March 2011 Archives

And so the day has almost arrived when Wolverhampton Wanderers head up to St James' Park for what can only be described an eagerly anticipated fixture at Gallowgate.

Nobody connected with Newcastle United will forget the reverse fixture in the Black Country back in August when Wolves kicked their way to a point at Molineux with Joey Barton on the end of some rough treatment from a bloke called Karl Henry.

Of course, Wolves' tactics were only 50% successful on the day as they could only yield a point but on a day when referee Stuart Attwell had a poor game in my humble opinion, it could and perhaps should have been a greater success for the Magpies as somehow the home side kept 10 men on the pitch.

Newcastle United continued to prepare for their huge clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers today with the stakes high going into the first of eight crucial matches in the Premier League.

So far this season there have been so many twists and turns and important weeks described as "pivotal" or "vital" by many Toon stars.

Defeat against Wolves though is unthinkable with Mick McCarthy's side just four points behind the Mags and in the final relegation place that took Newcastle down two years ago.

Unlike two years ago though relegation does not seem as inevitable as the ill-fated 2008/09 season where, if we're honest, nobody connected with the black and whites ever knew where they stood.

When Alan Pardew triggered the debate of whether Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton should be called up for England he cracked open the proverbial big can of worms that simply underlined all that is wrong with our national game.

When it comes to Nolan, the question has to be: Is he good enough to play international football for England?

My question would be: Is he as good as most of the players that already play for England under Fabio Capello and would he make an impact?

The answer to my own question would be, yes and on both counts, especially against Wales in the next Euro 2012 qualifier.

It might not be an issue just yet but in the fullness of time, Alan Pardew has a big decision to make when it comes to his goalkeeping department.

Two into one just won't go, while three into one makes life even harder - if only the Magpies had the same problem in their attacking frontline.

As Pardew puts it, the current time belongs to loyal and long serving keeper Steve Harper.

The Easington-born stopper was in superb form against Everton and has justified his selection in recent weeks.

They don't come much more fresh faced than Shane Ferguson in the Newcastle United locker room.

Still just 19, here is a player who has so far stepped up into life in the first team and not looked like a fish out of water when pulling on a black and white shirt.

Those who have braved the cold and wet weather at Whitley Park watching the reserves won't need to be told just what an exciting talent Fergie is.

What price mid-table mediocrity?

By Lee Ryder on Mar 4, 11 07:41 PM

If Newcastle United finished 10th this season, I wouldn't be surprised nor too disappointed after the rollercoaster emotions of the last two seasons.

If anything, we're due a stable finish as much as I'd love to see the lads push on and make it a fairytale finish and get into the Europa League.

What were your expectations at the start of the season, mere survival, top 10, or the long shot of European football?

I'm sure there are some doom-mongers who expected Newcastle to go straight back down, I certainly know a few!

It should be you

By Lee Ryder on Mar 1, 11 08:44 AM

At times during his Newcastle United stay, Obafemi Martins didn't seem to want to fight sleep, the same goes for Stephen Carr while Lee Bowyer once thought the best way to show some fighting spirit was to clobber a team-mate.

Ironic then that all three went on to be Carling Cup winners somewhere else with a club that many would consider a bunch of minnows when compared to the resources and fanbase at St James' Park.

Don't accuse me of sour grapes, in many ways, sporting ones really I was delighted to see Birmingham win the trophy.

Even if there could eventually be some implications on Newcastle's own Europa League ambitions (yes, slim ambitions I know).


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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