May 2011 Archives

A life more ordinary

By Lee Ryder on May 24, 11 07:46 AM

Given the incredible low of 2009 and the consequent huge high of promotion in 2010, I don't think a bit of mid-table mediocrity should really come as a major surprise.

Somen Tchoyi's hat-trick may have felt agonising and was painful to watch but if anybody was in danger of getting carried away at St James' Park on Sunday against West Brom, we were provided with a short, sharp shock.

Finishing ninth and above Sunderland would have been a good way to end the season but the reality is that nothing has changed moving forward.

Alan Pardew needed no reminding today of what is needed at Newcastle United next season as he settled down in his seat for the final pre-game Press conference of term.

The Toon boss, unusually, laid on a full scale buffet for the media at the club's Benton base but while the mood was light-hearted, the months ahead will be no tea party for the Londoner.

When asked if he expected a busy summer he expected, Pardew gave a clipped reply: "For sure."

He was part of the Sir Bobby Robson legacy at St James' Park but he left Tyneside under a cloud during the ill-fated Joe Kinnear era.

That sentence alone makes it easier to understand why Charles N'Zogbia ended up being disillusioned in Toonland.

Kicking players up the backside, burning their clothes and feeding them on egg and chips in the style of Wimbledon was never going to work with some players - not least Zoggy!

And calling him Insomnia in front of a packed Press conference was like showing a red rag to a bull.

But what is it with the Zog?

On the one hand you have a player blessed with pace, skill, creativity and an eye to score blockbusting goals.

On the other hand you have a player that turns up when he wants to, has mood swings and tantrums and has been known to cause the odd blow out on the training field.

Paul Brayson this week branded Kevin Keegan's treatment of the Newcastle United youth team as "shocking" when reflecting on the removal of second string football back in 1995.

It's rare to hear a bad word said about KK but Brayson certainly had a point.

Don't get me wrong, Keegan illuminated St James' Park during his stint as United manager and the best years of my life came from watching the Entertainers sweep teams aside without a care in the world.

But it was a dark day when KK scrapped the reserve team and left many of the club's youngsters with little hope of getting anywhere near the first team picture - and jeopardised the club's future until Kenny Dalglish restored the reserves years later.

Football has moved on since those days with emphasis on Academy football now as important as ever.

When Newcastle United failed to qualify for the Champions League in 2004 it was deemed as a failure in the eyes of many Geordie observers.

To others it was classed as a major disappointment having qualified for the same competition via the top four in 2002 and 2003 under Sir Bobby Robson.

It was then put into perspective when the Mags were relegated in 2009.

Some punters will say the decline began when Robson left the club.

Realistically, it began when Robson stopped getting the full backing of his board via the transfer market - and it's fair to say that no budget capable of bringing Champions League football back to Tyneside has been made available to anybody else since.

A kit of alright?

By Lee Ryder on May 4, 11 10:55 AM

Newcastle United unveiled their new kit today with mixed reaction from Toon fans.

Looking back I think that the style of a kit is usually associated with the memories of how the team performed when wearing each particular shirt.

Kevin Nolan in the latest Newcastle United strip

The history books tell us that United don't usually stray away from black and white stripes with the last non-black and white striped shirt coming way back in 1894 when we donned red (the colours of East End FC).

The big wigs from Sky TV, the prawn sandwich brigade and the new found fan from the middle classes will tell you that football boils down to money.

The traditionalists, those who used to stand on crumbling terracing drinking cold tea and over-priced pies, the thinking coach, the working class man on the street and anybody who has ever played the game will tell you that football boils down to goals.

At Anfield this could not have been more obvious for Newcastle United.

Without goals or a goalscorer, you would not have points, wins - or even £35million sitting in the bank.

For four games now this has been obvious to the observers of Newcastle United who have watched their side yield a solitary goal from 360 minutes of football.

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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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