Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bottom 10 Moments of the First Half

With the second half about to begin, let's look back at the best and worst moments of the first half. We'll start with the worst:

10. Newcastle Beaten By 10 Men at White Hart Lane, 28 December

I suppose you could take comfort in the fact that Tottenham Hotspur are a good team in good form, or in the fact that they beat Aston Villa the previous match with 10 men as well, but when you're down by a goal and the other side loses a player, you're expected to dominate possession, not give up another one.

9. James Perch's Own Goal, 26 September

Sometimes when a player scores an own goal, you feel bad for them, especially if it's some fluky, weird deflection. Sometimes, though, a defender heads in a corner with 5 minutes to go to lose the game against Stoke City, and you don't feel sorry for them one bit.

8. Charles N'Zogbia Scores 2, 16 October

It hurts when seemingly the only good player on the other team beats you for two goals. It hurts even more when that player used to be one of your own.

7. Andy Carroll's Off-the-field Exploits

Two assault charges and orders from a judge for the top striker to bunk with his captain dominated the headlines this fall. It got to the point that false rumors from one publication about a "drug-fueled orgy" at Captain Nolan's house wasn't even the worst of it. On October 21, Carroll's car was torched and Nolan's garage door covered with graffiti following the release of Nolan's address in the media.

6. Tim Krul's Howler, 26 December

You can't just give goals away in the Premiership, least of all to Manchester City, but that's exactly what Tim Krul did in the second minute of the second meeting of the two teams. Three minutes later, the Blues added another, which ended up being all they really needed.

5. Bolton Wanderers 5, Newcastle United 1, 20 November

A 5-1 loss is bad, no matter how you slice it, but this one featured two goals for the opposition off of penalty kicks plus a red card for Fabricio Coloccini. Colo was sent off for aggressive play against Johan Elmander. Mike Williamson was later suspended for a separate incident involving Elmander, but the striker didn't seem to mind as he also scored two goals on the day.

4. Joey Barton Suspended, 10 November

Joey Barton had been having a relatively quiet season by his standards before he reversed course in a 2-1 loss at home against Blackburn Rovers, punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest and earning himself a 2 game suspension. The club struggled without him, tying with Fulham at home and then being decimated by Bolton.

3. West Bromwich Albion 3, Newcastle United 1, 5 December

This match would have made the list even if it weren't the impetus for getting Chris Hughton sacked. Here's how RKW reviewed the match:

"It can be described in so many words, but bluntly it was nothing short of horrendous. Fundamentals were flawed, leaderships was lacking, execution exited the building, passion took a pass, the offense was (pardon me) offensive, the defense deplorable. Our Magpies couldn't pass, possess, shoot, cross, clear, tackle, or keep the ball out of their own net. Other than all that they didn't play very good football either."

Following the match, Chris Hughton held an hour-long meeting with his players which was reported to be less than pleasant, but it didn't really matter, as the players were motivated in a much different way 24 hours later.

2. Nigel De Jong breaks Hatem ben Arfa's Leg, 3 October

Hatem ben Arfa was the object of an extended chase by Chris Hughton over the summer. For weeks the Toon Army was subjected to rumor after rumor of the status of a possible transfer for the talented young midfielder, so when he finally arrived at St. James' Park he was already something of a folk legend. Few expected him to live up to that billing, but in the few games that he played before getting injured, ben Arfa exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. The Magpies finally had their creative playmaker who was to lead them to the promised land of survival. In the blink of an eye, Nigel de Jong, who has built himself quite a resume as a dirty player, came in with both legs and snapped both the tibia and fibula of young Mr. ben Arfa, putting not only the season in doubt but also bringing forth the question of whether or not HBA will ever play again on Tyneside, given the conditions of his loan. Here's hoping the reports earlier this week that he will sign a permanent deal are true, and that he really can be ready in early February. The squad's survival may depend on it.

Click for link to video

1. Chris Hughton Sacked, 6 December

Football fans the world over were shaking their heads when Mike Ashley made the ill-advised move of sacking popular manager Chris Hughton. Hughton had led Newcastle back to the Premiership, made several improvements to the club despite limited funds, and gained the respect of his players, but rumors had persisted for several months that the relationship between Hughton and Ashley (and Derek Llambias) had grown frosty. Still, it was a shocking move that disrupted the players as well as the fans. Replacement manager Alan Pardew has only been around for three matches, so the jury is still out on him, but the effects have already been far-reaching in terms of personnel, as Sol Campbell has stated unequivocally that he wants out. For his part, Hughton treated the ignominy in his usual classy manner and has been linked to several vacancies (and a couple that aren't even vacant yet). He will latch on somewhere, and when he does, I will be jealous of the team that's lucky enough to land him.

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