As someone who’s childhood was predominantly based in the 1990s, the words ‘Newcastle United’ evoke only pleasant thoughts. A mental highlight reel immediately begins and it’s a combination of Phillipe Albert chips, Faustino Asprilla flips and mazy runs from French master David Ginola.
Newcastle were, to me, one of the big teams. Under Kevin Keegan, they ran a dominant Manchester United side close in the title race more than once, producing (or at least further nurturing) talents like Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole and others. With the benefit of hindsight, some look back on Alan Shearer’s decision to pick Newcastle over Man Utd when making his then-record fee £15 million move in the summer of 1996 but what’s easily forgotten is just how big a club Newcastle were at that time. Combined with the fact Shearer had been a fan as a boy and it’s almost no wonder he chose St James’ Park over Old Trafford.
The years that followed, however, ensured Newcastle would no longer be regarded with such high esteem. Despite remaining title challengers in the early 2000s under the late Bobby Robson, the club began to fall away soon after. The purchase of the club by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley in 2007 ushered in a series of disastrous appointments. Glenn Roeder, Joe Kinnear and former hero Kevin Keegan all tried and failed to return the club to former glories, with the club eventually being relegated in 2009.
Cut to the present day and, though back in the top flight of English football, Newcastle sit only 2 points above the drop zon, having lost 3-0 to relegation rivals Leicester City and struggling to find a win. Under current manager John Carver, they have won only two of his 17 games in charge, losing 12 and accunulating a goal difference of -19 in the process.
But, strangley, ask a lot of the Toony Army and they would tell you they are happier with Carver in charge than his predecessor and current Crystal Palace number 1 Alan Pardew. Pardew never truly won the hearts of the St James faithful. Always known for being a difficult personality, high profile incidents involving Pardew brought the club into disrepute, angering proud Magpies fans. Perhaps the worst of these is the well-covered incident involving Hull City player David Meyler, in which Pardew appeared to attempt to headbutt him. It was primairly because of such incidents that many fans were happy to see the back of the former Reading, West Ham and Charlton gaffer when he left to return to London in January of this year.
On first glance, the Toon Army’s dislike of Pardew is understandable. The previously mentioned incidents added to an already lenghtly rap sheet which included a High Court dispute with John Madejski after Pardew quit Reading when they wouldn’t let him talk to West Ham about their vacant manager’s position and a dispute with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in which Pardew was accused of xenophobia for criticising the Gooners’ lack of British representation in a Champions League match.
But look at his on-the-pitch achievements and you begin to think that the fans’ dislike of Pardew was not entirely justified. He managed to kead Newcastle to a respectable 12th placed finish in their first season back in the Premier League. That summer began the inflush of exciting French talent under Pardew and lead scout John Carr. Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba all joined that year and an exciting Newcastle team finished fifth in the table in 2012. Such an outstanding performance would win Pardew the Premier League Manager of the Season that year.
Despite continued high quality signings of the likes of Matthieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko, Pardew never quite achieved those heights of that season, finishing 10th and 16th in his following two full seasons in charge. Pardew left amidst a poor run of form but left behind some good on-the-pitch moments for the fans up north.
So the question must be asked – was losign Pardew really a good thing for Newcastle, as the fans may have you believe? The league table doesn’t suggest so. Pardew left Newcastle in 10th place after 19 games, joining a Crystal Palace side in the relegation zone.Wh Fast forward to now, however, and Crystal Palace sit 12th, secure in the Premier League for another season, while Newcastle face the very real threat of relegation.
And one must ask why a man in Pardew’s position would swap a secure job in which he famously signed an 8-year contract extension in 2012, for a club who, at the time, were in dire straights. Of course Pardew has personal ties to Palace, but perhaps the move was an indication of just how untenable Pardew’s postion may have become up north. Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias are widely known to have little ambition other than to keep Newcastle a going concern in the Premier League. Maybe this wasn’t enough for Pardew – a famously ambitious man who took the club within touching distance of the Champions League.
Whatever the reason for Pardew’s departure, I think honest Toon Army fans would be hard pushed to argue they really prefer their club in its’ current state to what it was under Pardew. Yes, his start to the 2014/15 season was less than idea;, but this was perhaps an outside indication of inside pressures at the club. It’s clear that, at present, John Carver is an incompetent captain on a sinking ship. Magpies fans perhaps need to look further up the chain of command, as they are beginning to, to see where the real problems lie. Pardew may not be perfect – but he was a safe pair of hands in an otherwise stormy sea.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
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