January 2011 Archives
Now watching Grimsby Town's youth team on a cold winter's evening in front of row upon row of empty seats at St James' Park isn't everybody's idea of a Thursday night out - but for just over 1,000 Toon fans and the families and friends of the players at the heart of the action, you could say it means the world to those trying to make a dream become a reality.
Last night with the game drifting towards a penalty shoot-out the game was crying out for a last action hero, and in the shape of blond haired midfield dynamo Ben Sayer it got one.
Early observations of 17-year-old Sayer for us ageing hacks were that the Geordie lad looked and played like a young Alan Pardew with his hard working display catching the eye early on.
On the morning of Chris Hughton's last act in charge of Newcastle United, a taxi driver made the valid point to me that Newcastle United lacked the required amount of players to put in enough crosses for Andy Carroll to wreak havoc in his coveted number 9 shirt.
I knew only too well where he was coming from.
He went on to bemoan the fact that in his opinion, Newcastle have not possessed a true old fashioned winger since the days of Keith Gillespie.
Again, it wasn't the worst shout in the world but in the back of my mind, I instantly thought of a player that Newcastle today offloaded - Wayne Routledge.
The football cliche-ometer went into meltdown over the summer with much talk of Newcastle United's Premier League survival prospects based around making "St James' Park into a fortress".
Exactly what Newcastle United can produce at the home of football will be tested once again tomorrow against Spurs at SJP.
Spending last season on loan to the Coca-Cola Championship certainly resulted in some positive experiences for Toon fans you and old, but remaining unbeaten on home turf was certainly one of the biggest highlights.
However, Newcastle have won on their travels the same amount of times this season and have so far racked up eight wins in total, more than the summer's supposed European chasers Everton, Liverpool, Aston Villa and the same as Sunderland and the team who have had a fantastic season so far in Ian Holloway's hard to ignore Blackpool.
Newcastle United have yet to sign a player in the January transfer window - but in highly experienced Geordie coach John Carver they could today have pulled off the shrewdest of coups by landing him as assistant.
Carver's coaching career has been decorated since Sir Bobby Robson was sensationally shown the door by Freddy Shepherd in 2004.
Stints at the club's Academy - where in his first week he halted a decision that would have resulted in "left-back" Andy Carroll thrown out of Newcastle - and Luton, Toronto FC, Plymouth and latterly Sheffield United followed.
Newcastle United fans would have accepted a 6-2 aggregate score over Sunderland at the start of the season.
And on reflection local pride has been well and truly restored as far as most Geordie fans are concerned.
The magnificent 5-1 hammering of Sunderland quite rightly will remain one of the highlights of the season for United and the Mackems failed miserably in attempting to take any gloss off that famous win on Wearside.
Instead, Sunderland were fortunate to scramble a draw with their record now reading just one win in three decades at both Roker Park and the Stadum of light and just two wins in almost 43 years to show for their efforts on Wearside.
I didn't agree with it, but somebody said to me the other day that Sunderland would have to better the 5-1 demolition at St James' Park back in October in order to fully claim the local bragging rights this week!
For me, a double over the Wearsiders wipes out memories of Stevenage and lays the foundations to really kick on for the rest of the season.
Sunderland have won just once in 30 years in this fixture and have a lot of catching up to on that score and there's no doubt Steve Bruce will be desperate for revenge on Sunday after his side were demoralised at St James' Park earlier in the season.
In a week of gloom, it was certainly good to see our maverick sports writer John "Gibbo" Gibson celebrate his 70th birthday.
Here's a legend who didn't let Stevenage get him too down in the dumps, after all he survived Hereford in 1972 to see the Mags go on and play in the Champions League.
I have to say, in the years I've been covering Newcastle United, this larger than life character seems to hit the nail on the head every time when it comes to the Magpies.
And rightly so, after all we are talking about a bloke who has covered the Magpies for almost SIX decades - and unlike most of us, he's seen the black and whites actually pick up a trophy, back in 1969 when he covered every kick of the Fairs Cup victory.
Let's make no bones about, Newcastle United were lucky to be classed as second best at Broadhall Way.
Stevenage were simply miles ahead of United and outfought, outthought and overall out played the Magpies in Hertfordshire.
If it was the stuff of dreams for Stevenage, this was United's worst nightmare.