Horses, carts and corners
It’s summertime. The sun is shining. It’s a time for foolish optimism.
I mean, it’s ages and ages now since we last lost a game.
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It’s time to just kick back, pour a nice cool beer, and luxuriate at the prospect of Lee Charnley’s massive war-chest.
Don’t worry – big Mike has promised us that this summer a cart will be located, purchased, and bolted onto our horse, or was it the cart we have and the horse we’re looking for…?
We shouldn’t doubt that Graham Carr has been peering into the backyards of every corner of Europe, searching for the finest horses/carts that money can buy; and that even now Mr Charnley will be kicking the tyres/hooves and sucking his teeth, driving the price right down, before slapping his great big wad down on the table.
It’ll all come good – never fear. All we need is the best part of a defence, a couple of wingers who can bomb down the park and knock in some crosses, and a young Les Ferdinand to head them in. It’s going to be brilliant – mark my words!
And the icing on the cake – no more Pardew, Carver or Stone.
Our younger fans may not realise, but back in the old days we used to sometimes score from corners and free-kicks.
I can’t remember the last time we scored from a proper, well-executed corner routine. You know the sort of thing – where the corner taker crosses the ball in at the correct height and velocity, and one of our players runs, jumps and intentionally heads the ball into the net.
It’s the sort of thing you might expect to see at Stamford Bridge, or Anfield, or the Emirates, or even at the Hawthorns or Britannia all the time.
But at St James’? No, at St James’ the idea of a goal from a well-taken corner is now sinking into the past, to become the stuff of myth and legend (“I remember son, when I was a young man, we used to cross the ball in, and Gary Speed and Alan Shearer – you’ll never guess what they used to do……”).
I seem to remember a year or two back Gouffran scored from a corner – but only after the ball had bounced about three times and ricocheted in off his arse, or his elbow, or something.
I used to get quite angry about it. I mean, you can watch matches from the lower divisions, and even from the much lower divisions, where teams regularly score from corners. Ball gets crossed in, big man jumps and tries to head ball at goal – that’s the general idea.
But at Newcastle under the Pardew/Carver/Stone coaching regime, that didn’t seem to be how our highly-paid and highly coached group of full-time professional players were being told how to do it.
More recently, I’ve become reconciled to our ineptitude from set-pieces generally. In fact, amidst the creeping gloom and despair in the second-half of last season, they started to make me laugh out loud.
If you told someone who didn’t watch us regularly how bad they were – well they just wouldn’t believe you. It got to the point where our corners were a significant goal threat – just not to the opponent’s goal.
The Pardew/Carver/Stone view of a corner (or an attacking free-kick for that matter) was that it gave the perfect opportunity to get our defence out of position, give the ball straight to the opposition, and let the other side have a free run at goal.
It’s hard to believe that a collection of such highly-paid professionals could make such a hash over such an extended period of something which pub teams down the park quite regularly manage to get right. Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Maybe it was all deliberate – part of some piece of conceptual art.
Now that he’s no longer tied up by his coaching duties, maybe John Carver will launch an exhibition at the Baltic (‘The Futility of Hope – an exhibition of NUFC Corner Routines 2014-15’). Maybe not.
But just wait – next season it’s all going to be so much better. We’ll have a minibus full of big money signings turning up over the course of the next couple of weeks.
And once Steve McClaren and young Ian Cathro (and from what I’ve seen and heard I like the cut of his jib) get their hands on them, we’ll have corners and elaborately planned free-kicks flying into the net right, left and centre.
Anyway, I hear footsteps coming down the corridor – it must be time for my medication.
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