Sunday, 28 December 2008

No Deal Or No Deal. But Ashley's return to St. James' Park is GOOD news for Newcastle.

Doh! Just when he thought he'd seen the back of St. James' Park for good, Mike Ashley's got no takers for Newcastle United.
No Deal or No Deal. "Damn the Credit Crunch!", he must be thinking over a Domino's Pizza and pint. But is this such gloomy news for the Toon as things stand?

Ashley was booed out of St. James' Park hot on the heels of quitter Kevin Keegan, declaring he'd "got the message" that he wasn't wanted by the fans as club owner.

Trouble is the crisis heralded an air of austerity and humility at the club. No coach worth his salt wanted the job, leaving it to those desperate for a last chance of the big time.

Enter Joe Kinnear, without a sniff of work in football for four years, but with a decent top-flight record at Wimbledon - and he's done rather well, steadying the ship and getting his squad performing consistently. An example of a football man written off prematurely in the over-judgemental world of the English game.

It's not as if Newcastle hasn't got quality: Michael Owen, Damien Duff, Nicky Butt, Obafemi Martins, Shay Given, Geremi and Mark Viduka: all good enough to keep them up.

Ashley's decision to drink up, then wash and go sent Newcastle into freefall. Suddenly there was no manager, an AWOL chairman and a middle-management dubbed cockney mafia, starring Dennis Wise. Who on earth was going to work in that framework and get the team performing? It was the very definition of football's poisoned chalice. Worse than managing England!

But a few months on, the picture's rather different. Ashley's renewal of vows maybe good news for Newcastle United.

They're a decent bet to stay up and though the squad isn't good enough long-term, the fans still turn up in their thousands for the Toon and there's lots to build on.

It's time the Toon Army buried the hatchet and got behind their owner. I think this new version of recession-hit Newcastle minus the Fancy Dans and bad boys can start to prosper.

Also on Jonny's Soccermongery: Thailand's new Prime Minister is a Geordie! and Keeping Michael Owen is out of Newcastle's hands or Home Page for the latest entry.

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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Furious Wenger's losing it - and I'm worried for him

It seems each time Arsene Wenger's on telly, he appears to me like Basil Fawlty the day his car wouldn't start. His interviews are terse and he's dispensed with even the relative charm of "I did not see the incident."

"Right, that's it. I've had enough of y-o-o-o-ou!"

And his conduct on the touchline brings on constipation in even the most casual observer - at fifty paces!

He didn't want to talk about the removal of William Gallas as skipper last month, and his mental state looks to have hit an all-time low following the tense draw at Aston Villa.

Admittedly, the two-all stalemate was high stakes indeed for The Professor and his ailing Gunners, but mumbling a monosyllable on Arsenal's title chances followed by outlandish allegations about the referee leave you concerned he's about to enter a Fat Elvis stage. He'd have to go some at the cheeseburgers, I admit.

The Professor got a cob on after Villa's John Robertson visited the ref at half-time. Martin O'Neill said his assisant had asked Lee Mason about a first-half decision.

Wenger said: "I know how it works here. At half-time the referee gets stick and then in the second half every little 50-50 decision goes the other way.

"I waited at half-time to see what happened and I was not disappointed." He added: "That's what happened. It's not only here."
Asked if he was implying that someone from Villa influenced the referee, Wenger added: "I have nothing to explain more than that."
O'Neill said: "John I think spoke to the referee. I think John asked him to explain a decision that Gabby Agbonlahor didn't get, that was all. Simple as that.

"He only asked him to explain the decision and the referee chose not to give an answer."

"That's nothing new", I hear you say.

I know the top managers employ the language of siege mentality to gee up their players - but Wenger's allegations are increasingly unhinged in their delivery.

Wenger's strops and temper must surely be expressing an inner turmoil. How much more pressure can one man take?

The top two managers in the Premier League at the moment, Scolari and Benitez, have co-incidentally suffered with kidney stones at the same time this month. Gerard Houllier's career as Liverpool boss was effectively ended by a serious heart problem and Glenn Roeder popped a cork (or something like that) while West Ham manager.

I'm concerned for Wenger's health. I wonder if he is? I would hate to see something happen to him.

Also from Soccermongery back in August '08: Has The Wenger Project Reached Its Autumn?

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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Whassup! Beware: these could be the new management teams at your club!

Worried Gooner over whether Arsene's got the answers? Concerned of Anfield about Rafa's contract? what about succession at Manchester United when Fergie calls time on his career?
Well, it could be a whole lot worse: it's majestic midfielders turned managerial muppets, Paul Ince and Bryan Robson (book him for taking his shirt off!). You'd be on target about a Manchester United conspiracy if these two were in charge of your starting eleven, so thank heavens for your current boss, eh?
Talking of Muppets, how about these two taking over in your club's boardroom? George Gillett and Tom Hicks might still own Liverpool, but their asset values are sinking faster than the Titanic. They've admitted they can't even muster enough cash to dig the first hole for the new stadium in Stanley Park. Mind you, if they did the Kop might volunteer to bury them in it!
No wonder Rafa's contract negotiations aren't about money!
And after Blackburn Rovers were linked with Graeme Souness, how about Souey and Terry McDermott returning to management? Souness is successful in every other job he's had, so after leaving Newcastle in a right two-and-eight, he'd probably sweep all before him at ... well, Blackpool?
Perhaps even Roy Keane's got more chance of an imminent return!
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Monday, 15 December 2008

Keeping Owen is out of Newcastle's hands

Michael Owen's given notice to the jeering doubters that he's still a force to be reckoned with. Three goals in two games issues a heads up to Newcastle and a clutch of Premier League suitors that he'll bag the goals to make a critical difference as the season reaches a climax.

It's the manner of the marksman's return to form, co-inciding with his 29th birthday that's caught my eye. Form and match fitness go hand-in-hand and it's been a while since he's looked so comfortable in his body.

There's that niggle as to how injury prone he is but judging from the last few games, the chances of setback have receded.
Newcastle have had the temerity to offer him a new contract on reduced terms. Reward for 9 goals in 10 starts this season. Who'd stick round there? Newcastle are having a laugh.
At the right club, Owen would restore himself to the glister of his best Liverpool and England days. It's just a shame for Joe Kinnear that the club is run by a bunch of oyks who've gone Absent Without Leave.
But for the professionalism and commitment of Kinnear and his squad, Newcastle United would be in freefall. Kinnear may prevent the board hanging Owen out For Sale in the January Transfer Window like bored babysitter, Michael Jackson.
But with his contract up at the end of the season, Owen's perilously close to leaving on a Bosman, or with a transfer discount so massive even Woolies would be left shrugging their shoulders.
Every board knows post-Bosman you've got to open talks with the player 18-months before the contract finishes. Newcastle's non-existent board are in such a state of inertia, the longer it's left the better it gets for Owen.
Make no mistake, Owen should plot the rest of his career now. He should pull the emergency cord and flee Newcastle faster than Ant and Dec did when London Telly called.
So who should sign him? Well, there's probably a case for most of the Premier League - but Spurs, Villa, Everton, Chelsea, Wigan and Stoke should be up for capturing what would be the biggest bargain this decade.
Signing a player like Owen is always a dramatic gesture. It was Graeme Souness and Terry McDermott who pulled off the coup to bring him home from Real Madrid. This time, the fanfare may be a few decibels lower, but to quote the England striker the day he signed at St James' Park, "...the one thing I can guarantee the fans is goals". Matchfit and facing big opposition, Owen will deliver.