August 2011 Archives
The first time I ever met Joey Barton he gave the instant impression he wasn't like the average footballer.
He was down to earth.
Shortly after his comeback game from a broken foot at Kingston Park, Barton came out of the tunnel to do an interview and had managed to tread on a huge plaster which was stuck to his foot.
Barton said: "What is it, bloody hell."
Immediately, club officials prepared to get down on their knees to help remove the plaster but Barton wouldn't let them and said: "No I've got it myself."
Other footballers would have been happy to be pampered but it struck me right from the off he was just normal.
For a couple of hours only tonight Newcastle United fans will focus once again on football rather than transfers when they travel to Glanford Park for the second round of the Carling Cup.
So far this season, the Toon Army have not sounded their concerns over what they feel is a serious lack of investment by their side.
But if the Arsenal and Sunderland games are anything to go by, those feelings will be put on hold while Newcastle tackle the Iron tonight in leafy North Lincolnshire.
Yet going into the final week of the window, there are hopes and fears on Tyneside.
Newcastle United fans have not finished celebrating the fantastic 1-0 derby win over Sunderland yet - but they are already planning how to help extend the Toon's great start to the season in the home game with Fulham.
Of course there's the potential banana skin trip to Scunthorpe first, but the concept of filling St James' Park with scarves in the style of Alan Shearer's testimonial has got fans excited via the social networking tool Twitter over the weekend.
Anybody who was at Shearer's big night back in May 2006 will never forget just what an occasion it was and how effective the operation can be.
They say sometimes that truth can be stranger than fiction - not for the first time it was perfectly applicable to Newcastle United at the Stadium of Light.
Not many are able to predict the twists of the black and white tapestry, but this one was a pleasant surprise to some.
In a emotionally pumped week that has included transfer woe, talk of FA charges, talk of Premier League rule breaking and problems surrounding the overall shape of the team, the scenes that greeted the final whistle from the away end at the Stadium of Light were a sight for sore eyes.
Indeed, as United players tossed their shirts into the Geordie crowd at the end of the 1-0 victory over Sunderland it was hard to believe it was the same team who started the team under pressure.
Ask any Newcastle United fan right now what is on their mind at the moment and the answer could be a "left-back" and a "striker".
Then there is the money question...
Where is it? No, not the £35million, the now advanced kitty of over £40million following summer sales of Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique.
Yes, go anywhere on Tyneside at the moment and those concerns are everywhere.
If Gervinho's red card at the Gallowgate End has highlighted anything, then it has to be that Joey Barton has to work harder to gain justice from referees than any other player in the Premier League.
The Saturday night debate over the rights and wrongs of how to behave in football were there for all to see.
So when analysing the events of the game let us begin in chronological order.
In keeping with Newcastle United's chaotic summer the season kicks off with Jose Enrique (as widely predicted) wearing red alongside Andy Carroll in a Liverpool shirt.
Ironically, it was Carroll's departure that resulted in Enrique actually seeing red back in January when he finally ran out of patience at Newcastle.
We've seen it happen before with James Milner, Shay Given, Charles N'Zogbia, Seb Bassong, Habib Beye and Damien Duff who all left for pastures new and convinced that United are heading in the wrong direction.
You haven't lived in Newcastle if you haven't been present or heard a debate about Shola Ameobi, well that debate will be going on until at least 2014.
They do occur randomly and are usually quite high up on the agenda of most Geordie fans and nothing quite splits supporters like a conversation about Shola.
The last one I encountered was in a taxi when the driver said: "What do people see in Shola man?"
Well, that's a big can of worms but since Ameobi made his debut for the first team 11 years ago, only Kevin Keegan took the plunge of trying to move the long-serving striker on.
Gabriel Obertan looked like a focused and hungry individual when setting foot into a deserted St James' Park for the first time since joining the Magpies from Manchester United.
He arrives from Old Trafford stating he has a point to prove after making just over a dozen appearances for Man U and on the back of a few moans and groans.
Given Obertan has not even had a run in the Man U team in the last two years, it's difficult to see how the masses from Torquay, Halifax and Wigan can really formulate an opinion.
But his opening words were impressive and when handed a black and white shirt from Alan Pardew for the obligatory photo opportunity it has to be said he couldn't get it on quick enough.