Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Transfer Window, In Review

The transfer window is closed and the players are working out with their new teams. Manchester City has snapped up every player they could get their hands on, and the other three of the big four have spent their traditionally large amounts of money. Some clubs consider themselves haves and some have-nots, some owners are frugal and some are downright miserly. We who support NUFC started the transfer window with low expectations as Mike Ashley proceeded to repay himself a loan he gave the club that he owns. But, hope springs, with a bit of interpretation, that is, when we were told that the club’s approach to the Transfer Window would be a time of “Prudent Ambition.” Some read this as another way to say, “We aren’t going to be spending any money,” but I read it with a bit more optimistic tone. You can’t expect a club that has only just come back from relegation to break the bank to get back on top, but you’d like to see something be done about staying around in the Premiership, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s how I read it. We were set to look for quality and more than that value. It would take a deft touch and some sly maneuvering, and Chris Hughton would have to be on the very top of his game.

James Perch -

Perch transferred in from Nottingham Forrest (there’s a Robin Hood gag somewhere in there, but I’m not digging it out) for a nominal £1.2M fee, signed immediately to a 4yr contract; and, over the first three games in the Prem, proved to be a quality signing. That’s before you even consider that the player’s versatility. He’s only played Right Back (played it well for that matter) for the Magpies but he is able to play across the back four, Defensive MF and Right MF. Except against Manchester, when the side was frankly run ragged, the defense has looked great, and James Perch has been a big part of that. Have to give Hughton high marks for this one. Grade: B+

Dan Gosling –

While he’s recovering from a cruciate ligament injury, Hughton was able to snap him up as a free-agent and sign him to a four year deal. We have to reserve approval until we see how he holds up after the knee heals, but we can also say how confident we are that he will return to form, and when he does we will be impressed as he continues to grow into the player that his career thus far has foreshadowed. Also we can give CH more high marks in not only the signing but in the high road attitude he took after the Everton brass started whining and bantering at Gosling’s agent. Hughton was quoted saying, We are one-hundred per cent sure that we’ve done everything appropriately,” which just goes to show, if you work above board as a rule, then you never have to answer for shady dealings. Grade: A-

Sol Campbell

A 35 year old veteran signed on a free transfer. For most a first glance says, “Meh, let me know when the real signings start,” but hear me out. In almost every sport I am a fan of signing a veteran who’s just shy of over the hill and has experience in winning. In any sport the players have to be students of their game to play at the highest levels. They start by learning the basic skills, then, as they master those, they pick up an understanding of strategy and style, and so on. But, one of the major subjects of study that is often overlooked is the subject of winning. A player must learn to win, and it is always good to have teachers around that know how to do it. That said, signing the veteran just shy of over the hill, carries with it the risk of walking beside him over it. Some would have you think that this is the case with Sol, proved by his lack of fitness to start the season, but let’s give the fellow a break; he is just off his honeymoon isn’t he. He’ll be fit soon and he will bolster the defense and he will play the season satisfactorily, mark me on it. Another piece falls into place and the critics’ numbers start to dwindle, resorting to the laughable position of calling poor Sol fat of all things. Grade: A

Cheik Tiote –

Tiote has come from Twente for somewhere around £3.5m, and it kind of came out of nowhere. The rumor news had been about a striker, the ongoing Ben Arfa story, and turning attention toward Manchester City’s leftovers. Then, bang, Cheick Tiote on Tyneside for a medical. I know hardly anything about this cat, as the Eredivisie is not on my regular viewing schedule, but what I have been able to find out is that he is a Defensive minded Midfielder that brings a strong physical presence to the pitch. That will spell Alan Smith at DMF, who’s really more crafty than imposing at any rate, so it’ll be nice to have someone in midfield that people don’t want to cross. At this point we’re starting to think that the Transfer Window is shaping up nicely, and we’ve only spent £4.5-5m as far as we can tell from reports. Looking pretty good CH. Grade: A

Hatem Ben Arfa –

Finally on the 28th of August, the team site confirmed officially that we had indeed captured a loan deal for Hatem Ben Arfa from Olymipque de Marseille for £5m, with the added stipulation that if he plays 25games then he’ll be bought outright for around the same price paid again. This signing is brilliant and we have been of the opinion that it would indeed end up the way it has. It’s our theory that OM was feeding stories to the media about alternate interests to drum up a market for the player and drive up his price, Hughton and company, showing unequaled deftness, simply didn’t flinch. It helped that the player himself decided to have a hold out to force the move. At any rate, Arfagate is over and the player is in Newcastle. He’s been billed as an attitude problem, but CH is confident in his ability to manage all the personalities on the club. As far as playing goes HBA should bring just the type of creative spark the MF needs to be effective offensively. From videos I’ve seen he’s certainly a greatly talented ball handler, and seems to have a good nose for where to be and when. With this signing in just before the Wolves game, CH had seemed to be fast winning the respect of the Toon Army, and all that came to a head with a respectful chant of “One Crissy Hughton” from the small delegation to Molineux. Grade: A+

Then, while Hurricane Earl rolled into our eastern coast, the window closed, unceremoniously to be frank, and the hurricane whirlwinds that we expected turned out to be more like breezes. The Magpies were said to have been in on a few players at day break, and of course rumored to have players checking into hotels in Newcastle and such, but here at the end none of them quite panned out. As it turned out Robbie Keane didn't really want to come to Tyneside, and if that's the case, we're better off without him. Wolfswinkle decided to stay home, so we'll be pushing forward with the existing Striker crew. Which is fine with us, we don't see any merit in all the grief that Shola Ameobi is subjected to. We we're hoping for cover for Jose Enrique, but loans could certainly sort the LB cover out. As we look back on the Summer Window, we can't help but be pleased. One Chrissy Hughton is showing us all what he's made of, and it's good stock if you ask us.

Tuesday Links 2

I honestly thought that today would be terribly busy and that we would have tons of rumors to pass on, news to report on, links for you to click on, and that we would have to post 4 or 5 times to keep up with it all. I was right about the first part. Today has been terribly busy. The problem is, most of the proceedings have been terrible, and by that I mean that there has been so misinformation thrown out there that you can hardly find the real stuff if you want to. This morning, I threw down some links in a post, and some of them contained stuff that didn't pass the smell test. My theory was that our readers (surely a slim number at this point, but hey, we've got ambitions) have likely heard these stories as well. By linking to them and commenting that they seemed to be false, maybe we can all come to a better understanding about what to listen to and what not to. I don't think this was the right way to go.

Look, if you need to be told that a player being on his cell phone doesn't mean that he's going to X team instead of Y team, I can't help you. There's been so much crap thrown around about players on helicopters, certain players being spotted in multiple airports at the same time, players talking about intricate details of contracts to people on the street...It's a mess, and frankly, we don't want to be a part of it. If something legitimate happens, you'll see it here. If somebody makes up a contract figure and claims a player or team rejected it (and even makes up a little anecdote about how brass is feeling about how it went down), you won't see it here. That doesn't mean we won't post rumors, but they'll have to pass the smell test.

Having said all that, here are some things that have really happened today:

LuaLua is officially out on loan to Brighton.

Jacqui Oatley says that Scott Parker is not leaving West Ham United. This does not necessarily mean that Robbie Keane is on his way to Newcastle, but it at least it doesn't rule it out. Sky Sports is reporting that Turkish club Besitkas has thrown their hat in the ring. That would certainly be a coup.

If you'd like to keep track of all confirmed transfers, go here.

Finally, a word about rumors from one of our Twitter followers.

Look for our Transfer Window wrap-up once it officially closes.

UPDATE: An hour later, we finally have a source, and it sort-of confirms what was said earlier. STV is reporting that Newcastle rejected a Celtic bid to obtain Steven Taylor. Still no word of contract terms or what anybody thinks about January, but hey, a kernel of truth!

Tuesday Links 1

Today will be a long one, folks. Remember to take everything you hear with a grain of salt.

David Hytner of The Guardian reports that Tottenham Hotspur is looking to use Robbie Keane as a trade chip of sorts to bring in Scott Parker, which would seem to put NUFC out of the running. I would be very surprised if this ends up happening, though. At the end of the day I expect Harry Redknapp to get what he can for his striker, which may mean we win the sweepstakes by default. This isn't over by any stretch. Steve Brunner of The Sun reported last night that Newcastle was out on both Keane and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, though no details were provided and both stories have since been taken down. All we're left with is this tweet. I wouldn't put much stock into this at all. Van Wolfswinkel was "rumored" to have been in Newcastle about 5 hours ago, but there has been literally nothing about this since. Again, a rumor of little, if any, substance.

Finally, David Winters of The Daily Mirror has an article about Malcolm McDonald's advice for Andy Carroll RE: the national team. An interesting read on a topic that would probably get more play if it were not the last day of the transfer window.

Not much else this morning. I imagine the beat writers are resting up a little extra to get ready for the festivities. Check here for updates throughout the day. We'll also have a review of all the signings once the deadline passes.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Case You Weren't Excited About HBA

Thanks Toonsy for guiding us to the video.

Monday Links 2

We're still a new blog, so allow us a moment to explain: We'd like to have a daily links page that we simply update throughout the day, especially as readers point us to interesting pieces they've found. With the transfer window coming to a close, though, it seems appropriate to simply provide a separate post due to the sheer volume of news rumors flying around. Having said that, here are some things that weren't included this morning. Be sure to check out our first post as well.

Scott Wilson of The Northern Echo is on record as saying Keane is having second thoughts about a move to Newcastle. There are no direct quotes from Keane or anybody else in London in the story, so I wonder if this is simply a negotiating tactic that Spurs are using to squeeze as much currency as possible out of this deal. Wilson says the move appears "unlikely" at this point.

As rumored, LuaLua is going to Brighton on loan until Christmas. Hard to find anything negative about this move - he wasn't going to get any time with the top squad anyway.

Toonsy has a piece up about the maturation of Joey Barton. Ed echoes his sentiments and adds some quotes from Chris Hughton. The Mirror gave him some props in their weekly wrap up as well. Barton is one of those guys that other teams love to hate, and I like the idea of him continuing to play that role while not giving the ref anything to work against him with. On the back of that is some trash talk from Karl Henry. Incidentally, Goal.com gave Henry "The Saddam Hussein award for a misguided attempt at intimidation" in their weekly writeup. Hilarious. A guy like Barton is going to have to put up with his name being dragged around if he continues to turn the other cheek; let's hope he ignores it and doesn't do anything stupid next time they meet. I know the St. James faithful won't forget though...

More on the "Carroll for England" bit: He wasn't named to the Euro 2012 qualifying squad. Good.

Finally, a word from one Hatem Ben Arfa: "Newcastle was my first choice." I thought that was pretty evident from the way the proceedings went down, but it sure is nice to hear him say it. Welcome aboard, HBA.

Monday AM Links

Lots of transfer rumors today...

News of the World reports that Robbie Keane is in "advanced talks" with Newcastle brass about a loan deal. There were rumors on Twitter yesterday of Celtic moving in to sign him again, but a quick search of the news outlets will tell you that if this is true, nobody important is reporting it. For what it's worth, Joe Bernstein of The Mail reports that Aston Villa are in the running as well, but given Hughton's relationship with the striker, I wouldn't be surprised if we were to hear of this thing going final as soon as today.

According to Mark Douglas of The Sun, Newcastle are also in on Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, with 8 million reported as the transfer fee set by Liverpool's tinkering earlier on. (The Daily Mirror confirms that number.) Douglas reports on his twitter page that Chris Hughton scouted van Wolfswinkel himself and happened to be there when he scored a hat trick to down Celtic.

All of this movement to sign strikers makes me more apt to believe that the rumors of Shola Ameobi moving on may have some substance to them. Ameobi is on record as saying he wants to play as much as possible, and the opportunities are going to be even more scarce if one or both of these moves comes to pass.

Alan Oliver of The People reports that Steven Taylor has rejected a "peace bid" of 45K/week, giving credence to the leak that he asked for 60. According to Oliver, there has not been any interest in the defender and he risks being left off of the 25-man roster if he doesn't take the deal on the table. Within this article, Oliver suggests that Keane's weekly wage may be a stumbling block to getting him signed.

That's it for today. Leave any links/news you find in the comments and I'll make sure to get it on the main post.

UPDATE I: Miles Starforth of The Shields-Gazette weighs in on the "Carroll for England" fad, saying he's unlikely to be called for the U-21 qualifiers given his large role on a Premiership side. Good news, obviously.

Starforth also comments on Robbie Keane, saying if a deal is done, it will come at the deadline. Within the article are some notes on just how hard Chris Hughton is working to make this happen.

Finally, Starforth notes that Sol Campbell will be making his long-awaited debut - for the reserves at The Stadium of Shite Light tomorrow night. Ryan Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, and Ryan Taylor are among those expected to join him (if they haven't been sold or loaned, that is).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thinking About The Chelsea Draw

Yesterday, United drew Chelsea in Round 3 of the League Cup, suffering a setback in their hopes of advancing. The Magpies have faced Chelsea 4 times in LC competition, losing all 4 matches, including most recently in the 5th round in 2006-07. Since Chelsea is the class of the Premiership at this point in time, I don't expect a different result this time around. But if you'll allow me to blow some smoke, I've got a couple of reasons why you shouldn't write that L on your fixture list in permanent marker.

Not so fast - The Magpies haven't been eliminated yet.

First, check the fixtures for both teams. For one thing, Chelsea has a total of 2 days less than NUFC to rest up. The Toon plays on the 18th and the 26th, while The Blues are forced to play on the 19th and 25th. This makes it more likely that Chelsea plays their scrubs. Look also at the quality of opponents following the match: Chelsea is going to rest up for a showdown with Manchester City. Newcastle has the fortune of facing Stoke City - very fortunate indeed.

Chelsea will be quite happy to overlook this game, and I'll be okay with it if Hughton tries to topple the giant by throwing out a more hearty lineup than the one we saw in Accrington. Many don't care about the League Cup, but the little bit of confidence that could come from a positive result would be well worth having a player or two play multiple games in a week. This team is still facing questions about being Premiership-ready from the press, so you have to take any chance you get to put those concerns to rest, if only for the psyche of the players.

Am I predicting a win at Stamford Bridge? Certainly not. However, this game is more winnable than it appears on the surface.

QuickPost: Video of NUFC vs. Wolves Goals

Vpod Videos of both goals from Saturday's draw at Wolves.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Match Review: Wolves 1-1 Newcastle

Ebanks-Blake, 43
Carroll, 62

MotM: Joey Barton

Yellow to Perch, Nolan, Carroll, and Ameobi

Referee: Stewart Atwell

Attendance: 27,745

Rosters courtesy of premierleague.com

When the Premier League fixtures were announced and the Toon Army got a look at what it might look like to be a top flight team again, a three-tiered test at the outset of the season became quite evident. The Magpies were to start away against one of the Big Four, then at home against a mid-tier team that did very well for itself last season, finishing Top 6, and then away against a fringe relegation candidate. Supposedly this three-game stretch was going to let all of us know where we stand in the Premiership, as if you can ever tell anything from three games.

A loss, a draw, and a win through those 3 games would have sat just fine with me if you would have asked me at the outset, and it turns out that's what we got. It just so happens that the lopsided win came against an Aston Villa squad that seems to be struggling to find its identity, and the draw came against the Wolves, a team that it seems may have been written off unfairly by many.

So what do these results through 3 matches mean? Are we an upper-tier squad challenging for a spot in Europe? Certainly not. Are we a top half team, as the table seems to currently suggest (pending the rest of the weekend's results)? Don't forget, there is plenty of football left to be played. Are we fighting to stay out of the bottom 3? I'm inclined to think not, but a draw against the Wolves falls somewhat short of a confidence boost. The answer surely lies somewhere in between the last two options, which I think most Magpie supporters should be satisfied with given where we just came from.

Talking Points
* Are you disappointed in the result or happy to get out of there with a point?
* Happy with the Starting XI? What about the substitution (Ameobi for Carroll at 80'?)
* Carroll's card for dissent - fair or foul?
* Worried about Carroll's misses yet?
* Who had especially good form? Who had especially bad form?