Filed: Thursday, 21st October 2010
By: Preview Percy
"If you pay peanuts you get monkeys" or so the saying goes. We're saving up for a bag of Percy Dalton's. Until then, Preview Percy writes our match previews. Here's his take on this weekend's visit from Newcastle United...
Next we have a visit from Newcastle United on Saturday for a 5.30pm kick-off for a match to be televised by Sky.
The visitors currently lie in 16th place two points and four places above ourselves. Their 8 points to date have come from two wins (Villa 6-0 at home and Everton 1-0 away) and two draws (1-1 at Wolves and 2-2 last week at home to Wigan). Their defeats have come at Man Utd and Man City away (3-0 and 2-1 respectively), and at home to Stoke (2-1) and Blackpool (2-0). Like ourselves they are still in the league cup having seen off Accrington Stanley and a Chelsea XI in previous rounds. They face Arsenal at home on Wednesday evening in the next round.
Newcastle have, in recent years, been nearly as much of a soap opera as we have. The season before last they seemed to be having their own “Manager Of The Month” competition. Kevin Keegan left early in the season and was eventually replaced by Joe Kinnear whose rein is remembered in these parts for his hilarious four letter word filled rant in an interview with a Daily Mirror journalist. Many were amazed at the restraint he showed in only swearing at the journo 52 times in the course of five minutes. Kinnear's health problems – he had a heart bypass op in February 2009 – meant that he did not see out the end of the season and Alan Shearer took time out from boring the pants off us on MOTD to take over the side but was unable to prevent relegation.
Former Hammer Chris Hughton took over for the Championship season – originally as caretaker but later on a permanent basis – and the return to the top flight was relatively smooth. The season wasn't entirely without its soap elements as owner Mike Ashley explored more different and unusual ways of upsetting the locals. Amongst his crimes were putting the naming rights of St James' Park up for grabs. Indeed, last season, for a while the famous ground was actually officially named the “sportsdirect.com @ St James' Park” stadium, a name which really caught on amongst the faithful. Not.
Transfer activity during the window was interesting if unspectacular. Defender James Perch came in from Forest for an undisclosed fee and promptly set a record by picking up yellow cards in each of his first five matches, earning himself a week off in record time. They also managed to pull a fast one over Everton by picking up promising youngster Dan Gosling on a free. In order for Everton to seek compensation, they were required to make the player an improved contract offer before the end of May. Apparently the verbal offer made to the player by the Toffees didn't count and, as a result of the gaffe, Newcastle saved themselves a reported £4m on the deal. Plymouth Argyle also missed out as they were on a percentage of any fee received by Everton. Gosling is, however, a long-term absentee having done a knee ligament whilst still at Everton – so it's not just us that signs injured players.
In defence they also picked up Sol “He's Going Home In A Minute” Campbell on a free from Arsenal, though he hasn't been first choice so far this year, with only one sub appearance in the league and one start in the League Cup under his belt. There are rumours that Campbell may be in line for a coaching role on Tyneside, following Colin Calderwood's departure to Hibernian earlier this week.
In midfield, Ivory Coast international Chiek Tiote came in from Twente for a reported £3.5m whilst £2m was spent on bringing in Hatem Ben Arfa on a season long loan with a view to a permanent deal. Ben Arfa, a French international described as having “both talent and issues” scored a spectacular goal on his full debut at Everton, but was then unlucky to come up against a rampant Nigel de Jong, whose awful challenge broke both tib and fib in the match at Eastlands. The fact that de Jong was then dropped by the Dutch national side as a result of the challenge will come as little consolation to the player whose season is effectively over before it began. The Dutch reaction to de Jong's crime was impressive, but not quite as impressive as it might have been had they taken the same action after the midfielder's karate kick on Alonso in the World Cup final.
Of course the Magpies are not themselves without sinners. Joey Barton's history is well documented and includes a spell as a guest of Her Majesty (gawd bless 'er) for an incident outside a Liverpool McDonalds. He also has a four month suspended for an assault on then Man City team mate Ousmane Dabo and previous incidents include stubbing a cigar out on the eye of a City youth team player. However, Barton has a rival in the bad boy stakes in the form of youngster Andy Carroll.
Carroll is out on bail twice over at the moment. He's due to go on trial next week for an alleged assault in a Newcastle nightclub last December, whilst he was remanded on bail earlier this week for allegedly hitting his ex-girlfriend. Carroll is apparently claiming the incident was a case of self-defence, which, given that he's a big lad, suggests that his ex-Doris is one scary woman. There again most of them are up there aren't they. On hearing that Carroll's address was listed as a Newcastle hotel, the magistrates granted him bail on condition that he stay with Magpies skipper Kevin Nolan pending trial, thus proving that the English judiciary has no sense of humour. I mean, how funny would it have been had they substituted Barton for Nolan on this occasion?
Carroll has also been the subject of some controversy within the game recently. He limped off during the Wolves match with an ankle injury. Toon physio Derek Wright decided that the knock would prevent the player from travelling with the England U21 squad for the away fixture against Portugal and Carroll withdrew. This seemed to upset U21 boss Stuart Pearce, who insisted that Carroll should report to have the injury assessed by the England U21 physio. Not an uncommon incident in international football but for one thing: the England U21 physio happens to be Derek Wright. The predictable row ensured and Carroll was omitted from the last England U21 squad, though Pearce claimed that this was nothing more than his showing loyalty to his existing strikers. Carroll subsequently made the provisional 30 man squad for the full England side to face Montenegro, though he failed to make the final cut.
Carroll has spent the season at the head of a 4-4-1-1 formation with his new landlord Nolan sitting in just behind. Nolan missed last week's draw against Wigan – he either picked up a knock in training or was “rested” depending on which version you believe. Either way expect him to return this weekend, unlike Steven Taylor, the defender who has had a wretched time with injury in 2010. Just as he was getting over a knee injury sustained in January he picked up a broken jaw sustained at the hands of (that man again) Carroll – some spat about text messages and girlfriends one understands. Taylor had barely recovered from that one before he dislocated his shoulder in pre-season. He's a few weeks away from a return, though how much of his future will be at St James' Park remains to be seen – contract negotiations earlier this year saw the player transfer-listed and it may be that he'll be off elsewhere in January. Look out for his first match against Carroll if that happens!
Another unlucky one is 'keeper Steve Harper. Harper spent years as no.2 to Shay Given and must have been looking forward to being first choice in the Premiership after promotion. However a broken collar bone sustained against Man City (really wasn't their day was it) has led to the introduction of Dutch U21 international 'keeper Tim Krul.
Up front, other attacking options include Shola Ameobi with whom the club has shown an great deal of patience over the years – 43 goals in over 200 appearances is hardly prolific after all. This probably means he'll come on against us and score a hatful. Danish international Peter Lovenkrands deputised for Nolan last week but is more of a fringe player these days, his main use coming from the bench or in League Cup matches.
And so to us. Well this preview is turning into an episode of “Crimewatch”. Manuel Da Costa was arrested earlier this week following alleged assaults (both common and sexual) after a fracas in Faces nightclub. He has been bailed to reappear at the (unspecified) nick in December “pending further enquiries”. Whatever the facts of the case, the capacity for professional footballers to act stupidly in nightclubs or in cars is something that never ceases to amaze me in a depressing sort of way. Based on the precedent set by Carroll, we may perhaps see Da Costa ordered to spend his evenings at the home of our skipper, though whether the beak will realise that that actually means Matty Upson and not (as every journo seems to think) Scott Parker is another matter.
Upson himself was a slight doubt following the neck injury that kept him out of last week's draw at Molineux. However, reports suggest that he will have recovered in time for this one. The defence was at sixes and sevens without him in the first half last week, though things did improve in the legendary “game of two halves”. The partnership of Gabbidon and Da Costa showed all the signs of having been thrown together at the last minute during the first 45. If Upson's absence is to go into a second week, it is to be hoped that DaCosta has found time in between visits to “an East London police station” to train alongside Gabbidon.
Elsewhere, Behrami's back from injury but Grant seems to prefer his starting midfield to include Boa-Morte and the Swiss may have to settle for another week on the bench. Barrera will have recovered from his transatlantic travels but, following a fine performance last week, I'd expect Dyer to get the nod over the Mexican (if fit). Assuming Upson's neck is ok, I'd expect us to start with Upson coming in for Ben Haim with Gabbidon being preferred at left-back to Ilunga once more.
Last week saw us grind out a result for the second week in a row but, hilarious as the problems at Anfield are, we're still bottom – albeit a mere three points (plus goal difference) from 11th place. It's about time we started moving upwards – five unbeaten suggests progress - but it's time to step up a gear. Rumours abound that all is not well behind the scenes at St James' Park ('twas ever thus) and that Ashley is getting a little twitchy in the trigger finger area so this is a match that is eminently winnable. If we can play well in both halves – we've only done so in the second 45 of the last couple of matches – I see no reason why this one shouldn't be a cracker. I'll take us to win this one 3-1 as we claw our way slowly upwards.
Enjoy the game!
Last season: N/A
Danger Man: Andy Carroll – Da Costa and Upson (or Gabbidon) will have their work cut out and will know they've been in a game.
Referee: Chris Foy – second visit to the Boleyn for the ref who was last seen handling the 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea. He may as well write the name “Parker” in his book now – he always does eventually.
Travel news: It couldn't last. There's no Hammersmith and City line service to Upton Park this weekend. The District line will be open however so just expect fewer trains than normal. If you leave now you should just make the 5.30pm kick-off.
Daft fact of the week: In the Newcastle-set film “Get Carter”, during the scene where Michael Caine wanders in and orders a pint of bitter (clicks fingers) “in a thin glass”, just along from him in the bar there is an old bloke who, famously, has six fingers on his hand. What is less well known is the fact that the bloke next to him is in fact Mike Ashley, who was trying to flog the old guy a set of dodgy goalkeeper's gloves. By the way, if you ever get a chance to see the Sylvester Stallone remake, do yourself a favour and go to the dentist instead. It'll be less painful.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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