploits ensure you’re back to work on Monday.
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Of course it’s more than just watching talented professionals at work. The mere thought of standing in unison amongst tens of thousands of like-minded people who’ve spontaneously burst into song with a witty ditty about their curly-haired captain is enough to incite goosebumps on my exiled and sun-blessed skin.
I haven’t gone back to the UK since I moved to California twelve years ago. The last match I went to at St James’ Park was the 3-1 victory against Leeds in 2002. Alan Smith scored for the visitors after a minute. The hapless Michael Duberry equalized before half-time with a delightful diving header. Danny Mills reverted to type and was sent off ten minutes after Kieron Dyer had given us the lead in the second half. And the mighty Craig Bellamy secured the points with three minutes left.
I’ll shortly be returning to Blighty (from the US) for a wedding and a holiday. When planning the trip in January, I’d intended to see Newcastle away to Arsenal, and possibly Cardiff at home, as well. It seemed of the utmost importance to introduce the woman who often joins me on the couch between the hours of 4 and 9am on a Saturday morning to a real live experience among the Geordie faithful.
Yohan Cabaye was sold to Paris St. Germain on January 29. Newcastle didn’t replace him. Despite the fact that his transfer-seeking had resulted in his best run of form as a Toon player, to the extent that we actually looked capable of emulating our 2011-12 season fifth-place finish, his departure didn’t bother me. Perhaps now our negative, fearful leader would find a place for the most talented member of the squad, Hatem Ben Arfa. Maybe he’d even play him in his rightful position, as a number ten, behind the main striker. I was sure we could’ve been better than before Cabaye deserted us for greener pastures.
With Cabaye pulled from the squad and set to be unveiled by PSG the following day, Ben Arfa got his chance at Norwich City, though on the right rather than through the middle. A decent display where he accounted for much of the visitors’ creativity was negated by a glaring missed chance in the first half and then overshadowed by Loic Remy’s sending off. Suffering from cramp in what was his first Premier League start since the 5-1 mauling of nine-man Stoke on Boxing Day, he was substituted with fifteen minutes to go.
Ben Arfa started two more games after that, neither in his favoured position that Cabaye had vacated; firstly against Sunderland when the Mackems’ desire shamed that of every single one of our bewildered players, and then away to Chelsea when he was taken off midway through the second half for Dan Gosling.
Cultured and constructive cameos from the subs bench against Crystal Palace and Everton led to Ben Arfa starting the game at Southampton. Newcastle set their stall out as they always do under Pardew, giving the opposition too much respect and playing ten yards too deep, our sole objective being to stifle and frustrate the opposition and pray that we’d avoid defeat.
We couldn’t get out of our own half for the first forty five minutes and it wasn’t long before the defence and midfield began pointing fingers at each other, Wiliamson and Coloccini exchanging words with Cheick Tiote on separate occasions, while Gouffran and Sissoko went missing and Anita ran around without impacting the game.
When the teams emerged for the second half, Newcastle a goal down, our most creative player was no longer on the pitch. The implication of course, was that it was all his fault.
And so it goes. After spending most of the season on the bench, rusty and lacking match fitness, Hatem Ben Arfa was given four games to singlehandedly lift the team from the depression that settled in once their alleged star player was sold. Now he’s back to watching the less talented close down space and misplace sideways passes and track back heroically to aid full backs incapable of doing their jobs.
There’s been nothing for Newcastle to play for since Cabaye was sold. More or less the same players operate in the same formation, to the same tactics, to the same unremarkable results. There’s been little sign of giving youngsters a taste of the big time to motivate and inspire them. Disposable, minor victories are followed by embarrassingly heavy defeats.
Our beloved owner banned the press for covering the club from a balanced perspective. He’s plastered the name of his retail store over every possible advertising space within St. James’ Park, and in almost admirable creativity, many more besides, as if to remove every shred of dignity from our grand old stadium. We wear the name of a loan shark company on our jerseys. Earlier in the season the online club store was selling Glasgow Rangers merchandise. I won’t even mention Joe Kinnear being inflicted upon us. Twice.
As much as I’d like to attend a Newcastle match for the first time in twelve years, to feel the goosebumps envelop my skin as I sing alongside my brethren, to show my girlfriend exactly why I’m so devoted to a team that never wins anything, I’m loathe to further line Mike Ashley’s pockets when I come to visit in April.
To do so would only endorse the current regime, the incompetent, negative, idiotic, underachieving manager, and the mindblowing waste of talent he has at his disposal.
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