Review – Midfielders

We continue our review with midfielders…
Emre

Hard to remember much from the little Turk this season having started only 8 games (9 as substitute). To our knowledge, the player hasn’t undergone any major surgery to cure the lengthy injury problems he’s had while on Tyneside – which begs the question whether his issues are physical or mental…

One of Keegan’s number one targets this summer must be a creative midfielder which was essentially the player Emre should have been. There’s no doubt that when he’s up for the challenge Emre can turn a game around but sadly that’s about once or twice a season.

To be fair to him, he’s often found around our own penalty box trying to get possession rather than the opposition’s and maybe next season with a better supporting cast he can stick to what he’s good at.

Last seasons rating: 6
This seasons rating: 4

Joey Barton

After playing well below his potential for the majority of the season, Barton’s form picked up towards the end as he started to show glimpses of the player we know he can be.

His whole season has now been eclipsed by his actions on December 27th 2007 when he was charged and arranged for being involved in a street attack in Liverpool City Center. Barton will spend the next six months in jail, putting a huge doubt over his future at the club.

If that wasn’t enough, he’ll be in court again this summer for assaulting a former team mate while at Manchester City.

Last season rating: n/a
This seasons rating: 5

Damien Duff

Last season we said about Duff, “The Irish winger hasn’t had anywhere near the type of impact we were hoping for in his first season, looking like a shadow of the player who terrorized defenders at Blackburn and Chelsea.”

Make that two seasons in a row then…

It’s time for Duff to make his mark or move on, the latter possibly on the cards as the Irish man looks set to sell his Tyneside home.

Last season rating: 3
This seasons rating: 3

Charles N’Zogbia

Although Charlie played most of this season in an unfamiliar left-back role, the little French man is still at his best when running at opposition’s defenders.

Sadly we didn’t see much of that, such was our plight at left-back but his pace and ability to pick out a pass is still a huge asset for the team and he was 1000x times better than last season.

Whether he stays at the club or not is still to be seen. Keegan has gone public saying he needs to be more of a “team player,” although rumors of an end of the day bust up with Faye were denied by the player – which spawned this fantastic quote (insert fantastic quote).

Last season rating: 2
This seasons rating: 7

James Milner

Scored the highest out of all outfield players last season (8), Milner continues to work hard down both flanks but is still lacking that little bit of quality which would equate to more goals and assists.

Still young, still plenty of time to learn new tricks, but his commitment to the cause cannot be questioned as he keeps ploughing away at the opposition when others heads have dropped.

Last seasons rating: 8
This seasons rating: 6

Alan Smith

30 starts, 7 substitute appearances and ZERO goals. Speaks for itself really.

Although many could argue that Smith had played the majority of games in midfield, the player very rarely chipped in with assists and was mainly causing our own defense problems by giving away silly fouls and free-kicks around our own box.

He gave the ball away more times than we can remember and has to go down as the worst signing of the season – a huge disappointment since leaving Man Utd.

Neither effective as an attacking midfielder or striker, his future at the club (if he has any) would be in a Nicky Butt type role as holding midfielder. Even that’s stretching the imagination…

Last seasons rating: n/a
This seasons rating: 2

Geremi

Chipped in with some vital assists towards the end of the season although was largely unimpressive throughout.

Some of his passing (for a midfielder), is absolutely shocking and the guy has no pace whatsoever. His corners and free kicks are also pretty unremarkable although he did score a vital goal at Spurs (his only goal of the season).

He can pick out a cross though and with the likes of Owen and Viduka sniffing around the box, that can only be a good thing – his ball for Owen’s goal against the mackems particularly impressive.

We hope Keegan brings in a little more creativity in the summer so Geremi isn’t needed for more than a squad player.

Last season rating: n/a
This seasons rating: 5

Nicky Butt

Another solid season for Butt who has now won the Newcastle fans over after a shaky start to his career on Tyneside.

He played more games than any other player this season (37 starts, 2 sub appearances) and continues to help out the back four by getting stuck in and breaking up attacks.

Some of his passing still lets him down but overall another decent year for the lad.

Last seasons rating: 7
This seasons rating: 7

Wer gannin back to Europe again!

Wer gannin back to Europe again!
A Wild and Crazy Season

Lap of Honor photo”I just think it’s marvelous,” said Sir Bobby after the win over Birmingham ensured that the Toon would once again be in the Champions League next season.

But it was a rollercoaster April in which Newcastle went from being a Premiership contender to scrambling for a Champions League place. But the lads made it. And we are all very thankful.

As Alan Shearer said, it’s important that the Toon repeat in Europe as often as possible. You don’t get that much experience from a one-off showing.

Other teams had their problems too this season. Arsenal went from being six points ahead of MU to being five points behind at the end of the season.

Even on the last day of the Premiership, many of the matches would have a bearing on next year.

Last August the Toon had a shaky start to the Premiership and soon found themselves in the cellar. Add to this the losses in the first matches of the Champions League and you felt that the wheels were coming off.

However, Sir Bobby performed his usual magic and soon the wins started coming – both in the Premiership and the European matches.

By Christmas the Toon were fourth in the English table – the lowest position they were to have – and thanks to some robust battling had got themselves into the second round of the Champions League.

The New Year was almost a time for euphoria as home victories continued as well as a few away victories. (But not enough as it turned out. This was the Toon’s biggest problem this year).

Again after a poor start in the second round of the Champions League, Newcastle had a couple of thumping victories over last year’s finalists, Bayern Leverkusen, and a courageous battle away at Inter Milan. Although it was a draw, the lads were done in by some sloppy refereeing.

It was now time to concentrate on knocking off MU and Arsenal for a run on the Premiership. Newcastle kept pace with the leaders until the season’s turning point against Everton and MU in April.

Some dodgy refereeing in the Everton game probably did us in for the championship, while the pounding by MU was a big psychological blow.

The following Easter weekend produced two more indifferent performances, and the Toon were struggling for Champions League qualification, especially since injuries were starting to appear.

An away win at Sunderland seemed to settle the lads down, and with Liverpool and Chelsea both losing, the Toon’s win over Birmingham set the seal for a return to Europe next year.

Alan Shearer had one of his best seasons with the Toon, and was rewarded with professional player of the decade, domestic player of the decade, and outstanding contribution to the Premier League by the Professional Footballers Association.

That the Magpies still need his skills and intuitive knowledge of the game was well shown when he missed the last three games because of injuries. Sir Bobby is setting up a team for the future with young talented players, many of whom have already had international experience.

With the prospect of European League money now being available it’s likely that he will be in the market over the summer for players who can make an immediate impact on a sustained league challenge. They need to cultivate the ruthlessness of champions.

Newcastle may not have won anything this season, but to finish third in the Premiership after fourth place last year is a brilliant achievement.

The dream may be over, but they’re still Champions to us

The dream may be over, but they’re still Champions to us

The Champions League dream ended for Bobby’s battling boys in the last game of the second round. Their loss to Barcelona wasn’t as important as the expected win by their nemesis, Inter Milan, over Leverkusen (who arguably tanked in the second round – how on earth did they get through the first round?).

The Toon deserve our applause for their determination and grit in fighting all the way through both initial rounds of this year’s competition. They were the first team to lose their opening games and yet come storming back to claim a place in the second round.

Again, having lost their first few matches in the second phase, they valiantly fought back with wins over Leverkusen and a draw against Inter Milan in Italy.

This last game was a farce as the referee seemed to lose complete control of the situation, allowing the Italian players to dive at every opportunity and to hustle the referee.

As Alan Shearer said afterwards, “Maybe English players are just too honest.” But this is part and parcel of the European game and the Champions League experience.

It will certainly have been an eye-opener to Bobby’s bairns, but has no doubt provided them with excellent training for the Toon’s expected return next season to Champions League action. And it will have been a good lesson in the strategy and gamesmanship that is required at this level of football.

Sir Bobby was full of praise for his lads. “It’s been a great experience and we’ve done very well in it. We haven’t been overawed. We haven’t been outclassed in any of the games. We’ve enjoyed the ride.”

Perhaps the most memorable part of the team’s progress was the presence of thousands of Toon Army fans at all the matches in Europe.

Over 7,000 watched the Inter Milan game, where they endured missiles, bottles, flares, and racial epithets both on and off the field.

No question that vociferous fan support plays a part in motivating the whole team.

Let’s hope that we’re close to getting some silverware to reward everyone connected with NUFC. The fans and players alike deserve no less.

It Really is a Game of Two Halves

 

We all know it had to come to an end at some point and on Monday morning it did when title-chasing Chelsea finished our seven match unbeaten run.

They didn’t have it all their own way though and our lot were very impressive in the first half, passing the ball around confidently and making good use of the width offered by Enrique and Beye.

In fact we could easily have been two-nil up at half time – Owen skying an effort after a lovely chipped pass by Nicky Butt and then John Terry clearing an Owen effort off the line after Cech had earlier denied Martins and Viduka.

The second half though was a different story. We lost Viduka during the interval with his achilles injury and with that, lost someone who could hold the ball up for the running Owen or Martins. His replacement was Smith who once again was totally ineffective and looks likely he’ll finish the season with ZERO goals.

So with little happening upfront, Chelsea laid siege to our goal and we were grateful for some last ditch defending by Taylor and Faye (who were both impressive today), and our crossbar that denied John Terry from opening the scoring.

Alas though we conceded, a Drogba free-kick on the edge of the box found the completely unmarked Ballack (Butt or Smith the culprits) and he couldn’t miss from 6 yards out.

To be fair to our lot we kept going and had Owen been 6ft, he would have met a Nicky Butt pass/shot when fully stretched – instead it just evaded our little forward and our final chance of the game went unconverted.

A nice move by Chelsea finished us off – Malouda racing onto a ball from Drogba and slotting under Harper. Chelsea now set up an interesting final day of the season as they go into their last game level on points on Man Utd – but behind on goal difference.

So no doubt there is still plenty of work to do for our lot until we can reach the level of the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd but after the performance yesterday in which we held our own for the majority of the game, combined with our seven game unbeaten run, there is plenty of reason for optimism next season.