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It said on the ticket that Wigan v Newcastle United was meant to be a Premier League football match.

But when you think about the Premier League you think of the best players in the world trying to showcase their skill and entertain a crowd who pay hundreds to see their heroes week in, week out.

You'd like to think for your money - and let's be honest it's far from cheap for punters these days away from home - you will see a game officiated professionally and fairly to the best of the ability of the referee and his team of officials.

Sadly from the moment that Callum McManaman launched into a horror lunge what unfolded was anything but a game of football.
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Steven Taylor may have had his critics down the years and an injury record that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy - but when it comes to the Whitley Bay lad's performance against Anzhi Makhachkala you have to say it was a case of the cream rising to the top.

For me his performance was as good as you'll see from a Newcastle United defender - it was up there with Jonathan Woodgate's defensive masterclass against Didier Drogba in 2004 when Marseille came to Tyneside and it ended 0-0.

Back then, Woodgate missed the second leg in France and guess what?

Drogba grabbed two goals to send United out of the competition after a 2-0 defeat at the Velodrome.


There are only eight teams left that can win the Europa League - and Newcastle United are one of them.

Sounds good doesn't it?

But if you wanted to sum up the crazy world of following Newcastle into a split second, then perhaps Papiss Cisse's last gasp goal is about as on the money as you can get.

After a fraught and eagerly contested battle with Anzhi Makhachkala, not for the first time the black and whites put us through the emotions on a night of jitters at St James' Park.


Papiss Cisse hardly had a kick all game against Stoke City - but the moment the quality of service was stepped up the number 9 did what we all know he does best and burst the net to bag three valuable points for Newcastle United.

It goes without saying that Newcastle still have not found the perfect recipe to ensure that Cisse's predatory style of play is maximised.

Certainly at times this season the contributions of United's wingers have not served up the required amout of quality final balls into the final third for the frontline to feed from.


Hatem Ben Arfa is smiling again which should hopefully mean Newcastle United's season can only get better.

The Frenchman's return in Moscow may have seen him squander the best chance of the game, but the person that seemed the least worried by the miss against Anzhi was Ben Arfa.

Why? Quite simply because he knew the chance wasn't down to a lack of ability, more so down to a lack of sharpness.


Newcastle United will take on Anzhi Makhachkala on the 4g plastic pitch tonight at Moscow's fantastic Luzhniki Stadium.

The surface may be tricky and unpredicatable but Alan Pardew says he is well aware of the danger it poses.

Pardew was still a player when Oldham Athletic were almost unbeatable on plastic at Boundary Park.


It was Bobby Robson who once said that the only way to hit back at the critics was "through performance", nothing else.

Well Sammy Ameobi did exactly that on his debut for Championship play-off hopefuls Middlesbrough on Saturday against Cardiff City with a sparkling display and a goal at the Riverside.

It was a sweet ending to a week that had involved a barrage of unsavoury comments following the news that Ameobi had joined Boro on loan until the end of the season.

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Newcastle United's passport coloured kit was supposed to offer us a celebration of the Magpies being back in Europe.

So far it has delivered only bad memories for the travelling Toon Army after their poor run of away form continued in sunny Swansea on Saturday.

United have yet to win in the kit - but we could be seeing it again before the season is out.

I won't name the player - but all you need to know was that he ran off the pitch in tears after giving everything he had physically and mentally in a black and white shirt for Newcastle United Under-18s in an FA Youth Cup tie after losing on penalties last year.

Once the news of Nile Ranger being released was finally confirmed, it was the first thing that sprung to mind after watching the Londoner idiotically squander the chance of a lifetime.

The story of the tears is very different to that of Ranger.

The tears I refer to came in a youth team game against Blackburn Rovers and for the many young Geordie hopefuls on show that night it represented their final chance of winning something for the Magpies before their release.

Most United fans can only dream what it would be like to pull on a black and white shirt and play for the Magpies.

But - on a chilly night at SJP last year - what was unfolding was the agony of a dream that was so close to the player, simply slipping away from his grasp.


Amidst the highways and byways behind the scenes of the Premier League circuit it is no big deal to see friendships forged between managers and players when following the fortunes of Newcastle United.

But there are times when you also require a double take when covering the Magpies in what can - at times - be a surreal world.

At the beginning, even being in the same queue for a pre-match cup of tea with John Motson makes you stand up and take notice at first.

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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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