Yet another case for the Toon defence

By Lee Ryder on Mar 21, 07 10:43 AM

One minute an injury hit squad can still win a European trophy and can still finish in a UEFA Cup place, the next minute talk of summer clearouts is rife.

The Euro exit to Alkmaar was awful and the 2-0 defeat at Charlton was equally as awful.

Now the ability of this squad is being questioned left, right and centre.

Cut and thrust at the top though isn't it?

We've been here plenty of times before but a squad that consists of buys from Sir Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness, Ruud Gullit, Kenny Dalglish and the two cash purchases by Glenn Roeder, in Damien Duff and Oba Martins, is now right under the spotlight.

Is it permanently damaged or in need of some hefty repairs?

Martins has fired 16 goals this season and although critics have questioned his movement and general play, the fans appear to be happy with their number 9, in his first season since joining from Serie A many would say he's a success at £10million.

Duff hasn't been the player we all thought we'd signed but has admitted he is still to find his best form, but the fans don't want to hear excuses, they want to see performances.

Defensively there looks like being big changes with Steven Taylor and Nobby Solano the two who are favoured the most at the moment.

But where does that leave Peter Ramage?

The player has put in some outstanding performances in his time since being handed his debut a couple of seasons ago and surely fits into to the Steve Watson, Lee Clark or even Aaron Hughes bracket - he grafts - he loves the club - he should not go.

True, he had a bad game against West Ham until he was injured or perhaps he was injured before that?

But you cannot judge him on his last game only!

Just like Jamie Carragher at Liverpool or Steve Finnan, he isn't a world beater but he cares and gives 110%.

Titus Bramble will always get stick and always seems five minutes away from a costly error, but he has still got fans in football and those at the top who rate him, Sir Bobby loved him during a time when United were in the Champions League.

As always, a frustrating character in more ways than one.

Centre-back Paul Huntington is still young and has perhaps been blooded too early and too often out of position at left-back, more time needed surely.

I mean why else bring kids through the Academy and then get rid?

Celestine Babayaro and Stephen Carr are both senior enough to let their football do the talking in what can only be a last throw of the dice for them at the club, while Craig Moore seems destined for a move at the end of his contract.

And Gooch Onyewu? The Liverpool game seems to be his best so far but he has been frustrated with being cup-tied in Europe.

Perhaps a run of five or six games on the spin may bring out the best in him, but time is running out and he knows that better than anyone.

Then you have the situation surrounding David Edgar?

Last spotted in the game with West Ham and playing well and not long before that scoring against Manchester United in front of a live television audience.

But since relegated back to the reserves.

Two quality defenders are needed to bolster the squad but how many years have we been saying that?

Yes the defensive unit does need a look at but a full scale clear out?

The defensive debate rages on.


Chris Gray said:

If it's true that we could have got Woodgate and/or Campbell during the summer, then why on earth didn't we? One gets injured and the other's too old? Woodgate's been excellent for Boro and missed very few games, and Campbell is still good enough for two or three years in the Premiership. And both are leaders. And both, apparently, would have come if asked! What's going on? Either FS or GR or both have messed up badly. They have to get it right for next season. That means losing Babayaro, Carr and Moore and bringing in a CH and two full backs. We need to use the Wenger criteria: 1: Intelligence, 2: Motivation. They have to sign the right players this time - good players who care. There aren't many of them around. And I agree - Ramage should not be allowed to go. At least he does care.


i`think that next season we should have a new manager new players, & a new board, because if we still have this same set up next season we`ll be in the same posistion.

Ian said:

The defence needs to be completely overhauled, with perhaps only Taylor surviving. Nobby won't last a whole season at right back, and won't be getting up and down like he needs to.

Ramage is sub-standard, and equally as poor as Bramble in my opinion. He should be allowed to leave - in fact plans should already be in place to replace him along with everyone bar Taylor. Maybe the likes of Ramage can remain as backup, but as first choice? No way.

J Newton said:

If you keep on doing what you're doing,
You'll keep on getting what you're getting...

Genghiz H Sengul said:

I agree 110 %. Ramage is good. He can be solid at either side at the back 4, he hustles, is aggresive and communicates. As who should stay. If NUFC wants to persaude a big name defender who can clear out a whole line, then Taylor may have to be dealt along with Bramble and maybe Babayaro. Hey, Babayaro has talent. But if getting rid of those three equals a Woodgate or Terry then so be it. Unless NUFC wants to go international and pick players who may be cheaper. International players will understand everything on the pitch, but won't do interviews as much. The reserves showed they can play and next year will be 1 year smarter. That's big. I believe the team is good. Roeder will spot his weaknesses in the defense and lure a broozer in the middle. But Roeder can't go. He knows too much right now and one more year maybe be needed.

John Moodie said:

Why don't Newcastle United fans wake up, Stephen Taylor and the other Newcastle academy players that have played for the 1st team this season are simply not good enough to play football at the top level.

Taylor is not good enough for two reason; firstly, his positional sense is abysmal, he simply cannot read the game. He constantly gets himself out of position and is forced to make rash tackles that often lead to costly free kicks or goals (think Chelsea Carling cup Q/f). In fact if you look at this season he has made as many bad mistakes as Bramble, but these mistakes are constantly overlooked because of his age and the fact he is a Geordie. Age is no excuse at the top level! Secondly, his distribution is very poor. 95% of his passes are back to Shay Given. A professional footballer who is not comfortable with the ball at his feet is in the wrong profession. Look at the great centre halfs: Moore, Beckenbaur and Baresi, they could all read the game and were comfortable on the ball.

If Newcastle fans are happy with the midtable mediocrity we have seen this season then Taylor is perfect. Taylor, due to his strength and commitment, can due a job for a bottom half of the table side, but if Newcastle want to move upwards we need to wake up and realise that he is simply not good enough for the very top level of the game.

Richard said:

Your opinion on Peter Ramage is the sort of thing that is holding this club back, in my book.

Aye he cares about the club, and he certainly gives 100%, but he is not a good enough player for the Premiership and he's certainly not a good enough player for where we're aiming to be in the Premiership.

I could live with Peter Ramage staying ahead of the likes of Moore and Bramble next season, but have a word man. The whole "he gives 100%" argument is one best suited to Sunday-league football, not to the biggest league on the planet.

Giving 100% should be the absolute minimum to expect from players who get paid far, far too much.

Aaron Hughes wasn't good enough and is floundering at Villa, Steve Watson didn't hit any great heights after he left this club and Lee Clark certainly never reached the heights he hit at Newcastle, either, but he was certainly the best of this trio.

Were you advocating that the club should keep Robbie Elliott last season for the same reasons?

Jobs for the boys, as usual, though. If you're local and you "love" the club you "deserve" to be involved, despite there being better options at all angles. Oh aye, you have to give regular interviews to the Chronicle as well - of course.

If someone made a cash offer for Ramage, we should take it. David Edgar has looked a far brighter prospect in his few games than Wor Peter has done since making his debut and we haven't had a sniff of him since he was outstanding in repairing the damage created by Ramage in the West Ham game. But aye, he's Canadian, isn't he?

Ryder's reply: I don't think it is the case for Peter Ramage.
Having a feel for the club is half the battle in a black and white shirt.
Aaron Hughes proved to be a good defensive squad member during an era of Champions League football while Steve Watson and Lee Clark are two players who have come closer than anyone to actually winning the Premier League in the club's history back in 1996.
They can't be that bad and after they left there were plenty of clubs interested in Clarky and Watto.
And in terms of David Edgar, though, I agree that it's mystifying how he hasn't had more of a chance.


Every man & his dog for years now has given our central defenders stick.Instead of them protecting our keeper,Shay,maybe he could help them a bit more by dominating his box both verbally & physically.He needs to come off his line for crosses at set pieces & he needs to SHOUT more so the defence know whether he's coming for the ball.

Jay Dee said:

Define "outstanding".Few Toon players have achieved this this season,least of all Ramage.At best he is a squad player.Perhaps your judgement is coloured too much by only watching Newcastle at SJP?There is not one outstanding player in defense.I happen to watch Bundeliga,La Liga and Serie A-then you can compare!

mt1892 said:

I would be looking at Justin Hoyte or Luke Young at right back, Leighton Baines at left back, and Richard Dunne in the middle. He aint the quickest but he is a leader and would help Taylor no end. We dont need big names just good honest defenders who will win a ball in the air or on the ground and pass it simple. Like Woodgate used to do. Ill take it all agreed Onyewu aint good enough then!!!!

oxboy said:

Defending starts at the front and we have no striker on the books who contributes any where near enough in that area. Scoring goals is not enough these days.
Midfield never, ever dominates or looks like bossing a whole game. Few chances are created. Their ventures into the box are almost non-existent, chances created few and support of the defense is questionable.
So many blame the defense totally for all our ills, or just blame titus its easier cos the press do. Taylor is simply not good enough, caught flatfooted so many times its untrue. How many pens has he given away in his short career? Titus is noway as bad as his press and will be missed badly if he goes. The best central defensive partnership I've seen this season was Hunts and Edgar, they looked so easy and knew each others game. Ful backs both too poor to talk about.
That said look at the facts and its clear that conceeding goals has not been our problem for many a season we have simply not scored enough, hard to take for many but true nontheless.
We need leadership, inspiration and true guidance from the very top. Until that happens we will remain what we really are and have been for decades - a mid table team.

Steve Patterson said:

I am just reading the above comments and find them quite amusing in all honesty. I am a season ticket holder and from where I sit, it is blatantly apparent that Newcastle problems are mainly at full back. For a starter, how often have we actually fielded a natural full back? Sam Allardyce said on tv a while back that statistically it is proved premiership full backs cannot defend crosses. Anyone who has seen performances at AZ away, Sheff Utd, Bolton, Wigan, Fulham etc will agree. Nobby has done well at right back, but he is ageing. What does that say about Carr though? Who has played there his whole career! Dont get me started on Babayaro! What newcastle need are two full backs who get beyond the wingers. Look at all the top sides. They all have full backs who can primarily defend, but can also get beyond the wingers. At centre back, I like the gooch, he is big and strong and when he has played we have not looked such a soft touch at set pieces. he needs a regular partner though. Titus is an enigma. Since returning from injury he was outstanding, then he did his usual in Holland! I have no doubt if he leaves, he will go on to be world class elsewhere. Taylor is a future captain of this club, and is in my eyes, the new John Terry. Why do we want centre halves to be able to dribble past 5 men or ping the ball 80 yards to feet? is that not what your midfields job is?? Edgar looks the next best youngster coming through, but obviously is not in the blue chip brigade! Ramage is not good enough to play week in, week out, but will be a good squad player. For next season, should go for Baines and Joey barton for sure, I feel Barton would compliment Parker or Butt superbly. I quite liked the look of Jenner and Kovemans at Az mind. The latter looked a handful in both games, his movement was excellent and he was quick for a big man. Also scoring twice! At right back, no one in particular stands out, I thought we should have gone for chimbonda last year. He is everything which I have talked about before. However, you cannot tell me that Wenger is the only manager who can scour the country for an athletic, quick, strong unpolished diamond?? Is that not what scouts are for? I think as fans we have to realise that Newcastle are a work in progress and it is going to take up to 5 years to challenge the top 4 consistently again.


A few of you seem to be missing the origional point that perceptions of a squad can change with just one result.Also opinions of a player can change with his most recent performance.We all know there will be changes to the defence this summer but to sacrifice youngsters who have played less than 50 games for the club smacks of a knee jerk rection and its source comes from discontent with other areas within the club.
Get rid of Bramble, Carr, Babayaro and Moore by all means but please give Taylor and Ramage a chance to develop for goodness sake.

Chris said:

3 defenders to take forward to next season are Taylor, Hunts and Edgar.. Solano has done a good job, but he's knocking on a bit and would be a good squad player for midfield.. Carr has to go.. he is 2 stone over weight and baba hasn't got the bottle.. Moore has no pace and Gooch is not up to it!! The players we need are Woodgate and Bridge, wouldn't cost more that 20m the pair and are both quality!!

The missing links are woodgate and Bridge!!

dave oz said:

I'm still gutted that we didn't get Bridge..

That is the sort of class Roeder is after.

However we never have the same back 4 playing together week in, week out and their positioning is all over the place when retrieving onthe break or often from set plays.


GR's observations are accurate and you have to say that his words sound good. He needs time but unfortunately he does not come across as convincing on camera and you wonder whether this is transmitted to the players. However I believe that he identifies with the things that are wrong with the club and where mistakes have been made historically. He needs time but this season as always has been another anti-climax and a massive disappointment after showing so much promise in the 1st leg against AZ. The truth is we over achieved and mislead the fans into thinking that we were better than we actually were. The main hope for the summer is that GR can secure the players to at least move us forward. Defensive positions are the focus but I only hope he sells Milner as we will not progress with players of his quality. I am amazed by how many fans are taken in by him - he offers nothing and £5m would assist in securing a replacement. Three defenders, 1 c/midfield, 1 right sided midfielder and a c/forward are the requirements.

Lee S said:

The defenders at this club have been given chance after chance by a succession of managers in most cases. Bramble is on to his third manager now and I'd argue has contributed heavily to two of them losing their job. He seems like a nice enough lad and can sometimes look good (like in the 1st leg against AZ) but he directly costs us at least 15 goals a season. I took my girlfriend to the Fulham match and even though he din't drop a howler that day she said she feels sorry for him because he looks utterly bewildered, like a child in a room full of television cameras She also said it's sweet the way he lumbers around so I had to point out that that isn't a good thing for a footballer.

Of the current defence, Nol should stay as he's competent, but still too slow to be first choice right back, and I'd also keep Taylor, Huntington, Ramager, and Edgar. In fact, Edgar deserves more of a chance as he's really looked the part when he has played, better than Huntington by a long shot, but as Roeder keeps saying, Huntington is "one of his boys" from teh Academy, probably a favourite. The biggest task though is getting rid of Bramble. I think it's odd how a succession of good, competent defenders have turned into bags of nerves who make mistakes within a month of playing next to Bramble. Look at Taylor. He was a no-nonsense, decent centre-half when he played alongside Moore, now he is error-prone and always out of position. Same goes for Onyewu who is now lookign shaky, Ramage, and Huntington. They all seem to be taking their cue from Bramble. He's like a disease.

Priorities for the summer are an experienced centre-back fo the youngsters to learn from - if onyl Sol Campbell was available on a free, eh? Oh. Then we need three full-backs, one right, two left. Experienced players. I wouldn't spend 10m on Greth Bale, a) he's not ready, and b) we have a history of ruining promising young talent (God knows what would have happened to Rooney if he had chosen us).

It seems simple, but Roeder seems intent on making decisions that fit in with some bizarre principles, like not signing players over 30. I also don't thik he has the knowledge or contacts to build a top squad at Newcastle. Maybe, just maybe, it could be worth bringing Sir Bobby back as technical director just so we can filch his conatacts book and maybe sign a few players.


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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