April 2011 Archives
For many Newcastle United fans the trip to Anfield has all the potential to be a living nightmare with Andy Carroll pulling on the red of Liverpool against the team that handed him his big break in football.
The former number 9 has kept a low profile so far in the build up to the game and is trying to shake off a knee injury picked up at Arsenal.
In an end of season game that could well have had little significance, this one now has more spice in it than a Bigg Market kebab drenched in chilli sauce.
So Michael Owen has finally woken up to the fact that he will be one of the most unpopular players ever to return to St James' Park.
Well, if any player deserved such a rocky ride on his return to Tyneside then it would have to be Owen.
Let's be fair, when Owen was fully fit for Newcastle United his goal record stood up to the best of them at St James' Park.
Unfortunately, many people questioned just how much he wanted to be fit for Newcastle and how much he wanted to be fit for England.
At the beginning of the season a group of tabloid journalists complained after being allocated an interview with Mike Williamson because he wasn't a "big name."
Even at the time, it was harsh on a player who had made the step up from playing in the Championship and taking on some of the best performers in the country with minimum fuss.
I won't beat around the bush, Mike Williamson does not get enough credit for the job he does and deserves more recognition.
Perhaps he is downplayed by some because he has plied his trade in the lower leagues but that should not be an issue given stars like Stuart Pearce, Ian Wright, John Aldridge, Peter Beardsley, David Platt and a host of others all done the same and still reaped the benefits in football.
After meeting Hatem Ben Arfa for the first time back in August my gut reaction was that the Frenchman was a genuine student of the game who was also being serious when he was quick to make the point that he'd done his homework on Newcastle United before signing for the Magpies from Marseille.
Let's not forget, we've had our fair share of overseas mercenaries that claim to love Newcastle United and constantly perform the badge kissing ritual that seems to lack impact the more a player does it these days.
Ben Arfa insisted he simply loved football and was desperate to tap into the passion of the Geordie punters as soon as he could.
Saying and doing are two different things but on Saturday it clicked home to me that Ben Arfa REALLY is a genuine football lover.
Tim Krul will look back on this season with a great deal of satisfaction and that was probably the case before the big game with Manchester United.
The Dutch stopper at 23 is making the type of progress that plenty of his former managers thought he would right back to the days when he arrived on Tyneside as a raw teenager from The Hague.
His confidence between the sticks is sometimes confused by some obeservers with arrogance but in terms of decision making, you will struggle to find a braver goalkeeper.
When Michael Owen left Newcastle United many accused the striker of "not caring" about the future of the club that were then left seemingly marooned in the Championship.
Owen remember had been made a lucrative offer by the Magpies back in December 2008 but decided to "delay" a decision about his future, back then he said: "I hope this is seen as a positive, and not disloyal in any way."
His key concerns then were that he was concerned about which division United would be playing in and the harm that staying at St James' Park was causing his England chances.
It was a given that he was never going to even consider playing in the Championship and with the striker out of contract, but United were never going to bow down to his sky high demands.
In truth, he was a different player to the one that arrived in a blaze of glory in 2005 from Real Madrid by the team he left Newcastle and then rubbed salt into the wounds by signing for Man United.
Just like a trip to dentist, watching toothless Newcastle United try and fail to beat Aston Villa was a painful experience.
For all Shola Ameobi brings to the table at Newcastle (presence, muscle, the odd goal and half decent hold play), when the news filtered around the Villa Park Press room that he'd woken up with swelling on his knee after a knock in training, the fact his absence was regarded "a blow" shows how threadbare the Magpies really are this season.
At one stage this term Shola couldn't get into the Newcastle side because of the blistering form of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan who had formed one of the best partnerships in black and white in recent years.