Hugh obviously like a challenge then!

By Lee Ryder on Feb 25, 08 09:41 PM

It's got to be described as the impossible job in football and that is sorting out the Newcastle United defence - but that is the almighty task of Chris Hughton.

To be fair a lot of the stick directed at the Toon's back four at times has been a little harsh since the Premier League kicked off.

And in Kevin Keegan's three full seasons in the top flight, you don't normally associate leaky defences with teams that finish 3rd, 6th and 2nd respectively.

Mark Lawrenson has always been thought of as somewhat of a joke figure by many fans but in his only season as "defensive guru", United finished the season with four clean sheets in a row (including trips to Arsenal and Man U) to qualify for the Champions League in 1996/97.

Kenny Dalglish then sent Lawro packing back down to BBC Wood Lane and the former Eire defender has never been shy when it comes to sticking the boot into the much maligned defence of the black and whites.

Not for a minute am I saying that we should have kept football's answer to one of the chuckle brothers!

But has there ever really been anybody to look after the defence properly since?

Maybe Nigel Pearson and Glenn Roeder did have it right at one stage but the defence was always capable of knocking off and going to sleep (even without Titus), I mean come on the likes of Sheff United, Fulham and Blackburn all left St James's Park with maximum points which just shouldn't happen!

Even under Sir Bobby the defence would always mean you were living on the edge - despite three top five finishes - and after it all went pear shaped for the former England boss the defence seemed to throw in the towel.

United have tried everybody at the back down the years.

Spaniards, "dependable" Italians (well Pistone), Frenchmen, Belgians, the injury prone Jonathan Woodgate, young guns, home grown products and I think even Sir Bobby tried Rob Lee as a sweeper once upon a time!

But none of it has really worked, just like Darren Peacock was often to made to look like a bad player on occasion, the same has occured for Steven Taylor.

Taylor has also had his fair share of stick since coming on to the scene but the kid is England Under-21 captain and with a good coach can iron out the mistakes.

That coupled with a bit of guidance and possibly the signing of a new centre-back who isn't yesterday's man and actually wants to defend and United under Hughton may not be too far away from sorting out this liability which has cost them so many points down the years.

Another challenge for Hughton will be to bring on David Edgar and while Stephen Carr's career may have taken a turn for the better due to the arrival of the former Spurs and Eire coach it may not be to some fans liking.

That said if Hughton can motivate Carr and get him playing the way he was before he arrived here who knows?

Stranger things have happened but none stranger then signing a £6million defender from La Liga in Jose Enrique and then not playing him - again another big challenge for Mr H.

I have to say I was talking to another former Republic of Ireland defender in Mick Martin the other day in his office and he did stress the need for a top coach to come in.

Martin in his Celtic coaching days said he'd take the back four and his two wingers at Parkhead to one side and work with them for 45 minutes to an hour each day.

The players didn't like it and couldn't wait to join the more offensive players on the five-a-side pitches but it helped mould a successful back four.

Only time will tell but a United team that just can't stop conceding goals certainly needs someone to sort them out and pretty quickly given the time of year and lack of victory since December 15.



scott willis said:

How many coaches do we actually have?
as somebody needs to teach our players how to pick a thru ball out, or play a one two going forwards .

and as for the defence ..... the whole team panics as soon as our opposition gets the ball , as do us fan's !
its confidence off the ball that worries me as at the moment we seem everyones kickingboy , the flood of goals againt us is beggers belief , i dont see the teams around us getting walloped as heavily and consistently.
as for stevie taylor........... 'made to look a bad player'?
i guess a story from his dad is worth more to you than and honest view point , the lads been found out on more than one occasion and he wouldnt be in my next starting 11 thats for sure , ive said that after god knows how many games this season aswell .

Mohd Farez said:

I honestly feel that no matter which top class defender we bring in wont help if our midfield cant attack.

No matter how strong it is, it will eventually break under consistent attack from the opponents. There's no help or protection from the midfield.

If we constantly attack, the opponent have to defend and cant attack us so our defence will look good but if cant do that then the opposite will happen and our defence will crack and go to pieces which is always happening now.

We always start good well in recent games but the moment the midfield run out of ideas, the opponents start to attack and after trying hard, our defence collapse ( Boro 1-1, A.Villa 4 goals in 2nd half..Arsenal )

Beye and Faye r decent enough but there need midfield to take pressure away from them which is not happening. So even the best defence will crack under constant pressure, so what chance we have with the current midfield??

Our midfield lacks idea n pass the ball back most of the times putting defenders under pressure sometimes leading to mistakes.

Look at how Taylor commit to tackle Ronaldo. Ronaldo didnt do anything but Taylor just lunge and miss him completely. This shows lack of discpline in defence..easy way out to 'try' to tackle n hope u get it instead of delaying the attackers. This is basic defending technique 'Delay'

What we need is to change the midfield.

Emre with Geremi/Faye in centre.
Zog n Milner wide as (duff has no confidence to take on defenders)

This will help.

Hopefully KK reads this :)


Singapore No.1 Mag Fan

Duncan Baines said:

Our defence hasn't always been terible. I thought Helder had some good games for us during the start of Robson's reign - I think he played when we beat Manchester United 3-0 for example. I never understood why we didn't try sign him.

I was amused to read this morning that Duff (along with Owen) was described as one of Keegan's two star players! More like one of the two worst players.

Dave B said:

We’re employing the wrong people.

If Paul McKenna can make my missus think she’s a chicken can’t he make that sorry lot think they’re footballers for 90 minutes a week?

Get him on the phone now.

Charles said:

Yet again Newcastle recruited another assistant manager confident of making our defense like glue, well I'll have to say that man has either too much adrenaline in his blood or it is just plain stupid from yet another assistant who thinks he can reform the defense.

Now don't get me wrong, I too am happy to see the role filled by another brave one but if he's going to be any help, he'd give KK the advice on a few things...

1. Get rid of Smith and Barton for the rest oft he season. helping them both is like boiling petroleum under a blue flame in Buckingham palace; suicide. If he issist he's trying to help them, then I suggest he resign early to avoid the shame...

2. Defense needs to be relevant and according to profession as I am sick of looking Zog play in left back. It's downgrading a person

3. If you can't get the 1st one right, then this one's a lost cause...heart of midfield needs a little tweak and god forbids Barton in it.

4. Pair Owen with a suitable partner. Yes, I realize there are many who rate the little guy as a lost, broken man but he seems to be the only striker, excluding Carrol, that can actually show a little flair in scoring. (That is unless O.Martins can find his boots he lost to Santa in a bet)

And a little food for thought; why do the fans still treat Duff and Owen like they were the worst of the group? If you realize, Duff is the only one who passes the defenders and midfielders by foot and if thats too little for you, then find a new club to support, you hope too much...(of course I'd pick Zog anytime)

Ivor Clark said:

Well, now the dust is settling on Keegans return it may well be that the pundits have got it right so far. NUFC is in deep poopoo!. We have more really tough games coming and I still have my doubts that this squad has it in them to scrap through a relegation fight. And what IS the story with Viduka???...The last I knew footie is a TEAM game. The "defence" is only as good as its weakest link. Given is crocked and has been for some time. Harper is over-rated. Too much expected of Taylor, Carr has never been the player he was at Spurs, the likes of Faye, Cacapa ( who was he? - never heard of him before and now we know why!) and Beye are just not Toon material. Barton is a waster, Butt is past his best, Duff flatters to deceive, Milner is suffering now in a poor team, Emre is injury prone, Owen is like a lost sheep up front, and where is Viduka??....Ameobi - no-one wants him either so he's stuck with the Toon. Maybe some promising youngsters in the reserves, but this is the Premier league we are talking about!. Woody knew there was no going back to the Toon, and now he's a winner with Spurs within weeks!.
We are getting tanked by the top teams. We struggle to get any points even against "lower" placed sides. Just look at our record this season....really....I will be amazed if we are not relegated on this form. Hughton will need a minor miracle and loads of luck me thinks!. It might just be that there will be 3 worse teams in the PL than NUFC this season who will get relegated, but I am now holding my breath coz if Blackburn win this weekend I shudder to think where we will be then......

M Sebastian T said:

Toon suck at everything at the moment, so why pick on the defence?

Lee said:

People are exaggerating. We have a poor team, primarily because the midfield is poor and doesn't defend well enough. But recent results were entirely predictable. Including the debacle at Old Trafford, four of these games have been against the two best teams in the country, and arguably 2 of the top 5 club teams in the world. There was no way in hell we would do anything other than lose those matches by a cricket score. The Bolton game was a disappointment, and we should have won the Boro game, but I don't think we should worry too much that the team got beat in the four most difficult fixtures of the season.

Consider this: we are 13th in the league, which is about where we deserve to be right now. This has been an odd season, with 8 points separating the 10th team from the 11th. The old rules of 40 points for safety don't apply in such an odd season. No matter how bad we have been, we are nowhere near as bad as at least 5 other teams in the league.

This has just been a season in which the top half of the table has been much much better than the bottom half. That is why, given our absolutely shocking performances that would have us as relegation fodder in any other season, there are 7 teams that are worse than us. Look how terrible we are, and we are still better than Sunderland.

But it could be worse. How many of those other teams have just managed to get rid of someone like Shepherd and pay the club out of debt? Sunderland have spent about as much as they can afford, yet they can't even match us at our worst. If Shepherd was still in charge, I would be worried. But he's gone, thank God.

Some perspective is needed.

STEVE said:

I agree with almost everything youre saying LEE,but as much as it pains me to say it,having been at all our home games this season and watching the away fixtures ,i am not too sure about us being better than the mackems.Individually theyre a poorer side but they seem to have a bit of bottle,i dont think its a forgone conclusion that we beat them at home.But well be alright next year.


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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