January 2011 Archives
Surprise, surprise, people from Stevenage have been letting their mouths go ahead of the FA Cup tie with Newcastle United.
To the credit of Alan Pardew and all of his players, they have not even touched on any of the nonsense that was part of the build-up the last time these two teams clashed in the competition.
Unfortunately, Stevenage FC - their new posh name after being promoted - have opted to go down the same road as last time.
He stood in the corridor at St James' Park, fidgeted, adjusted his hat and then uttered: "Me head's all over the place!"
It isn't usually the words of a man who has just celebrated his full Premier League debut for a Newcastle United side with a hat-trick but it summed up the dreamlike situation, Leon Best suddenly found himself in.
It took just over an hour to unload the frustrations of a long stretch of six months out with an ankle injury and almost 12 months without a Toon goal at competitive level.
But against West Ham United, Leon Best well and truly shoved it back down the throats of his critics.
FIVE-STAR Newcastle United were at their best as they blitzed a woeful West Ham with Leon Best netting a hat-trick.
The striker had been much maligned by some sections of Toon fans, but answered his critics in the best fashion by opening his account with three goals on his 15th appearance.
He got his chance after injuries to Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi, and his efforts will go a long way to repaying his ÃÂ£1.2m transfer fee.
Best's first-half brace and skipper Kevin Nolan's 45th-minute strike put the Magpies in the driving seat, and his third on the hour ended the Hammers' recent revival before Peter Lovenkrands helped himself to a fifth.
It was the third time this season Newcastle had scored five or more at St James' Park, and substitute Nile Ranger passed up a glorious opportunity to match the six they managed against Aston Villa back in August.
There was an air of anxiety before kick-off when it was revealed that Ameobi had joined Carroll in the treatment room.
However, manager Alan Pardew had insisted that both Best and Ranger would get chances this season and his faith in the former Coventry man proved well-founded.
Best made his first appearance of the season as a substitute at the DW Stadium at the weekend after a miserable run of injuries had hampered his progress on Tyneside.
But he needed just 18 minutes to justify his selection when he ran on to Lovenkrands' ball over the top to thump a left-foot volley across Robert Green and into the bottom corner.
West Ham had arrived in the North East buoyed by a run of four league games without defeat, but in the relegation zone as a result of victories for Fulham and Birmingham on Tuesday.
Former Magpie Scott Parker had earlier tested Steve Harper with a swerving shot and he attempted to stamp his authority on the midfield battle as the visitors looked for a way back into the game.
However, Cheik Tiote and Joey Barton recognised the danger and started to close Parker down, and with Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique teaming up to terrorise the Hammers down their right, the home side were threatening at regular intervals.
They increased their lead six minutes before the break when a quick-thinking Barton and Lovenkrands carved the sleeping visitors open from a free-kick.
Barton picked out the Dane's run into space and when he slid the ball across goal, Best was again on hand to fire home left-footed.
West Ham's woes deepened markedly on the stroke of half-time when Gutierrez once again found space down the left and sent in a low cross which James Tomkins could only stab out to Nolan two yards inside the penalty area.
Nolan was a model of composure as, with Green desperately trying to recover his ground, he sidefooted the ball firmly into the bottom corner.
Hammers boss Avram Grant sent on Valon Behrami and Victor Obinna for Radoslav Kovac and Frederic Piquionne at the break in a desperate attempt to breathe new life into his team as Mike Williamson replaced Steven Taylor for the Magpies.
But despite Parker's continuing industry they were unable to create anything of note, and Newcastle killed off any hope of a fightback with 30 minutes left when Nolan turned Enrique's pass into the unmarked Best's path and he completed his hat-trick with aplomb.
Lovenkrands added a fifth three minutes later and there was still time for Ranger to fire horribly wide with the goal at his mercy 10 minutes later with the Hammers in tatters.
Now it's all systems go with United sitting in eighth place in the Premier League and facing an FA Cup clash against Stevenage at the weekend.
Alan Pardew said from day one he wanted to lay down the foundations at St James' Park before sprinkling his own personal touch to the Newcastle United team.
The arrival of Hatem Ben Arfa on a permanent deal is evidence of laying down the foundations.
The Frenchman's move comes hot on the heels of Steven Taylor nailing his colours to the black and white mast after months of uncertainty.
I think most Toon fans still need a lot of convincing to feel that the Magpies are "going places" at the moment but in Ben Arfa, Andy Carroll, Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini, there seems to be strong foundations to build on.
When it comes to Hollywood signings, they don't come any bigger than David Beckham.
Beckham has had a fantastic career in the game with Man U, England, AC Milan and Real Madrid and the mighty LA Galaxy.
However, whether Newcastle United need Becks right now is open to much debate.
It's understood that Newcastle are NOT really interested in signing Beckham and Pardew's post-game comments at Wigan were more out of respect for the England legend.