Toon just aren't at the races

By Lee Ryder on Sep 30, 07 11:58 AM

Oba Martins and Mark Viduka

Great North Run weekend it may well be but Newcastle United just weren't at the races at the City of Manchester Stadium.

OK, they did take a deserved lead against City but after Oba Martins had lifted the ball over Joe Hart they soon came off the track.

And just in case you've had enough of the same old cliches on the weekend of the North East's famous half marathon I'll get one more in before we can dissect the latest sorry defeat of the Magpies because let's be honest, they well and truly hit the wall against Sven Goran Eriksson's side!

The day started with the news that Steve Harper had been dropped by Big Sam with Shay Given taking his place.

Harper's face said it all during the warm-up and you have to feel sorry for him.

The Easington-born keeper has performed wonders between the posts with Given injured and most of us thought that despite the Irishman's display at Arsenal, we would see Harper back in goal after his own fine display against West Ham.

But no, it was back to Given and it all must leave Harper thinking: "What more do I have to do."

Given justified his selection though with a string of fine saves and again going back to the honesty policy there was little he could do about the three goals.

The first two came from wing play which the Toon back four failed to deal with as they were left exposed and left wanting as Petrov and Mpenza were left unmarked to turn a 1-0 reverse into a 2-1 lead.

Elano's free-kick capped off the performance with a strike which I believe Americans would say went into the "upper 90".

City's attacking play probably had a lot to do with the unsung hero of the Kevin Keegan era.

A man we know as Derek William Fazackerley born in sleepy little Preston who likes to stay out of the limelight and concentrate on coaching duties.

Boy, wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air at St James' Park today?

But at least United emulated half of it correctly on the day because while the attacking impetus was sadly missing, their defensive duties were pretty similar to the much maligned back four of the KK glory days.

Positives on the day?

OK, let's try but at least Oba Martins looked like he wanted to be the Toon's top striker when he polished off Geremi's long ball to score his fourth of the season.

It takes him to 21 in total for Newcastle which isn't a bad tally considering he's had a few problems, isn't first choice and has been pretty much starved of decent service since he got here, it isn't bad.

But overall that was about all United could really take from this and it wasn't enough for the travelling fans who again turned out in their numbers and chanted their hearts out all of the way through which can't have gone unnoticed by the players.

In the end there was plenty to be sad about for the Toon Army with the Everton clash now a must win game or the doom and gloom merchants will be ready for a field day.




Sean K said:

Whilst not one to jump on the 'Sack Big Sam' bandwagon, I think that considering Man City were in a WORSE position than us when Sven took over, he's had less time than Big Sam with the team, yet we were completely OUTPLAYED in every area by a team that looked like Arsenal in disguise!

Man of Kenton said:

Watching Man City fast, free-flowing intelligent midfield and attacking play reminded me of the way NUFC played in the early days of Keegan's reign. Unfortunately, apart from Martins' goal and Shay's saves, we're no longer in that league.

sid said:

What was most worrying wasn't how good City's attack was, it was that City were able to press us into bad passes, and put us on the back foot.

Many times toon players had no option - one time we had a full back on the ball, and the three midfielders were all in a line from him, so the first midefielder only was available to take a pass - thus not enough movement, which City offered plenty of.

We didn't have a creative midfielder, and thus with no movement and no creative passing, we rely on a ball up to Viduka. But with no movement from midfield to get beyond him in support, that tactic doesn't work either.

So City did the pressing game we are supposedly set up to do, plus had a few flair players to break us down. End result, unsurprisingly, 3-1...

Benton Bob said:

Man of Kenton and Sean K are spot on with their comments and sadly it's there for all to see.It seems to be patently obvious to all NUFC fans that the Engine room (our midfield)is seriously lacking.City looked like they knew what they were doing, running into spaces, creating spaces,in other words nice to watch football.Our plodders when they get the ball look shocked and its as if they're thinking "What do I do next". They're so slow of thought and there doesn't seem to be a fluent passing strategy and there is no sign of any incisive play.Other people have called this lack of creativity but to use the old phrase, you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear.Butt, Geremi & Smith,have all been severely exposed as 2nd rate midfield players and whether or not Barton or Emre can make any difference will also be exposed soon. Big Sam is no fool and although most Managers defend their players (especially their own signings)surely he's got to have seen the failings exposed yet again. Not only are the forwards left exposed through lack of service but the defence were also left unprotected on several occasions and I bet Steve Taylors Dad had wished he'd kept his gob shut about his superstar son.I guess 2 1-0 wins against Everton and Spurs will keep the "only the result matters" crew happy and perhaps I'm being a bit over critical in that there's a lot of new players still bedding in & it will take time, but the counter argument to that was City's superb flowing football and they're all new to eachother.Certainly if things go pear shaped against Everton and Spurs, the alarm bells will be very loud and we'll be back to square 1.

Paul Patterson said:

You say we took the lead deservedly Lee, I’ve got to disagree, it was completely against the run of play, although it was a fine ball and finish from Oba.

Saturday showed us fans exactly what to expect from an Allardyce side, sitting back deep and trying to hit teams on the break (Worked for a little bit judging by Oba’s goal) but this is never going to get us through a season as if teams have 10 shots on target, law of averages suggests that a couple are going to find their way past even a world class goalkeeper.

I draw everyone’s attention to the Portsmouth/ Reading game at Fratton Park, 7-4, oh joy, what I wouldn’t give to see free flowing attacking football like that every week.

Now I know what your going to say, surely Im not suggesting taking a chance on LOSING 7-4 week in week out?

Well actually I kind of am really, Newcastle United have better players than Portsmouth, but Harry Redknapp has obviously let his team off the reigns and told them to ATTACK.

I would have took a 50-50 chance on winning or losing 7-4 at Derby, Arsenal and Man City, because I bet if we had gone at Derby, we might have conceded a couple, but we would have definitely won the game (And had 3 points extra than we have now) instead of this sterile, negative excuse for football we have at the minute.

I have gone from predicting a top six spot to at best, mid-table in a matter of 10 days or so.

Man City and Boro' conquerers Everton will finish WELL above Newcastle, why? because they want to win a game of football

Sort it out Sam.



Ricky said:

Settle down guys, OK City looked pretty good going forward, but they were not in the same league as NUFC under Keegan, although defensively they were similar.
The biggest problem we had on Saturday was ourselves. If we had a little guile and composure in our engine room we could have won this at a canter as this would have taken the sting out of City’s game and therefore released the pressure on our back four, which did, admittedly, have a bad day at the office, at the same time letting the forwards get a glimpse of the posts with the ball at their feet. But with a midfield which has as much penetrating power and drive as a Sloth, we are not going anywhere, which incidentally has been the same problem since Sir Bobby was shown the door. This area has to be addressed and soon, we can not drive a potential Rolls Royce forward line with a Ford Ka engine ( no offence to you Ka owners, I’m one )

Peter Harper said:

Allardyce is flummoxed.Instinctively he does not want to attack.He has no idea of attacking formations and strategy, but he is being forced to try do something completely alien to him and he is making a right hash of it.At Manchester we had a defensive back four (and there was the first contradiction in terms) four in midfield, Martins spent most of the game on the left wing and Viduka up front.What a formation!!This could have come straight from Stephen Hawking's book " Black Holes in the Universe" but the only black holes we could see were in Newcastle's defence.I have been the sternest critic of Alan Smith this season, but credit must go where credit is due.I was at the match and watched as Smith never gave up trying.He broke up attacks and continually tried to get the attack going, regularly spreading to ball out to both wings.Any person who says he had a bad game watched the highlights on television.They were not at the match.I disagree that Given had no chance with the three goals as he should have intercepted and cleared the ball from Ireland immediately before the first goal.Didn't you just know before the third goal what was about to happen.Nicky Butt had just lost the ball and he almost inevitably commits a foul in this situation.A supporter behind me shouted"he's going to foul him" 30 seconds later Goal No3.Finally Charles N'Zobia has been excellent this season but he will never be a fullback.Martins is an excellent goalscorer not a winger.To score goals requires creativity-I see none in Butt,Geremi and Smith and where was Emre?-on the bench of course.
My judgement is that Allardyce is what he is and no more.I feel Newcastle (or any other big club) will not gain success under his stewardship.This will be his only "Big Club" appointment.Back to the minnows in the future.I stand to be corrected!!

oxboy said:

We are and always will be a mid table side and if you want anything else then look for another team.
Whatever happened to the supporters we once had? All there seems to be these days is experts - expert whingers.

Tony Poolan said:

We have a dearth of midfield creativity. I am also concerned at how cumbersome and average Taylor is starting to look - all right he is committed to the cause but he is becoming a liability and looks out of place alongside Rozenhal - he is slow and too physical and will only be effective when up against physical strikers. We need Barton's drive in midfield and N'Zogbia wide left with Milner on the other side. Sorry but Emre isn't the answer - he has only looked good in patches and seems to want to leave. I agree with Sam about Martins - 'scorer of great goals' not a natural goalscorer - one minute he looks very good the next like a pub player who can't pass! Smith seems to have become merely a workhorse since being at Man U - can't make his mind up between being a striker or holding midfielder. I'm afraid Shola should be out of the door - we've seen all he has to offer. It will take time for Cacapa, Beye and Enrique. But here we go already grumbling - in the 30 plus (maybe more!) years I've been going how many times have we imploded because of short-termism - the successful clubs tend to give people time unless they find a Mourinho. Last season was an utter shambles and Roeder was let's face it a disaster. Sam Allardyce will have to be given time or we will be back as we always are to panic appointments and no strategy. I wasn't in favour the first time Sam was linked to the club a few years ago but right now we have him and he at least appears to be moving the club into the 21st Century behind the scenes. We were never going to be fantastic this season - especially after last - let's get real and have a bit of patience just for a change?!

John said:

well its been the same games for all them i have seen, no creativity, nothing, players like nzogbia playing in defence, geremi who play defence for chelsea, in midfield, to be honest the team is just not good enough, remember listening to alan oliver say with the midfield, they will be hard to beat away from home, not likely, Sam seems to like excuses, he trotts them out week by week, tiredness, wish i got payed 60.000 a week to run on a pitch for 90mins. Newcastle have been poor all season, what is alarming, is the amount of the managers signings that have played poorly, smith is never going to be a creator in midfield, neither is geremi, we have milner, who is the only bright spark in the middle. i cannot see us finishing in the top 10, man city looked faster, sharper, and together as a team, not bad for only seeing dvds of his signings


starting to get that de ja vu feeling again. Excuse after excuse off the manager after another game of dire football. Lets be honest lads we are boring to watch, and the class aint there. Our early season fixture list of bottom of the table teams has come to an end now, after being tested last cple of games.. being a realist here's hoping to a top 14 finish!!!

paul w said:

A midfield of Man U and Chelsea cast offs with a penchant for sideways passes and workrate will only ever bring us mid table medicrity - what is concerning is that 2 of the three stooges were signed by Big Sam - Allardyce is learning fast that you dont get long to impress the Toon Army. Also For all that Given is a great shot stopper the defence always seems shaky in front of him I dont believe he commands the box as well as some probably why he has never been taken by a ( current )Top 4 club

Paul Patterson said:

Peter Harper:- Whilst I wasn't down at Eastlands, I did watch the FULL 90 minutes and can catagorically say Alan Smith turned in a very shoddy and in parts lazy performance.

Judging by various comment's here, I can see people agree with the current concensus on the guy.

Did you not see the ball that was fizzed across the box, which (being a yard out) Alan Smith could have just stuck his leg out and we'd have been 1-0 up and then Oba scored 2-0.

This confirms again what Alan Smith is (Or Isn't more to the point) he isn't a striker for starters, but I'd question if he's even a footballer.

He can't play either wing, he's not creative enough for the middle and he hasn't the instint to be a striker.

Goalkeeper or Centre Half anyone??

We've basically got a fit Keiron Dyer, Anyone spot the similarities?

The only difference is that Alan Smith is physical, but that's just going to get him suspended (One yellow card away!!) I wish I was wrong, as I hate slamming our own players, but in some cases, it's too easy.



gordon said:

What no one is actually mentioned that sven has had around 23M more nett to spend more than big sam.Wake up ashley and mort and start investing.Apparantly we were interested in elano until the new owner came in.

Rich said:

Can I just say that undoubtedly Saturdays performance was totally unsatisfactory. However, I think all NUFC fans have to face the fact that Sam has an enormous rebuilding job ahead of him, and anyone with any sense knows that this is going to take time.

Admittedly we are crying out for flair in the middle of the park, but let us not forget that Sam's main signing Joey Barton has been injured all season, and he is the man brought in to add creativity to our midfield. Emre has been permanently injured, and lest we forget Damien Duff, who can provide flair has also been unavailable to the manager.

Also, Charlie is only playing full back till Enrique gets up to speed. Sam has no other options in that department at present...

Smith will prove an astute signing, but not playing as a wide midfielder but as a centre forward. I assume he will get the opportunity to play there as Viduka will get injured, and Martins goes off to The African Nations in July.

The last few years of chaos is not going to be put right in 3 months... Anyone who expects that is going to become disappointed very quickly.

Man of Kenton said:

"All there seems to be these days is experts - expert whingers."

Well, I pay my money and shout for my team so I think I've earned the right to criticise when they play the way they've been playing.

If you're happy giving your uncritical support to mediocrity, go down the coast a little way.

Paul said:

You will notice I leave my full name when I write.
I am a stern critic of Big Sam's tactics not of the players he has bought.
Alan Smith is respected by Allardyce-he was also well respected by Sir Alex Ferguson (I suppose you will tell us all Alex is a rubbish football manager) and,if you recall did not want Smith to leave Manchester Utd.He is also highly thought of by David O'Leary and Steve McClaren for England.Are you telling me they're all wrong? I rest my case.

Pierre de Letter said:

Alan Smith is described by Paul as a fit Kieron Dyer.Well a fit Kieron Dyer would be the first name on the team sheet for me.I was at the game on Saturday and felt Smith was definitely one of the better players. He never stopped running so how he could be remotely decribed as "Lazy" I do not know.
I drove to Manchester and when I got to the stadium I took off my sun glasses to watch the match.I suggest Paul does the same in front of his television as he obviously could not distinguish one player from another.

alex falk said:

I'm sticking up for Alan Smith.I travelled from Belgium to watch the match and he, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins were our best players.Have a thought for Big Sam though as he is as tactically aware as Hitler on the Russian Front.

alex falk said:

I'm sticking up for Alan Smith.I travelled from Belgium to watch the match and he, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins were our best players.Have a thought for Big Sam though as he is as tactically aware as Hitler on the Russian Front.

Adam said:

Of course the Everton game isn't a MUST-WIN!! How can a game be a "must win" when we're mid-table only 6 games into a season with a new manager, talking about showing patience and faith?! It's an important game and one in which we need to put 110% into and look fot a lot of improvement but that's all. We're only prepared to show faith if that means floating around 7th trying to break into the top 4. I'm sure that a lot of clubs feel like they're under-achieving so far, and - remember - Everton we're kicking around at the bottom of the league for quite a while a year or two ago.
There is room for massive impovement, yes, but I think that we have to be patient for that to happen.

Adam said:

Of course the Everton game isn't a MUST-WIN!! How can a game be a "must win" when we're mid-table only 6 games into a season with a new manager, talking about showing patience and faith?! It's an important game and one in which we need to put 110% into and look fot a lot of improvement but that's all. We're only prepared to show faith if that means floating around 7th trying to break into the top 4. I'm sure that a lot of clubs feel like they're under-achieving so far, and - remember - Everton we're kicking around at the bottom of the league for quite a while a year or two ago.
There is room for massive impovement, yes, but I think that we have to be patient for that to happen.

r ooi said:

I din't see the whole game but I saw the highlights. First two goals was due to leaving the scorers open. Sign...another disappointment but there is still faith left here (not much)...Hope things will turn around this Sunday...

watson said:

given says he feels for his best pal harper. if he was genuine he would not have moaned so much. as far as allydyce is concerned so much about his promise that the man on his game kept his shirt. both a couple of hypocrites.

Hal Hall said:

If Fergie had wanted to keep 'Smudger', he would've.

He should've scored on saturday; he runs around to little effect (less than, say, Kestbaia). I wouldn't compare him to Dyer. Smith has more heart and a lot less skill - although brain-wise, I'd imagine they're on level par. I don't like him and think it was a mistake to get him, but he would be far better employed holding up the ball up front. He's not a winger and he clearly knows that. He's being asked to do something he can't. .

Paul Patterson said:

Pierre: I’ve had the argument on Dyer on many an occasion.

He can’t tackle, isn’t a crosser, needs about five chances to score, no heading ability, stood on the post from a corner like a teapot and let the ball go past him TWICE, refused to play right wing (Then played it for England) Tossed away the captains armband, fought with Lee Bowyer, his only good attribute is that he’s quick, but he gets injured too often so that doesn’t matter

But he’s no longer our problem so all the better, whilst I do have sympathy with him and wish him well in his recovery at West Ham.

Alan Smith however Pierre, could have stuck his foot out and we’d have been 1-0 up, he also gave up the chase on a number of balls that were easily catch-able, but instead he just let them go out of play (Which I think a couple of others did also)

Damn I thought it was a bit dark when the match was on,- Note to self - Take off sunglasses when watching T.V.

Paul, I didn’t actually catch your full name, but that’s by the by, I too am a stern critic of Big Sam’s tactics and his team selection, with regards playing players in the wrong positions.

Smith still left Man Utd though, It doesn’t matter if Sir Alex (Great Manager) didn’t want him to leave or otherwise, he still left because he couldn’t be certain of starting ahead of Nani, Ronaldo, Scholes, Rooney, Giggs, Saha, Tevez, etc. (Now I’d take any of that lot ahead of young Smith)

I have little or no respect for David O’Leary as he talks complete gibberish after matches and helped Leeds get into the biggest debt seen in football, and I don’t think you really want to hear my thoughts on Steve “Magnificent� McClaren


Tom Riker - Cincinnati said:

I think defensively, with the new signings things will get better as the season progresses. Offensively the middle of the park needs a complete shake up. Zog on the left and Milner on the right has to be a must. In the middle we really need Barton back. Geremi, Butt or Smith can probably hold the midfield but only Butt plays that position naturally and is long in the tooth. I think these last few games really show how imporant the midfield is and how weak it is as well at the moment.

If you look at the great clubs the first person they look to get the ball to when going foward is a midfielder. Arsenal it's Fabregas, Manure it's Scholes, Chelski it's Lampard and Liverpool it's Gerrard. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to think to long about that one.

jackie w said:

Hold on , all this negativity is a bit much . Manchester city were on fire on Saturday morning and looked the part with there free flowing football and passing especially Elano . As regards to us we were not at the races,,, but with Barton , Owen , Emre and even Duff nearing a return i think you can expect some better performances . As regards to Smith i would not call him lazy as the kid runs his socks off but i for the life of me cant see what he gives to the team when you are playing Butt and Geremi???, you either need to stick him up front behind the front two or bench him , simple as. I believe we have the makings of a quality top six team but Sam needs to start knocking them into shape and sharpen up on the old tick tacks . I am going for a real close 1-0 on Saturday ...Jackie


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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