Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Why football is at risk of becoming the laughing stock of international sport

Why do we watch sport? Is it the elation of winning or is it the drama that could amass at any moment?

Drama runs through the heart of football, on and off the pitch. Players score last minute goals, players escape red for 2 footed lunges and managers can be sacked at any moment. But when does it get a bit silly? As I write this I’ve just read on the BBC Sport website that Michael Appleton has been sacked after 67 days in charge of Blackburn Rovers. What is even more remarkable is that this was Appleton’s 3rd managerial role since the end of 2011 and Blackburn’s 5th manager since September 2012. Matt Smith, the Doctor Who star, described the Venkeys who run Blackburn Rovers as ‘numpties’ and it’s hard to disagree. Where is the loyalty in football? If Sir Alex Ferguson was sacked in the first 3 years of his reign, Manchester United would still be languishing behind Liverpool and would not be the club they are today.

As a Newcastle supporter I felt aggrieved on Sunday when Callum Mcmanaman was not shown a red card for his lunge that saw young Frenchmen Massadio Haidara fall to the floor in agony. Evidence has shown that the referee Mark Halsey did not see the incident however it has been proven that the assistant had a clear view but did not raise his flag. This is outrageous. In 2013 football is miles behind other sports in the way the game is patrolled. Why can’t there be a 10 second break in play when the ball goes out to review the challenge? This argument supports goal line technology as well but I think everyone’s heard too much on that subject.
The Horror Tackle

Arguably, football wouldn’t be the game it is without controversy. But when players have their legs broken and teams aren’t awarded blatant goals the feeling of injustice is justified and needs to be rectified. Take cricket and football as an example, the ball travels at over 100MPH yet technology allows us to track the movement off the ball and can provide replays in seconds. FIFA’s stubbornness is perplexing.

The FA's response to the incident has been nothing short of disgraceful. Wilfred zaha has been banned for responding angrily to racism yet Mcmanaman walks away unscathed.  You can't make it up. The FA is an embarrassment to the home of football and I agree with Llambias' comments on the NUFC website.Football is crying out for consistency. In one game a two footed lunge which misses the player and the ball can be given as a red due to intent but tackles that result in broken legs can not be dealt with retrospectively if the referee saw it. Where is the logic in that? Rugby has benefited from the technology and has lead to a fairer and more exciting game. Teams can’t rely on poor decisions anymore; they require a high standard of sport from the first minute to the last.Although football may be the biggest sport on the continent, in terms of sense it is very much near the bottom of the list. Technology won’t kill football, it’ll enhance it. What example does it set for up and coming coaches if managers are dismissed 67 days into a job?

Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it's so incredible, it's unbelievable. And sometimes it’s just plain daft.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Is the fairy tale possible?

Tomorrow, it'll mark 3 years since Newcastle played Scuthorpe in the Championship. It will also see a french flavoured Newcastle face Wigan after defeating a spirited Anzhi Makhachkala to reach the quarter final of the Europa League in midweek.

What an achievement. What a job Mike Ashley, Derek Llambias, Chris Hughton, Colin Calderwood, Alan Pardew, John Carver and our players have achieved. It's funny to think that this season's achievements are a bit of a disappointment but last season was a fairy tale. Is there a possibility that the next chapter could be about to be written? Could the slipper find the princess? Possibly. Likely? Who cares?

Goalscorer and the man of the match.
In a season where Bradford have reached the Capital One cup final it is clear anything can happen. Fortune favours the brave and brave men make fairy tales great. Newcastle have been this and more in the Europa League. Pardew gambled in Kharkiv and won. Pardew gambled against Anzhi and won. I wonder what he'll do against Benfica? We've got the talent and depth to give it a go as well. The January signings have added quality as well as numbers. They've all hit the ground running; Debuchy and Gouffran are ineligible in Europe but this means that we have them available and hopefully hungrier to play in the Premier League in which we're almost mathematically safe. Haidara has looked decent when he has started, Yanga-Mbiwa and Taylor have been superb at the back and Sissoko has been a monster in the midfield. With Papiss Cisse seemingly getting back amongst the goals and Shola's incredible record in Europe our attack can hurt Europe's defences. If Yohan Cabaye is fit for both legs and Tiote manages to recall how to pass we're in with a shot. The derby days after the 2nd leg will pale into insignificance if we beat the Portuguese side.

In regards to the league, it is both a realistic and sensible goal to aim for 10th. Personally, finishing 17th would suit me if it meant European glory. This season's final league position will not be representative of what this team can achieve. I'm not saying we should throw away our games but importance should not be placed on the Premier League game if there is a Europa League game in midweek. We should look to emulate Swansea when they secured silverware after choosing to rest key players vs Liverpool.

Is it daft to dream? Once upon a time there was a wee club in the North East of England who went by the name of Newcastle United. They slayed dragons, ugly sisters and mackems, can Shola slay Europe?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Does nationality matter?

Recently I've read a lot of comments regarding Newcastle's influx of new signings. Some neutrals are claiming that fans of Newcastle United are unhappy with the number of foreign players who play for NUFC rather than geordies.

That statement is wrong and does not in any way shape or form represent the view of the majority of Newcastle fans and I'll explain why. It goes without saying that we'd prefer if everyone who lined up in the tunnel was born down the road and had a geordie accent but we aren't complaining when the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Moussa Sissoko are donning the black and white shirts; times have changed.

Also, if British talent wasn't so horribly overrated and overpriced maybe Mike Ashley might even consider it - at the moment it doesn't even enter into his mindset. Why? Jordan Henderson from Sunderland for £20 million. Yohan Cabaye from Lille the French Champions for £3.5 million. Who's the better player? Who's adapted quickest? Who's of international class and maintains his position in the national side? Cabaye is just one example but the same could be said of Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Yanga-Mbiwa, Cisse, Tiote and to a lesser extent Gouffran. Downing, Sturridge, Joe Allen, Andy Carroll and Adam Johnson are all examples of inflated prices for players who have been signed for their nationality and to appease fans rather than for the benefit of the football club.

Andy Carroll learnt his trade at Newcastle, impressed for a year and a half in the Championship and briefly in the Premier League before being sold to Liverpool for £35 million. It's astonishing, Mike Ashley must have laughed his way to the bank in a similar way football fans are laughing at Liverpool's transfer policy in general. Statistically, Carroll was average for Newcastle. Liverpool attempted to take advantage of his hot streak in the top flight and failed. With the money from that one sale, Ashley and Pardew were able to fashion a team which was then to finish above Liverpool in the following season.

More of this please Mr Ashley
But I've got off topic a little bit. It makes sense to buy cheap, achieve success and then if the price is right sell. Take Yohan Cabaye as an example, we bought him and he's achieved success with us. We've scratched his back; he's scratched ours. The likelihood is that Cabaye will be sold sometime in the future but he won't go for cheap and Ashley will do his best to pin him down with a new contract. Newcastle can easily make £12-15 million profit on Cabaye as he's impressed in his 2 seasons in the top level. He's brought versatility, flair, potency, goals and assists to Newcastle and I'd much prefer him to some wannabe David Batty from Red House Farm or worse another Nile Ranger.

However, I would be extremely disappointed if our match day squad did just become all foreigners. I want success and I'm not fussed who plays in the team but I would like to see local lads/Englishmen in and around the first team like Carroll was 4 years ago. Hopefully, Adam Campbell will even break into the elite. I have high hopes for him.

I'm proud to support Newcastle and I'm proud that I support a self sufficient club who hopefully can continue to show the rest of football how a modern day football club should be run. Ashley's took some stick in the past but I can only commend him for what he's done at Newcastle United. He's stuck in at running a football club just like the Newcastle players have since they were promoted in 2009.

Nationality doesn't matter to me, nor does race or sexuality. If someone plays for the shirt I'll support them and I'll sing their name in St James' Park. If he's local, great. If he's not, so what?