Off the Mark: It’s a crucial month for Alan Pardew and Newcastle
Now on these pages we’re always going to be more concerned with club football than internationals, but Premier League news has been a little thin on the ground lately.
When Jack Wilshere finally stopped giving us a story a day on his social habits, the top flight tales fell away and were inevitably replaced by England’s quest to reach the World Cup, which ultimately they did, mostly without Wilshere’s help.
One little story did creep through though, and it has the potential to get even bigger over the next few weeks.
At the weekend Newcastle boss Alan Pardew suddenly decided to tell us that Magpies owner Mike Ashley – the man who pays his wages and who gave him that still unfathomable eight-year contract last September – sometimes gets “confused and upset” by the way football works.
You could say the same for the Newcastle defence in that first half at Everton of course, but Pardew was referring to the vagaries of the game behind the scenes, and how that has an effect on a man once frequently seen downing pints of lager and sitting in with the fans.
Those same fans are sick of him though.
A number of them are planning a protest march towards St James’s Park ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Liverpool, with Ashley the target of their ire.
They’ve done similar things before of course, and then, as now, the considerable frame of the owner has remained unmoved, but in the wake of his manager’s fairly unwise words how will Ashley react this time?
Things had just seemed to calm down a little from the summer shambles involving the reappointment of Joe Kinnear, a bad smell for Newcastle fans who simply won’t go away.
The team won at Cardiff before the international break – a win made possible courtesy of two goals from the in-form Loic Remy, their only major summer signing – whilst they recovered some lost pride in the second half at Everton and are through to the next round of the Capital One Cup.
A reminder of the disharmony behind the scenes will come with that march on Saturday though, and Newcastle could do with just focussing on their football ahead of what looks a tricky month.
They ‘welcome’ Liverpool to Tyneside less than six months after the Reds won 6-0 there towards the end of last season, a feat they achieved without the banned Luis Suarez.
That meeting this weekend will be swiftly followed by the Tyne-Wear derby and then games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.
The City test is in the cup, but nonetheless Pardew will know that it forms a crucial part of a period which has the capacity to go drastically wrong for both him and his team.
A thinly-veiled, admittedly pretty meek criticism of Ashley probably isn’t the wisest move at this time then, and with the protest and in-form Liverpool now looming so large on the horizon, it doesn’t seem like the best time to get in the owner’s bad books.
No time is, of course, but this one seems especially needless given that the green shoots of recovery for the Magpies were starting to become visible.
Remy is scoring goals, Yohan Cabaye is back in the team following his summer flirtation with Arsenal and Pardew has dropped the simply awful Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
The Cardiff win should see them approaching Liverpool with confidence, determined to wipe away the misery of that 6-0 loss.
Instead, the same old mess which seems to permanently engulf St James’s in a cloud of fog could well be in residence again come Saturday, when Pardew, Ashley, the baffling Kinnear and the long-suffering fans will try to blink through it and simply hope for the best, i.e. not 6-0 again.
Rooney tuned up
It’s been just over a month since Wayne Rooney returned to action, and in that short time he’s shown just why Manchester United fought to keep him so much.
On his day the forward can be unstoppable, and with England benefitting from his rejuvenation too then perhaps we could be seeing the renaissance of a man who had appeared to be going through a decline.
Nobody at United will admit that the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson was good for the club, but with that clearly fractious relationship now removed from his life, Rooney appears to have rediscovered a form that many thought had gone for good.
Give Gus a proper go
Gus Poyet and Sunderland might just work you know, if it is given time.
Of course, time is the one thing that you’re not guaranteed to get when you’re at the foot of the Premier League table with one point from seven games, but if Poyet can quickly instil his brand of football at the club than that win column should be filled soon.