December 2011 Archives

Victory at Bolton on Boxing Day not only marked the end of a run of six games without a win, but also a first road trip success on the day after Christmas since 1988!

Incredibly, many of the Geordie fans in attendance at the Reebok Stadium weren't even born when the Magpies beat Sheffield Wednesday in the dire relegation campaign if 88/89 in the old First Division.

Boxing Days have been pretty miserable since then for Newcastle when it comes to away games and with the fixture computer quite fond on trips to North-West on this particular day, there have been some despondent journeys back from the likes of Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn and Liverpool down the years.

This time it was different.

The awful feeling of disappointment swept around St James' Park after the 0-0 draw with Swansea City, however, on reflection the overall picture going into the festive period isn't as gloomy as some people have made out.

No wins in five attempts can be countered by the stat of three defeats in 16 games as the Premier League season reaches the halfway stage.

And should United avoid defeat against West Brom then only two teams can say they've left St James' Park having taken all three points during the year 2011.

In fact, Newcastle are actually eight points better off than this time last season and despite sliding to seventh spot in the Prem, the Magpies can consider themselves as at least Europa League contenders going into the festive games,

Newcastle United's defensive issues have simply highlighted a lack of strength in depth when it comes to centre-backs at first team level.

Peeling back the layers of Alan Pardew's squad shows that beneath Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini and injured Steven Taylor, there isn't a great deal when it comes to experience, as fielding Danny Simpson and James Perch at centre-back showed recently.

But if the club are going down the road of giving youngsters a chance on the big stage, then the prospect of Remie Streete will be one that will excite Newcastle fans if he maintains the progress he is making at second string level.

Premier League bosses are reluctant to build up praise to early when it comes to playing the young guns, usually in fear of scarring a player for life after throwing them in at the deep end.

The other side of the coin of course is, that you learn more from your mistakes then you do being carried by a good team.

So much has changed since the last time I was at Carrow Road.

My most recent memory of being at the home of Norwich City and Delia Smith is not enjoying the great pies on offer by the TV superchef's catering team, more so the different look to Newcastle's team in the past 18 months.

It was only the pre-season before last, but there is a different and more determined look about Newcastle these days, even if on paper many thought Newcastle would be weaker without some big characters this season.

Tamas Kadar burst on to the scene at Newcastle United almost four years ago as one of the most promising players of his generation in Hungary.

With Newcastle in defensive disarray, he goes into the squad for Norwich City away knowing that this could be his last chance to impress the the first team management at United.

The technically gifted Magyar has all of the attributes a young defender could wish for but in the eyes of the Toon coaching staff he has yet to bring that to the fore.

I first witnessed Kadar at Newcastle at a reserve game against Boro days after he signed for the club, and believed the Mags had landed a real gem.

Discredit where it isn't due

By Lee Ryder on Dec 2, 11 09:50 AM

Victory against Chelsea tomorrow would hand Newcastle United a four point cushion between themselves and the big spending Londoners and leave the Magpies in fourth spot.

The season is still very much at an early stage on the scale of the big picture but even the avoidance of defeat against Chelsea puts the Magpies at least in the chase for a European spot going into the hectic December period.

Some might say that's getting carried away, others might say to rule Newcastle out of the hunt is disrespectful - I say they will be in the race with a positive result against the Blues and less.

Certainly the Magpies are getting no credit from most pundits on TV with that situation becoming a standing joke in the Toon locker room these days!


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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