At least it was a sunny day*

Before the Villa game I'd anticipated that if we ended up the day relegated then I'd spend the ensuing few days totally depressed. Instead the emotions I've experienced have been primarily frustration and anger. I'm frustrated that we've ultimately been relegated by a deflected goal. I'm also frustrated that we would still have been in the Premiership next season had Viduka's late equaliser against Fulham not been wrongly disallowed. I'm angry that in the second half against Villa, when one goal would have been enough to keep us up, we couldn't manage a single attempt on goal. Ultimately though we can't have any complaints about going down - we were poor in too many games and we simply didn't get enough points. The Villa game typified our season - did ok for the first half, but then ran out of ideas; no creativity in midfield; Nicky Butt was shocking (although he did at least try, unlike one or two others); no pace in defence, resulting in having to haul their players back.
While totally p!ssed off at getting relegated and having to play teams like Scunthorpe, Doncaster Rovers and whoever next season, I'm still convinced that we would probably have struggled like hell next season if we'd have stayed up. We would have needed to ship out a load players who are past it and/or are being paid an absolute fortune, while also bringing in some much needed quality. That would have been a massive ask. Mind, I would still have preferred that problem to the one we're now faced with. Now that we're down it's even more imperative that we clear out the big earners though. It's all well and good Duff saying that he wants to stay, but the simple fact is that we can't afford his current wages. If he's prepared to accept a 75% wage cut then possibly he's got a future at the club. To be fair, he was one of the players who seemed bothered against Villa. He's still done very little since we signed him though.
It's vitally important that we get the manager's situation sorted out as soon as possible. If, as seems likely, AS is offered the job long-term, then at least he's got the whole summer to try to put together a squad for next season. I see that the bookies have us as favourites for the title next season. That though means nothing - it's simply based on us being the club that'll attract the most bets. Realistically yo-yo clubs like West Brom and Boro have more chance of bouncing straight back. Apart from the fact that they'll be able to hold onto more of their current squad, they'll be under less pressure then us next season. Let's face it, despite all the people queuing up to say that Newcastle aren't really a big club, we will be far and away the biggest club in the division next season and we will be the team that everyone will raising their game for.
Oh, nearly forgot. More than anything I'm angry that our relegation is down to years of mismanagement. With our turnover it should have been impossible for us to go down. Fundamental mistakes have been made by successive regimes, we've flirted with relegation on more than one occasion, lessons have not been learned. Certain people have a lot to answer for - FFS and MA in particular.
* Tom received a text from his Nicky first thing in the morning saying "At least it's a sunny day". She must have known.

Looking for a miracle

It just wouldn't be like the Toon to have beaten Fulham, leaving us needing at the most a point against Villa to stay up. Walking up to the ground it seemed like, unlike the previous two home games, it was a bit of a party atmosphere. A lot of people seemed to be under impression that the job was already done. The same appeared to be the case with the players. As the game got under way I got a sense of complacency both on and off the pitch. On another day we could of course have come out the game at least a point, which wouldn't have been the end of the world as it happens, but every club can point to games where things could have turned out differently.
And so it all comes down to the last day of this calamitous season then. Just in case anyone's not clear on it, these are our options for staying up:
We win and either the Mackems or Hull don't
We draw and Hull lose
In our favour is the fact that Villa's form is currently just as bad as ours - only one win (Hull at home) in 15 games in all competitions. Also, Villa have nothing to play for other than pinching 5th place off Everton. But Fulham had nothing to play for! I'll be doing my bit to improve our chances by NOT taking the flag that I had at the match on Saturday. As far as I can remember the other games it's been to are the semi-final at Cardiff and the Alkmaar away game; it hasn't exactly brought us luck then.
I'm expecting everyone at the Villa game to give nothing less than 100% backing from start to finish, no matter what happens on the pitch and elsewhere. The club might be a shambles and the team might have been crap all season, but at least we can show that we the fans are Premiership class. And if the unthinkable does happen, no crying on the telly please!

One down, two to go

Had results gone against us recently then we could have been down before the Boro game. Fortunately though just about every result has gone our way the last couple of weeks. That was well overdue though after a sequence of results that had me starting to believe in conspiracy theory - Hull and Blackburn both winning at Fortress Craven Cottage after both were apparently totally outplayed, plus Blackburn beating Spurs after Spurs had been absolutely coasting it until that player got himself stupidly sent off. It was great to see the fans really rallying to the cause last night - getting in early (well, relatively early) to get the atmosphere going, sticking behind the team after we went behind, then keeping it going throughout the game. Most people even stayed until the end!! We now need the same approach from everyone concerned on Saturday. We're obviously up against a better team in Fulham, but their away record is pretty pants, only marginally better than ours in fact. On top of that I can't see them showing the same commitment as the Smoggies did. If (fingers crossed) Bolton can do us a favour and we can beat Fulham then we'll unbelievably be safe regardless of what happens in the last game. That would be fantastic - I don't think I can cope with going to Villa if our survival depends on it - the last 20 minutes last night was bad enough! That said, it's not a bad game to finish with if we need points - Villa's current form is on a par with ours, with only one win (against Hull last Monday) in the last 3 months.
It's in our hands.

Scousers 3  Toon 0

They may as well scrap this fixture. Just call it a 3-0 home win and save everyone a lot of time and money. As it happens this could have ended up a lot worse than 3-0, and we could yet be very grateful that it didn't if it all comes down to goal difference. Apparently Joey B****n has apologised to Shearer for the stupid challenge that resulted in his red card. Well that's ok then. It doesn't matter that his three match suspension can only harm our chances of staying up, just as long as he's said he's sorry. I'm still waiting for my apology by the way Joey. A lot of our fans applauded him as he went off. Quite why I haven't got a clue. Perhaps they were thanking him for his contribution in this game. Except he didn't contribute much. Perhaps it was for all those great performances over the last 2 seasons. All 3 of them. Personally I booed him, then stuck two fingers up.
Bizarrely we've ended up the weekend in a stronger position than we were before it. It was always virtually a banker that we would lose, and a win or even a draw for any of our rivals would have made our survival less likely. They all lost though, and so it's almost in our hands now. Two wins from our two home games could well be enough to keep us up. That's still a lot easier said than done though considering our current form.
Just about the one good thing to come out of our trip to Merseyside was stumbling across a belting pub next door to Lime Street. Unfortunately it could be a long time before we get to go there again! There weren't many Toon fans on the train over - a few York Mags, myself and Gordano, then Stevie and Joanne from Huddersfield. Despite this the train was seriously crowded - not as bad as coming back from Blackburn last season, but still pretty bad. At the last stop at Warrington there were quite a few didn't get on. Whether it was out of choice or because they physically couldn't I'm not sure. Anyway, it was just before 11 when we pulled into Lime Street. Our plan was to head for the nearby Punch and Judy (cheap beer, scallies trying to flog you stuff out of bin bags), except it was shut. Never mind, there's a Wetherspoons just round the corner. After standing at the bar there for a minute or so it was clear we could have been there for a good 10 or 15 minutes before we got served - two staff on and thirty people waiting. Plan C then - back to the Crown, which we'd walked right past on the way to Spoons. And what a result! Really nice pub, cheap, good range of hand-pulled, decent food, and no bother getting served. I can't believe that I've been to Liverpool so many times and never given this place a look. I can't even recall noticing it before!
I'd wondered if I might fancy hanging around for a pint or two after the game. In the event, like the rest of our mob I just wanted to get home. it was straight back to Lime Street then. As myself and Gordano were walking to the nearby Spar for beer some bloke asked me what the score was. "Three-nil". "Who to?". Seriously.
The train back was fairly busy, and some of us had to stand, including Round Boy. Hence "the incident". We'd been going about 10 minutes when the train went over a bit of a bump. Stevie lurched ever so slightly towards this bloke sat next to him. "You'd better watch yourself kid" the bloke said. "Kid? Kid???", replied a not at all impressed Stevie. "I'm 38 years old, I'm not a kid. And you're not my Dad". I think I can safely say that Stevie was seething, and he kept on ranting. All the time this rant was going on the bloke never said a word, Then just as things were calming down he for some reason came out with "You'll be able to have a seat soon son because I'm getting off". This nearly lit the touch paper. "Son? SON???????". I honestly thought Stevie might clock him, but of course he's not like that. But as Stevie pointed out after the tosser had got off, there are plenty of people who would have put his lights out for less, so what the bloke thought he was doing is anyone's guess. Anyway, just in case we were in any doubt as to who was in the right and wrong, as soon as the bloke left the train someone who'd witnessed the whole incident commented that Stevie had done absolutely nothing wrong. Very strange.

"Not good enough"

The consensus of opinion as people shuffled miserably out the ground at the end of the Pompey game seemed to be that we're simply not good enough. There was no shortage of effort, perhaps too much at times, but a real dearth of quality. I always felt that getting to this stage of the season basically having to win our last three home games was asking too much. It puts too much pressure on the players. At the same time we could quite easily have won at least this game. We started ok without really creating anything, then improved after Guthrie came on (a player making runs from midfield - whoever came up with that idea?!!), with all our strikers getting chances which on another day they would have stuck away without thinking. As the second half wore on we just ran out of ideas and steam, with any chance of a win disappearing with Viduka's substitution.
Every time another game goes by without a victory I think "That's it, we're down". Then I look at the table and realise it's not quite over yet. The way that Hull are going they might not get another point this season. The same goes for Boro, particularly if we can somehow manage to beat them. First up though we've got Liverpool. In a way there's no pressure on us in this one other than to not to do too much damage to our goal difference, so perhaps we'll play with less fear. Who knows, we might even beat them! Stranger things have happened. Not very often mind.

Almost gone

Just about the only good thing about the defeat at Spurs is that it was only one-nil. It means that if we happen to end up on the same number of points as any of our relegation rivals then we'll be above them. It's just so difficult to see how we're ever going to get enough points for goal difference to be a factor though. How realistic is it that a team who has only won four home games all season can win three in a row? In all likelihood that's what's got to happen. In my experience it tends to be teams who are brave who manage to beat the drop. We're just continuing doing the same things that have taken us to second bottom. For much of the game at White Hart Lane it looked like damage limitation was our main priority. That's not going to save us - at some point we have to throw caution to the wind and have a real go. I'd always thought Kevin Nolan was an attacking midfield player. I've hardly seen him out of our half since we signed him. Instead we seem to be using him as yet another holding midfield player, alongside Butt, Taylor, Smith, Guthrie or whoever else happens to be in the team.
It's looking grim. I'll still be well up for it next Monday though!

toke 1  Toon 1

A short time after this game I had a thought that really scared me - what's the point in staying up? I mean, just assuming that we manage to somehow avoid the drop, what will we have to look forward to next season? JFK back in charge, EMO off to pastures new (assuming someone'll have him), Nicky Butt another year slower, Ryan Taylor still crap, Shola still Shola, Bassong probably off to a better team, ........ As if all that's not enough MA will no doubt not provide funds for any quality signings. That's something I just don't understand with Ashley. Yeah, I can see that he doesn't want to chuck endless money at the club, but at the same time the value of the club is plummeting, and things will only get worse if we're relegated. Surely it makes more sense to be bringing in the best players you can and to be at the right end of the Premiership, that way the club's worth more and much more attractive to a buyer. Of course, that theory falls down if you can't identify the right type of player. Let's face it, when we have spent big in recent years it's invariably been the case that the players have turned out to be donkeys.
Anyway, back to the Stoke match. In the weeks leading up to this game I'd looked at it as one of our remaining winnable games. In hindsight this was pretty unrealistic considering Stoke's home record and our inability to defend crosses, and a point was probably the best we could hope for. I'm not sure whether Shearer's formation change was designed specifically to deal with Stoke's game, but it's always dangerous asking players to do something they're not accustomed to. Sure enough, we were a shambles at the back for much of the game. We were of course a bit unlucky with their goal in that it wasn't a corner in the first place, but there's still no excuse for Faye getting a free header. It looked to me like he was Shola's man, but he got caught between watching the man and watching the ball and in the end got nowhere near either of them. Speaking of Shola, I found it amusing that for much of the game the Setanta commentators were going on about how Carroll would probably get brought on for Shola to give us "some presence up front". Well I could be mistaken but as far as I can see they're both virtually the same height and build, so why should Carroll give us more presence? He did of course.
This game reminded me a lot of the one at St Andrews last season. At half time-time we were a goal behind. You just couldn't see any way back for us and we were looking odds-on to go down, but then we pulled it back to 1-1. That game proved to be a real turning point because we followed up by going on a good little run and ended up staying up comfortably. I'd like to think the same will happen this time round, but I'm not convinced! Not unless we can somehow get some creativity into midfield; we can sometimes pass the ball around in the middle third, but we're clueless where it really matters. Last season we managed to create chances for Owen during that run, but I can't see the same thing happening now. Our best midfield player is probably Gutierrez, but he's currently being frequently left out due to lack of end product. While that's understandable, at least he can hold onto the ball for a few seconds and can take a defender on. Plus he's worth his place in the side just for his tracking back.
White Hart Lane next. At least we sometime win there. The same performance and result as last season would be nice, even just the same result, but I'd probably take a point now.

Seven games from disaster

While most people had written off the Chelsea game before it even started, a point or even just a good performance would have given us a much needed boost going in to the massive game at Stoke. In the end we got neither. If anyone thought that Shearer taking over would transform our fortunes on the pitch overnight then this match was a big wake-up call. In fact it re-affirmed a number of things. Like Collocini not being a £10 million defender (or a £10 defender come to that). And Ryan Taylor not being a Premiership footballer. Having said all that, for 50 minutes or so there was absolutely nothing to choose between the sides. But once we went behind we just never really looked like getting back in the game. One again our lack of pace and creativity in midfield was scary. When you think of the quality of the midfield players we've had over the last 10-15 years and compare it with our current collection it's enough to make you weep!
Our remaining seven games break down as four that look winnable, one we'll get nothing from, and two (Spurs and Villa) where we might get something if our opponents have an off day. It therefore doesn't look unreasonable that we could yet pick up the dozen or so points that we need. That is until you realise that we've only won six games all season but need to win a minimum of three out of seven. If we do go down then it will be an absolute disaster. If anyone thinks it might not be a bad thing (see some new grounds, loads of easy victories, then straight back up), then they just need to take a look at what's happened to virtually every team that's gone down the last few years - Southampton, Leeds, Forest, Carlton, Norwich, Leicester, Coventry, the list goes on and on. There's more chance of going down again than there is of coming straight back up.. 




Says it all!

Plenty of pre-match optimism in Spoons

Toon 1  Gooners 3

Let's start with the positives. The half-five kick-off was meant there was plenty of time for a good beer session before the game. Certainly YMs were out in force in Spoons. A notable absentee was Miguel though - saving his dosh for yet another stag weekend in Spain! By the time we had to set off for the Park yet more bad results elsewhere meant that it was pretty imperative that we picked up at least a point. Walking up there was definitely a feeling of optimism in the air, and the atmosphere at the start was as good as it's been for a while. It might be the beer affecting my judgement, but I thought that for an hour there wasn't much wrong with our performance. Then they scored their second and we fell apart. No doubt people will do that what-if thing looking back at this game. If Owen had played from the start and been on the pitch to take the penalty.... If Oba had taken the pen with his stronger foot..... If we'd brought a sub on for Stevie Taylor as soon he got injured.... Ultimately it's all irrelevant. If we go down it won't be because of decisions taken in this game, it's down to the 38 games played over the season and on years of mis-management. We were in virtually the same position at this stage last season and you'd think that people would have done everything possible to ensure it didn't happen again. Instead we've just repeated the same mistakes that we've been making for years. Freddie Shepherd will I'm sure be feeling smug and telling anyone who wants to listen that we wouldn't be in this position if he was still in charge. Well it was under his regime that the foundations for our imminent demise were laid - sacking managers at the wrong time and with no successors lined up, wasting an absolute fortune on sub-standard signings, an obsession with "trophy" signings as that's what the fans supposedly wanted, spending money that we simply didn't have and building up a mountain of debt, etc, etc.
The big problem with these Saturday evening games is of course the lack of trains back south afterwards, in particular to Durham and Darlington. It's not unusual for people with tickets for Birmingham or London being left on the platform at the Central and with no later train to get them home, meanwhile the trains are half-empty once they get past Darlo. In the good old days of British Rail they would just have stuck some extra local trains on, but that evil Thatcher woman put paid to that. Anyway, I legged it out the ground and down to the Central the second the final whistle went because I wanted to make sure I wasn't one of those unfortunates left on the platform as the 19.44 pulled out. I did though take a calculated risk stopping off at the Pink Lane offie for a couple of cans for the train, as did a lot of familiar faces. I didn't think it would cost me too much time, but that was before the bloke in front of me paid with a card, and before some woman who'd been hanging round the counter for ages with no apparent interest in buying anything suddenly decided she wanted to relieve them of half their stock of lollipops! I was starting to panic and did seriously wonder about about the wisdom of what I was doing, but as it turns out there was still plenty of room on the train when I got there. It seemed like all the rest of our lot made it as well, but I don't know for definite.

Reasons to be cheerful

Hull was obviously a game we really could have done with winning, but I suppose I would have taken a point beforehand because defeat just didn't bear thinking about. And I would have snapped your hand off if you'd offered me a point at 10 past 3!
For some reason which for the life of me I can't fathom out I decided to give this game a miss. A Saturday 3 o'clock kick-off, bargain train fare (if you got in early), and cheap pre-match beer in Hull. What was I thinking of!! Not being there in person meant I resorted to trying to get the game up on my PC. This was a bit of a disaster. It wasn't until the early stages of the second half that I managed to track down a feed that worked (or worked intermittently to be correct), courtesy of It's hard to judge the overall performance on the 30 minutes or so that I did see. It sounds though like I probably saw the best of it - we were in control most of the time, but let ourselves down with sloppy passing and failing to turn good possession into meaningful attempts on goal.
What's the heading all about? No doubt most people can't find anything to be cheerful about at the moment! I think though that there are a few things to take hope from, like:
- players coming back from injury or suspension, particularly in midfield
- Michael Owen; his goals largely kept us up last season, and the same might have to happen this time round
- the team spirit seems decent, with heads not dropping
- our run-in; once we get Arsenal and Chelsea out the way then we've got a few winnable looking games before the end of the season

However, there are obviously also reasons to be very concerned right now. One of them is Arsenal hitting form at just the wrong time for us after months of struggling. Let's hope though that we can come up with a performance against them like we did against Man U. If we do, and the fans (fuelled by extra drinking time!) get behind them from the start, then I think we've got every chance of getting at least a point from the game.

Right back in it

A weekend of disastrous results saw the gap of five points between ourselves and the bottom three slashed to a mere two. It's looking increasingly like, rather than securing our own survival, we're going to have to rely on West Brom, Stoke and probably Hull to end up the season with fewer points than us. It could have been different though because we could and probably should have come away from the Reebock with at least a point. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pretending we were particularly good. In fact, we were awful for the first fifteen minutes during which Enrique cleared one off the line and a penalty should have been awarded against Bassong. But we more than matched Bolton for the rest of the first half, and then pretty much dominated after half-time. It's just a shame that our defence failed to spot Gardner coming on for the second half, allowing him to run half the length of the pitch completely unmarked before burying Taylor's pass.

A few random observations on the game:
- I'm not convinced that Lovenkrands should be played in midfield; I appreciate we were a bit short of midfield options for this game (what's up with Duff by the way?), but it looks to me like Hughton feels obliged to fit him in wherever he can on the basis of him having had a canny game at West Brom; but he was playing up front in that game and that allowed him to make best use of his speed, which is clearly his main asset
- just how many stupid, pointless bookings is Nicky Butt going to pick up before he realises that lots of bookings equals suspensions, which is hardly helping the cause?
- I was pleased to see that when we got a free-kick just outside the box Ryan Taylor moved the ball back a couple of yards to give himself more room to get the ball 'up and down'; not that he did anything with it mind - how come he's got a 100% of scoring from free-kicks against us, but a 100% of not hitting the target from free-kicks for us?; still on Taylor, I'm impressed with how quickly he's picked up that difficult skill of hitting the first defender from corners; he can't do it every time yet, but I'm sure he's working on it
- why are Oba and (especially) Shola so slow at getting back after an attack breaks down?; it's so frustrating at times when we've regained possession to see them still ambling back and miles offside; thinking about it, can anyone ever recall Shola busting a gut over anything?; we had a shot in the first half against Bolton that took a slight deflection and flashed a couple of yards wide; bit it also flashed a couple of yards in front of Shola he was happy to watch it go out for the corner, whereas he should have been flinging himself full length to try to get a touch
Oh well, it looks like we'll just have to go and beat Man U on Wednesday now. Wouldn't it be nice to see them have an off day though? Arsenal played a blinder against us at their place, but they've been pants in just about every other home game this season. Liverpool were on another planet and could easily have scored double figures at St James', then they go and lose 2-nowt against the Smogs who hadn't won a game since 2003. It just goes to show that anything can happen in football.

Wot no Bob?

A feature of the Everton home game in recent years has been the Horsforth lads (Mike, Everton Bob, plus a few others) making a day of it. I assumed this season would be no different. In fact, I half expected them to be catching the same early train up to the Toon as myself, probably fully stocked up with bottles. I was therefore slightly surprised to find that they weren't on board, but I just assumed that they were taking things a bit steadier than normal with it being a Sunday game. I was then shocked part-way through the journey when Tom mentioned that Alan had called in the day before to drop off his and Mike's tickets. " What?!! Alan and Mike aren't going to the game?". Apparently Alan was staying at home to look after Cath who's convalescing after having a hip replacement (plenty of Brownie points earned there then Al). I'm still waiting for an explanation for the non-appearance of Mike and Bob.
I was always confident that we'd get at least a point from this game. I'm not sure why - possibly it's just the fact that we've got a good record against them over the years. As it turns out we never really got going, despite Everton having a few players missing and then obviously losing their best player Arteta really early on. If anything, we actually did better after going down to 10 men, with Everton hardly threatening from that point on. I was really pleased that we didn't sit back and try to just hang on for a point; if we had have done I'm absolutely convinced that we would have lost.
So it ended up as yet another home game that we failed to win. However, I'm sure most people will see it as a point won, and hopefully another point towards survival. Five points between ourselves and the bottom three looks a nice little gap, however it would only be three points if Blackburn were to win their game in hand. And of course we've got a few tricky fixtures coming up. Past form suggests that we're unlikely to pick up anything from the next two games. I would suggest though that we have to look on Bolton as a game that we can win, with a point being a decent return if that's what we end up with.

Up and running again

Webby now has a new PC and so is able to update the site again! It'll take a day or two to catch up on things, but at least the Predictions page is now up-to-date again. As well as the latest table, the page also includes the table as it was after the Mackem game so that people can see what points were picked up from that game.
National Express East Coast are currently running a "Valentines" promotion, with one-third off Advance fares booked by the end of tomorrow (Monday) for travel up to the end of April. This is obviously a cracking deal, it's just unfortunate that we can't be sure of the dates of any of our games in April yet. However, if anyone was say planning to make a weekend of the Spurs game (Tom/Jude, the Cooks??), or basically is just happy to take a gamble, then they should get booking - click on the logo. Note that you have to follow the instructions on the site to get the reduced fares, ie log in then input the promotional code LOVE09.
It goes without saying that the win at West Brom was an absolutely massive result. Apart from the result itself, the timing was brilliant with the match coming as it did before the international/cup break. Two weeks of feeling good about things should mean that team and fans should go into the Everton game in a decent frame of mind.


Given (!) our record at the ground, not many people will have been surprised by the defeat at Man City. However, it sounds like it was a pretty disastrous night - a very poor first half performance ("some players don't want the ball" - Phil Thompson) coupled with key players dropping like flies. We already had a load of players out injured, it's likely that they'll now be joined by at least a couple more. And there's no sign of anyone of any significance coming in. Taking 8-10 million off Citeh for Shay isn't bad business considering the cover we've got, but it's imperative that that money is used to bring players in. Having said that though, who of any quality is going to want to come to the Toon the way things are at the club just now?

Normal service resumed

Some of you, probably most of you in fact, will have been greeted with a screen looking like the one to the right when trying to access the site at then end of last week or start of this week. What this was all about is that I was moving the domain name from one domain name hoster to a cheaper one. If everything had gone according to plan the site would only have been down for a short time, probably a couple of hours. But it didn't! Partly it was my fault - I forgot to do something on Wednesday, and then couldn't do it until I got home from work on Thursday. But the site should still have been back up sometime on Friday. Quite why it wasn't is, and will remain, a mystery. Still, it's back now. As it happens the site was never away for anyone going in on, which has been around for a year or so in case no-one noticed. If you've got a bookmark to then I suggest you change it to .com because it's just possible that I'll get rid of at some point in the future to reduce costs
This is all a bit technical, but when I took out the .com domain name I actually physically moved the site. For years it had lived on my personal web space, provided by my service provider It's now on web space provided by, which is where the .com name is hosted. Apart from now having virtually unlimited web space to play with, there are a couple of other good things about the site being hosted on One is that it's now really easy for me to do photo albums and slideshows (have a look at the Photos page for some examples). It used to take me literally hours to do these previously. The other thing is that we can have an unlimited number of email addresses like,,, etc. If you fancy having such a prestigious email address then there are in fact two different ways I can set up. The first is where the address is just an 'alias', where anything sent to that address gets redirected to your normal email account, and you can't send emails from the address. The other is a fully featured web mail account (like Hotmail in other words). With the second option you could in fact have the best of both worlds - you can have auto-forwarding set up so that a copy of any incoming email is sent to your normal email. The drawback with the second option is that you have to tell me what password you want setting up. This means that I could in theory access your email if I wanted to. The reality is that it takes me all my time to keep up with my own email!
If you want a address then drop an email to me at You will obviously have to say what address you want! And it's first come first served for!! It doesn't cost anything to set up these addresses, but you might want to make a contribution to the cost of running the site. Currently it's all coming out my pocket!

Big Sam's lot 3  Toon 0

Strange game this. We were the better side for an hour and you couldn't see Blackburn scoring. Mind, it was pretty hard to see us scoring either. Then Blackburn were awarded a very iffy penalty and we completely disintegrated. 
A lot of people are pretty much resigned to us going down, and there's a real danger that it could happen. However, it's not a done deal, especially if everyone pulls together (paying attention Mr Barton?). I reckon we'll be ok if we can get/keep Oba and Habib Beye fit. It's scary that we appear so reliant on those two, but performances and results over the last couple of months suggest we are.
The number of YMs at this game was well down on last season for whatever reason. I caught the 10.51 train over from Leeds, along with Gordon and Hamish. The train was very quiet compared to what it would normally be for this fixture - engineering work all over the place meant that only a handful of fans had ventured down from Newcastle. Pulling into Blackburn bang on time we headed straight over the road to the Adelphi, a belting pub if you don't mind it being a bit rough around the edges. Apart from anything else I like it because of the range of hand-pulled that they have on. I tried most of them in the couple of hours we were there before the game and I can honestly say that they were all spot on! As well as myself and the Wilsons, other people of note in the Adelphi were Ian from Huddersfield (knows Round Boy well) and his two mates, Big Ish, plus Fringo and some York Mags who were on the train behind ours.
Just in case we weren't all miserable enough at the end of the game, we exited the ground to a gale force wind and heavy rain. Those who walked back to the town centre (like me!) bore a very good resemblance to drowned rats by the time they got to the Adelphi. A couple of pints later though and everyone was in much better spirits. We wandered over the road with our carry-out to catch the 10 past 6 back. As many of you know only too well, last season this was the most crowded train in the history of the world ever. This time, thanks to the engineering work, there were loads of spare seats!

All in all, a canny day out spoilt by 30 minutes.

Crap view

Plenty of black and white in the Adelphi after the game

Doing it the hard way

If we stay up (and it's definitely 'if') then it looks like it's going to go all the way to the end of the season due to our inability to win games. We're not losing many, but it would make such a difference if we could change some of those home draws to victories. Most people seemed to give us little chance against West Ham before the kick-off. This was I suppose understandable up to point considering each team's last few games. As it turned out we started quite well, and there's no disputing that we deserved the lead when we took it. And we could easily have increased that lead not long afterwards. This was despite totally wasting a succession of corners and free-kicks in dangerous areas. Step forward Geremi (again) and Guthrie.
But then it all started to go horribly wrong. Bellamy had been a threat right from the start and it was no surprise, not to mention oh so predictable, when he stuck in the equaliser. At this point we fell apart. The start of the second half was a complete shambles. It looked like the players had never seen each other before, and it was only a matter of time before West Ham took the lead. It was therefore no surprise when they did, but our "defending" for the goal was absolutely horrible. For the next 10 minutes or so I was convinced that there was no way back, and was about as low as I had been at half-time in the Birmingham away game last season. But then Charlie replaced Geremi (surely his last game for us???) and things slowly but surely turned round. In the end we were a bit unlucky not to sneak it.

To Hull and back

Watching the tame 90 minutes played out at the KC Stadium it was really difficult to see how Hull have terrorised so many teams this season; for most of the game we had loads of possession and were very comfortable. Admittedly Hull did create the better chances. I'd say a draw was therefore a fair result! Our defence looked a lot more solid with Bassong back, but of course they weren't up against Stevie Gerrard and co this week!
I'm afraid anyone hoping to read about yet another day out fraught with a catalogue of travel problems is going to be severely disappointed. In fact, everything was perfect - the train was bang on time both ways, and to make it even better most of us (but not Tom who wasn't as organised as the rest) had only paid a fiver each way. There were rumours circulating that when we arrived in Hull we were likely to be rounded up and herded into some horrible Social Club with only one person serving, as had apparently happened to a train load of Mackem fans a few weeks ago. This was backed up by the train guard saying that there would be a stack of police waiting for the train. We therefore toyed with the idea of getting off at Brough (the last stop before Hull), as Brendan and some other lads were doing. This had been arranged ages ago - Berwick Daz's brother Keith lives there and they were going to have a few pints in his local before cabbing it to the ground. In the end though only Round Boy went with the Brough option, the rest of us deciding to take our chances. As the train pulled into Hull we covered up our colours, and left the train in ones and twos so that we would hopefully not look like a load of football fans. As it happened we needn't have bothered as there were very surprisingly no police whatsoever waiting at the end of the platform! But just in case they were lulling us into a false sense of security and waiting outside to ambush us, we maintained our low profile as we left the station, with some of us leaving via a side entrance. Again though, we'd been worrying unnecessarily. Next stop Rugby Tavern!
It was Gordon who'd suggested the Rugby Tavern as the place for our pre-match session. It's a Sam Smiths pub so the beer is cheap (a bargain £1.45 for hand-pulled bitter!), and it's a 10 minute walk from the station and a bit out of the way, and therefore unlikely to be frequented by any of Hull's "boys". And so it turned out - I only saw a handful of Hull fans the whole time we were there. Toon fans though were there in good numbers; as well as ourselves there was most of the Wilson clan, and also the York Mags. We were joined later on by Bryn and Joe, who'd driven across, parked up by the ground, then trekked the mile and a half or so to the pub.
As is usually the case, all too soon it was time to sup up and go the game. Most people headed off back to the station in search of cabs. Myself though, because it was relatively early and because I'm tight and because I thought it might clear my head a bit - there hadn't been the expected (and much needed by me!) food on in the pub - decided to walk it. Mistake! It's an awful long way even if you go the shortest route, which I didn't. On the plus side though, I got to see a lot of the dingier bits of Hull, plus it probably did do me a little bit of good.
As for the ground itself, as far as I'm concerned it's the worst of all the cheap and cheerful grounds that have sprung up over the last dozen or so years. It's in the middle of nowhere, very small apart from the main stand, and the facilities are as ever totally inadequate; apparently the people who design football grounds still haven't realised that football fans, especially away fans, tend to drink beer before the game and will therefore need appropriate toilet capacity.
The walk back to the city centre seemed to go on for ever after the game, but it still left time for a quick one in a pub near the station. Then we stocked up with beer and food and boarded the train. The chaos and overcrowding we'd been expecting didn't materialise, despite the train only having two carriages. Tom had been told on the outward journey that without a reservation he wouldn't be allowed on ("There's a football match on you know"), but he had no problem. I suspect though it would have been a different story if there hadn't been replacement buses operating between Newcastle and York which must have persuaded a lot of people to travel by car or coach instead of train.

Scenic walk

Finally made it!

Decent view, crap ground

Very, very messy spare ribs

Total shambles

JFK has to take the blame for the humiliating capitulation against Liverpool. His Wimbledon team never showed anyone any respect, and I'd hoped that he would instil that sort of mentality into our lot. Instead we went into this game thinking that the best we could do was to sit back and soak up Liverpool's pressure and somehow sneak something at the other end. That tactic might have fluked us a draw at Chelsea, but no-one in their right mind could expect to get away with it again, especially missing our best two defenders on current form. From the kick-off we were playing 10-15 yards too deep. This gave Liverpool all the room in the world to pass it around at the back and then pass it straight through us. It was obvious after 15 minutes, by which time we could have been 3 or 4 down, that we had to change, but nothing happened. Even when we went behind nothing changed. I think I can safely say that the first half was the worst 45 minutes I've ever seen from the Toon in my 40 years plus of watching them. Things improved a bit after half-time. Shola gave us a semblance of physical presence up front, and the rest of the team pushed further forward. Obviously we conceded another three goals in the second half, but at least we matched Liverpool possession wise and territorially, and could quite easily have scored 2 or 3 ourselves.
The only good thing to come out of the game was that the fans kept behind the team and (on the whole) stuck it out to the end. It was a bit like the "good old days" the way that the noise level increased after we went 4-1 and 5-1 down. So much better than against Pompey and Liverpool last season!

Bah humbug

There was a time in the dim and distant past when I used to really enjoy away games on Boxing Day. But that was when we occasionally used to win, and before we were forced to go to dumps like Bolton and Wigan - soulless grounds with inadequate facilities in the middle of industrial estates. At least now we've finally scored at the JJB 'stadium'. And at least this year's performance wasn't anything like as bad as last year's. I'd be more than happy if I never had to go back to the place though.
It wasn't a good day all round. Apart from the injuries and suspensions that we picked up, the result means we could now really do with getting something out of the Liverpool game. If we don't then we're going to be under an awful lot of pressure going into the run of critical league games that we've got coming up after the distraction of the FA Cup tie at Hull.
In case anyone's wondering what happened to the report (or whatever you want to call it) on the Spurs game, there just wasn't time for it with all the socialising I had on over the subsequent few days. Anyway, suffice to say I was over the moon to once again get one over on that lot. The fact that we hardly deserved to win just makes it that much sweeter! Their fans are just so full of themselves, exemplified to the tosser that me and Aaaarooonnaa had the misfortune to bump into on the train back to Leeds. Mind, Aaaarrrooonnnaa played right into his hands when the bloke tried to wind us by reminding us (just in case we needed reminding) that we've never won anything in the last 50 years. "What have you lot won like?" was Aaarrrooonnaa's response. Their League Cup victory last season had obviously slipped his mind!

Top class

Well, what a great performance and result that was at Fratton Park! It's some reward for those who travelled all the way down to the Toon for such a ridiculous kick-off time. I was looking at the league table before the game and thinking that, with the difficulty we've had digging out wins this season, we were in real danger of becoming entrenched in the bottom three. We haven't played like a relegation side the last couple of months, but if you're stuck down there for long enough then it's bound to get to the players eventually. The performance against Pompey should though give the players a massive lift. Instead on people focusing on a run of only two wins in 15 games, as it might have been, it's now only one defeat in 8 games! We've taken thirteen points from those eight games. The same return from the next eight games will do me nicely.
To be fair, I can't comment on the first 25 minutes of the game as Internet Explorer kept crashing on me. The first five minutes I did see were a bit worrying as it was all Portsmouth. However, from that point on we gave as good as we got and it was obvious that we hadn't gone down there just for a point. Even after we scored the first we kept pushing forward whenever we could. There was a long time left on the clock though! At one point, with about 20 minutes to go, Portsmouth had a few quick corners in succession. If that's how the the rest of the match was going to pan out I couldn't see us hanging on. We had no real problem with those corners though, and that was the last sustained pressure we had to endure. The second goal killed off Pompey and we strolled the rest of the match. Fittingly I was half-way though a bottle of Bateman's Victory Ale when the final whistle went!
Everyone played well. Charlie and Oba in particular caused their defence some real problems, and Jonas had his best game yet from an attacking perspective. Even Enrique looked like he might be the real deal, apart from one lapse when he allowed Defoe a chance at 1-0 that he would normally have buried.
While the result moves us nicely up the table, we're obviously still only one point off the relegation zone. However, there's now some real daylight between us and the bottom two. West Brom are looking odds-on to go down, while Blackburn need to turn things round quickly otherwise they'll be joining the Baggies; hopefully they'll stick with Paul Ince because he's doing a fine job at the moment. Just to confirm how tight the table is, if we'd have held out for victories in the last two home games then we might have been in 8th place now and thinking about possibly sneaking into Europe.
Here's Big Issue's report on the weekend for those that haven't seen it on the message board:

Just thought that I’d update you on the Tales of the Totally Expected that occurred over the weekend.
My train from Liverpool to Euston took a mere six hours to get there on Saturday going via Manchester, Stockport, Stoke, Birmingham, Coventry and Northampton. Apparently this was due to “flooding in Gloucester”. Nah I can’t figure that one out either! It was certainly pi$$ing down in London though as I discovered when I found out that there are two Kings Cross Travelodges and I went to the wrong one. Unfortunately the Blacklock chap had told me to walk into room 511 which I duly did. Doubly unfortunately the rather tasty Italian bint who lived in the right room in the wrong hotel unlocked the door and, thinking it was her mate that she was letting in, promptly returned to the shower. When she discovered that I wasn’t her mate she took it rather badly. Departing the wrong hotel slightly before security arrived I arrived in the right hotel looking like a drowned rat when I discovered that the North East brigade’s journey had been no less eventful and they’d got some poor smoggie arrested for being pi$$ed and sexually harassing passengers (how any of us ever arrive at the match I’ve no idea!). Apparently he’d been chucked off the flight from Smogland to Heathrow where he was travelling onwards to South Africa. Needless to say he was a guest of Her Majesty at the time he was meant to be departing Heathrow. Very expensive.
The good news was that Brendan had booked three taxis to take us to Leicester Square at 8.45. The bad news was that they charged twenty quid each and the journey took an hour. This was too much for Gordano who went hyper and started ranting that this was ridiculous and we should have got the tube and that Brendan was a twat, well everyone was a twat and we should have gone to Camden and we could all fvck off. It was also too much for Darren’s bladder and he actually convinced the taxi driver to let him out in the middle of the West End so that he could pi$$ in some posh shop’s doorway.
We finally arrived in Wetherspoons and amazingly nothing at all untoward happened. However for some reason we then decided to move to another pub. The only difference from the previous pub appeared to be that it was twice as expensive. On the way out Berwick Daz encountered some c0ckney tw^t beating up his missus and asked him politely to stop it. At this point the c0ckney tw^t made a bad life choice and asked Daz what he would do if he didn’t. Two seconds later c0ckney twa^t’s nose and face became separate items and beaten wife then attacked Berwick Daz. Daz was heard yelling “fvck off Barbara Windsor” and somehow Joanne ended up having a fight with her.
Whilst everyone else pi$$ed off to a night club (ten quid in, $hit beer, $hit talent and Youth Squad got relieved of their fake ID by the bouncers) me and Gordon decided to call it a day. Gordon was a bit relaxed by now. When I tried to get through the barrier I discovered that my Oyster card needed topping up. I told Gordon to stay where he was and left him like a grinning fool by the barrier. Needless to say when I got back he was gone. Found out later that he’d fallen asleep on the last tube and woken up in ####fosters wherever the fvck that is. One twenty quid taxi fare later………………….
Meanwhile I got back to the hotel OK and bought a kebab. Took it to the room and fell asleep before eating it. Woke up later – no kebab. Found out later that the thieving seagull Tommy had nicked it and shared it with Darren.

Next day got a group ticket at Waterloo and had an uneventful pi$$ up in the pub before the match (apart from Youth Squad who couldn’t get in cos they no longer had any fake ID). After the match got the train from Fratton assuming that little Paul was getting on behind me with the group ticket. Wrong! The tw^t had got on a different train. Twenty minutes later I was relieved of fifty two quid by the ##### ticket inspector (£25 penalty fare and £27 Open Single) and this was on top of the £15 I’d already paid. I did start a full and frank discussion with her but she started saying something about foul and abusive language and zero tolerance at which point I produced a credit card.
Apart from that nothing much happened……………………………………..

Stoke horror show

After going in at half-time with a two goal lead and looking totally in control, just what went wrong in the second half? The substitutions had a lot to do with it. The first one was presumably enforced. Without a single midfielder amongst the seven players on the bench (it's worrying that there's apparently no-one playing in midfield for the reserves considered good enough to step up), JK's options were limited. After the game a few people were saying that he should have brought on Viduka and played 4-3-3. Fair comment in hindsight, but did anyone say that at the time? I thought moving Beye forward into midfield looked reasonable. After all, he's decent pushing forward from full-back, and he's comfortable on the ball. In the event he didn't get going in the second half. The second substitution is for me the one that did the real damage. Oba had been a real handful for the Stoke defence all game with his movement and probing runs. Ok, Owen had scored two scored two, but as soon as Oba went off we lost an outlet. From that point on we had zero going forward, not helped by the fact that the fat Aussie contributed absolutely nowt. Then came the last substitution. Replacing a midfielder with a defender when you're a goal up with 10 minutes or whatever it was to go just sends out a message to the other team that you're struggling to hold on. It gave Stoke a lift, and from then on in it looked like it was really only a matter of time. Again it doesn't help when the replacement doesn't get into the game.
The last two home games we've conceded a late equaliser from a set piece, and each time it's a defender's scored it. I'm not alone in thinking that the solution is to always leave at least two players forward. If you do then the opposition is always going to use three or more defenders to keep an eye on them. This has got to make it harder for the attacking team to score, plus if the ball's cleared there's a decent chance it won't come straight back in. Mind, JK's not the only Toon manager to pull everyone back for set pieces, and we're certainly not the only team to do it.

Smog on the Tees

Although the final score was the same, this game was quite a lot different to Chelsea. Or at least it started out quite a lot different. We piled forward straight from the kick-off, and it was 3 or 4 minutes before Boro even got into our half. Unfortunately though we gradually lost momentum from that point on. We were definitely the better side in the first half, but didn't do much going forward after half-time. It didn't help that JFK decided to take off the only player on our team who'd looked remotely like scoring. Quite why he preferred to leave on the largely anonymous EMO will forever remain a mystery.
Our normal policy when playing in Smogland is to have a few pints outside the town (Thornaby when we've driven, or Darlo in recent years when we've been on the train) and then travel in as late as possible. However, I decided to give Hogans cheap beer a miss this year and catch a train direct to Boro. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it cost an extra 12 quid to go via Darlo, which seemed a lot to me. On top of that I hate the shuttle from Darlo to Boro (think of those cattle trucks carrying Jews and you'll get the general idea). And I'm convinced that one year the train won't turn up. Arriving in Middlesbrough a couple of hours' drinking time before kick-off was going to be a novel experience for me considering that I'd never been inside a pub in Middlesboro in my life.
As the train headed north from York towards Thirsk the fog was that bad that I thought there was a serious risk of the match being called off. And even if visibility was technically good enough for it to go ahead, anyone stood behind the goal wasn't going to be able to see much, if any, of what was happening at the other end of the pitch. It wasn't long though before we exited the fog into bright sunshine.
With my minimal knowledge of pre-match drinking possibilities I had only a rough plan on where to head for a pint. I knew that some lads would be in Doctor Browns. However, with this being (I think) the closest pub to the ground I wasn't sure how safe it would be in there, as I'd expect the Boro thugs to be on the lookout for Toon fans. I therefore decided to first investigate the Isaac Wilson, a Spoons pub near the station. Again, I was a bit wary with the pub being only about 400 yards up the road from the station and therefore possibly being a hang-out for the Boro lads. There are though three or four downmarket pubs nearer to the station, and I suspect that these are the pubs to definitely avoid. Nevertheless I was fully zipped up as I did a quick tour of Spoons to check out the clientele. On the whole they appeared to be pretty normal, apart from the two heads obviously, with a mix of shoppers, families, and Boro fans. There was also the odd Toon fan in there, and nobody seemed particularly bothered about them being there, so I got myself a pint of Oracle (which turned out to be a fine pint!), pulled down my zip a bit, and settled down to watch a bit of Sky Sports News. It wasn't long before my Toon top attracted the attention of a couple of nearby Boro fans (husband and wife, about my age), and next thing you know we're having a good natter about the match and the world in general. The bloke's Boro top had "Boro 8 Geordies" on the back, but he works with a load of Toon fans and had only done it to wind them up. A couple of pints later and, being in a reasonably friendly pub selling good beer, I decided that I'd skip Doctor Browns. But then out of nothing the Boro fan suddenly told me to zip up; he'd spotted some Boro thugs wandering about the pub talking on their mobiles and clearly on the lookout for Toon fans. He was happy to admit that he'd been a bit of a lad in his day, but he was older and wiser, and of course times have changed, and he wasn't at all happy about what these lads were up to. He was actually very scathing about some Boro fans he knew who were in their 50s and who still go around looking for trouble. It seemed touch and go for a bit, not for me, but potentially for the handful of other Toon fans in the pub who were oblivious to what was going on. The Boro bloke at one point came back from the toilet. He'd been talking to one of the thugs while he was away, and he reckoned that the lad was saying that he might batter one particular Toon fan, for no reason other than that he was there. Charming. Nothing happened though. Nevertheless the Boro couple were quite concerned for my safety and were very keen that I should walk up to the ground with them. I considered doing so until they decided at around 2 that they were setting off for the ground. I didn't really fancy being in the ground before half 2, so I told them thanks very much but I'll have another pint and take my chances. A pint later I left the pub and set off for the ground with no sign of any Boro fans looking to pick off Toon fans. I didn't get far though before I hit a problem - the train from Darlo had obviously just pulled in and the Toon fans who'd been on it were getting escorted at snails' pace to the ground with a big no-go zone in front and behind them. It looked like I might struggle to get in before kick-off until I spotted some Boro fans doing a detour to get past the blockage, and so I followed them.
Once inside the ground it was pleasing to see we'd been given the whole away section. So after a few years of cutting our allocation because of persistent standing Boro have finally given up. They're not the only club. It's very noticeable that we don't receive those "You stand to lose" leaflets with away tickets any more, plus they no longer bother with those announcements telling us not to stand. It therefore looks like that particular battle has been won. They just need to go one step further and make it official, and then they can give fans the option of sitting or standing. At the moment anyone who wants to sit at an away game is knackered.
I'd stupidly booked a ticket on the five o'clock train back to Leeds. I say "stupidly" in hindsight. When I booked it I didn't fancy the alternative of having to hang around in Boro waiting for the next train, which was over an hour later. In reality I would have been quite happy to have gone back to Spoons after the game for another couple of pints of Oracle. But it wasn't to be. Instead I had to leave the ground 30 seconds before the final whistle (shocking!) and jog all the way back to the station. I only made it with a minute to spare, not enough time to get some beer in. So not really the most intelligent bit of travel planning of my life.
PS  Am I turning into a grumpy old man, or is the paedo thing getting very predictable and boring? Like Keano and his dog it might have initially been a bit amusing, but it's not any more. Time to move on I'd suggest.

I'll take that

After the Wigan game our Paul came out with this classic: "If you can't beat Wigan at home you go down. Simple as that." Applying similar logic he'd presumably say something like "Any team that avoids defeat at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge will finish in the top six. Simple as that." To be honest this was nothing like the Man Utd draw where we gave them a real game. Apart from 10 minutes before half-time we never had a kick against Chelsea. Literally. For the first 30 minutes of the second half we only got anywhere near their penalty area once. It's a fact that we've played better at Stamford Bridge and lost 6-0. What I would say though is that we defended reasonably well, and for all their pressure Chelsea had few clear-cut chances. I'd probably go for Bassong as the pick of the back four, closely followed by Beye

I never normally have a go at players during the game, but I have to confess that I swore at Nicky Butt during this one. Or at least I swore at the screen, but you know what I mean. It was not that far from the end of the game and for the first time in absolutely ages we'd strung 3 or 4 passes together (very short passes admittedly), and I actually said out loud "That's better". But then Butt, under absolutely no pressure, played a casual pass back to Beye without looking. Except that he put it behind Beye, and it let Chelsea in. Fortunately they didn't capitalise on the opportunity. I just lost it though, it was just so p!ss poor from such an experienced player.

Wigan woes

This was a pretty bad day all round. I'd been really looking forward to the game - a rare Saturday 3 o'clock kick-off, with an early arrival in the Toon and a good session. Well that was the theory anyway. Reality set in when I arrived at Leeds station to find that there were delays and cancellation all over the place. It seemed to be down to a combination of 'vandalism' (someone had pinched a load of cable) and equipment problems. For myself it meant that the 5 past 10 train wasn't expected until 25 past. That went back to 10.34, then 10.42. At this point I decided that I'd better get myself a can for the train if I wasn't going to be getting to Spoons until well after 12. Five minutes later, accompanied by said can, I checked the board to see what the latest ETA for my train was, only to see no sign of it. My first thought was that it had somehow caught up 10 minutes and been and gone while I was away can hunting, but I soon decided that couldn't have been the case. Subsequent enquiries revealed that the train had been cancelled! Very strange, and, in any case, why couldn't they have shown that info on the departures board? Much later I found out that what they meant by 'cancelled' was that they'd been having technical problems with the train, and so at some point they'd taken it out of service and put all the passengers on the train behind. If I hadn't have been on a cheapie advance ticket my strategy at this point would have been to jump on the first train to York. Or at least it would have been if there'd been any train to jump on; from when I arrived at the station at 5 to 10 the first train of any sort to York didn't leave until about 5 to 11 because of all the problems. As it happens I had to wait for the 5 past 11 because of my ticket. This was of course the train which loads of other YMs were catching. When it pulled in, more or less on time surprisingly, it was pretty chocka. And it was even fuller by the time it left Leeds. The outcome of this was that for most people it was standing room only all the way up. As if things weren't bad enough already, the train crawled all the way to York and then sat outside for 5 minutes outside the station waiting for a platform. As a result it was nearly one o'clock by the time we finally made it to the Toon. Not quite the start to the day that I'd had in mind.

As for the match, we nearly scraped a win that we didn't really deserve. I'd certainly say that Wigan didn't deserve to lose. They played well throughout, and even the really bad piece of refereeing that reduced them to 10 men didn't knock them out their stride. I fully expected them to shut up shop at that point, but they didn't, and in fact very nearly scored a second long before we eventually got ourselves back in the game. Despite Owen's glaring miss I'd say that he showed enough to get a start next game. I can't somehow see us playing with three strikers at Stamford Bridge though. A tricky one for the manager!

The trains back to Leeds were as bad as the trains up had been. The 17.38, which most people had gone for, pulled out an hour and a bit after it should have; any later and Tom would have been late for his gig in Guiseley. My train, the 18.41, was only about 10 minutes late. Of course it managed to lose more time on the journey. A bad end to a bad day.

Bad day at the office

There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would have come back from Craven Cottage with at least a point if we'd have set out to try to win the game. Instead it was like the bad old days of Big Sam - playing a team who are in the bottom three and who struggle to score goals, and setting out not to lose. That approach almost made some sense back in the dim and distant days of two points for a win, but in the three points for a win era it's a no-brainer for me that you should always aim to get maximum points, and settle for one if that's what you end up with.

basically blamed the defeat on our tactics, I have to concede that we probably wouldn't have lost if Stevie Taylor had been playing. Presumably he was missing because of illness or injury - bloody Sod's Law just when the defence was starting to look much more solid. And just when I thought our luck was finally starting to change and we get away with Shola being offside for the equaliser, Andy Johnson doesn't get pulled up for a blatant push on Cacapa a second before he gets tripped by Collocini for the penalty. Grrrrrr!

Anyway, just as the Villa win didn't suddenly make us a great team, dropping back into the bottom three after Fulham shouldn't mean all doom and gloom. We are after all only two points off the top half of the table. And on top of that, there are a few clubs around us in the table who are having pretty horrendous runs at the moment, amongst them Citeh, West Ham, and our old friends Sunlun of course.

Thanks Joe

Let's face it, a lot of us were to say the least underwhelmed when JFK was appointed. And fans of other clubs made it clear that they thought it was hilarious. However, he's so far proved a lot of people wrong and done a great job of turning things around. The measure of how well he's done is that people have on the whole stopped talking about KK coming back as being a must . Ok, Joe's been helped by players returning from injury and suspension, but he's also got the team looking like a unit for the first time in absolutely ages. Added to that he's unearthed three players I didn't know we had. I mentioned two of these after the West Brom game, but I'm going to give them another bigger mention now! Firstly there's Shola. I have to confess I'd long ago given up on him, but now all of a sudden he's looking like the player he suggested he could be when he first broke into the first team all those years ago; from being clueless in the air he's now winning loads, plus he's rediscovered his dribbling skills. And he looks fired up! Then there's Duff. He had shown signs of improvement earlier in the season, but the last few games he's really starting to look an asset. There still needs to be more end product, but he's always available as as an outlet, and he's a real handful for the opposing defence. Last and not least is Enrique. Some of his distribution was still very wayward, but against Villa he had for me easily his best game defensively for the Toon. For far too long we've chopped and changed the team for no apparent reason. The last few games we've made minimal changes and we're starting to see the benefit, particularly at the back; Taylor's looking much more solid, and Collocini's redisplaying his early season form. As a result Villa didn't cause us anything like the problems I thought they might. They had a couple of great chances in the first half (as did we), but never got going after half-time. I thought our first goal would stir them into action, but if anything it was us that got better.

Despite the league table having a much better look about it after the Villa game, we shouldn't get carried away; we're still only a point off the relegation zone, we've played one more home game than away game, and we've had a pretty decent run of fixtures since the Arsenal game. Having said that, we've got a few more winnable games coming up. Get two or three more wins from them and we can start looking upwards instead of downwards

Changing the subject
completely, I've fixed a couple of things with the site in the last day or two. Firstly, I only realised very recently that the 'Videos' menu link hasn't been working for the last few months; it's ok again now though. Also, I'd been aware for some time that the search function wasn't working properly; this wasn't down to me, but to some change that Google had made. Well I've done a bit of digging today and found a new improved site search facility that Google provide, and so the search now works better than ever! You should therefore have no problem finding that feature from years ago about JT's Countdown appearance, or that Pud article about Wheely's stay at Wilson Towers.

Toon 2  Baggies 1

If ever there was a game of two halves this was it. We started off like a house on fire, and continued to play some really good stuff and to create chances until the break. When half-time came I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking that we just had to keep doing the same things in the second half and we'd end up with an easy win. What happened during the break I'm not sure. Perhaps Joe decided to try to keep it tight in the second half, or perhaps the players had too much time to think about how important the result was and suddenly got all nervous. Whatever it was, we just never got going in the second half. I don't think the substitutions helped either - replacing Jonas with Geremi was only ever going to give West Brom a lift, as was taking off an attacking player who's a real handful (Oba). Anyway, we just about managed to hold out, not helped by the ref's creative timekeeping (4 minutes added time????).

The result took us out of the bottom 3, although we'll probably be back down there after Wednesday's matches. I'm confident though that it won't be long before we're well clear of the drop zone. In fact, we would probably never have been down there in the first place if we'd have had anything like a full strength squad available throughout. Now that players are coming back we suddenly look to have more than enough quality. On top of that we've 'gained' a couple of decent players in Duff and Ameobi. Will someone please explain the offside rule to Shola though?!!

A black day in the Toon's history

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates recently. This is mainly because a few weeks back I decided, probably stupidly in hindsight, to rip out and replace the shower in my en-suite. Never having attempted anything like it before in my life, this little project is currently totally dominating my existence.

I took a day off from DIY to go to the Mackem match. I had at one point intended giving the game a miss for various reasons. I never enjoy derby games, although I've obviously often enjoyed the result in recent years. I decided in the end to go when I realised it's our only Saturday game in about two months, even if it was a stupid early kick-off. The day didn't start well for most of us travelling up to the Toon by train. Myself and the Hutchings were on the 08.12 train out of Leeds. It was running late though, which meant that we missed our connection at York. However, it was no big deal because there was a train just behind it, which Tom happened to be on, which we were able to jump on. Fringo wasn't as fortunate. His train from Bradford to Leeds was seriously delayed due to a cow on the track in Thackley tunnel! This resulted in his whole journey being screwed up.

Spoons was once again packed out with all the thugs and wannabe thugs who were getting the train over to mackemland. It quietened down nicely though once they'd all left, and those of us catching the Metro over were able to enjoy another couple of pints before we had to set off. The Metro again proved the best way of getting over there, although there was a heavy police presence for the first time. Getting back after the game was a bit hit and miss. Most of our lot joined the escort back to St Peter's Metro station. Apparently it was like a war zone as the police attempted to clear a way through the home fans. Meanwhile I made my way back to the Stadium of Light station and was enjoying a pint in Spoons while the others were still dodging missiles!

Realistically we had to lose at Sunderland sometime, but I've been absolutely dreading it actually happening. But now that it has happened I'm relieved in a way. They've obviously been under more and more pressure every year to beat us, but at the same time we've been under increasing pressure to keep our run going. That's all finished now though, and in future we can concentrate on beating them rather than on not losing!

Slightly better

On a day when we might well have ended up bottom of the league it was very welcome to see us actually move up a place. In theory it seemed the ideal time to be facing Everton, with them having lost all three previous home games this season and having been knocked out of the UEFA Cup in midweek. I didn't really see it that way though. Certainly I didn't think that their defeat against Standard Liege meant an awful lot. In fact I'm still trying to get my head around how they ended up playing such a good team in the first round rather than a load of part-timers from Finland or Cyprus. Well yes I know it's all down to UEFA coefficients, and clearly Belgian sides must have been absolutely pants in Europe over the last 5 seasons, and Liege haven't played at all, but Everton can still consider themselves extremely unlucky.

Anyway, back to the game. We really must stop giving away soft goals and giving the opposition a couple of goals start. I was watching the game on a feed on my PC and I had a frustrating first half. Apart from the two goals conceded, the feed kept dropping out. This possibly wasn't a bad thing because in the bits that I saw we didn't look good most of the time. Then they bizarrely cut to adverts after 44 and a half minutes. I spent half-time trying to pick up a better feed, but couldn't find one. The second half kicked off, I was dead pleased to see Duff score, and even more pleased to discover that it was the equaliser! The feed worked perfectly throughout the second half, during which we were much the better side. I expected them to cut to adverts before the game finished, but it didn't happen. I also expected Everton to score a trademark late winner, and that didn't happen either!

I saw a few things in the game to give me reason for optimism. The first was Duff looking good for the second game in a row. Also, having Guthrie back seemed to make a big difference to our midfield. Taylor getting forward from right back gave us something that we haven't had for a few games, and which we can expect to see more of once Beye returns.

Things can only get better?

It was a case of deja vu with the Blackburn game - poor defending, a lack of creativity, no-one looking like scoring other than Owen. To make matters worse our most creative player on the day (Charlie) picked up a knock which may or may not force him to miss the next game. Just about the only bright spot was Duff in the second half looking something like the player he used to be at Blackburn.

Poor as we've been the last few games, it's a fact that we've been right out of luck; two offside goals, a wicked deflection, a penalty that wasn't, plus a stone wall penalty not awarded is a bit much in only 3 games. I'm looking forward to when it starts to even itself out!

What difference will Joe Kinnear make? No idea. But surely things can't get any worse. Can they? It would help if we had a few more players available. Guthrie should by my reckoning be back for the Everton game, but we need more than him. I suspect though that a few players don't want to come back the just now and are spinning out their injuries.

The last straw

No I'm not talking about the Spurs performance and result, disappointing to say the least as they were, but the rumours that Venables might be appointed as caretaker manager. I'm tempted not to give the rumours too much credence considering that he's been linked to just about every vacant manager position in the country for the last 27 years, including a few at the Toon. However, you can just see it happening. It would be Ashley's way of getting back at the fans for the 'Cockney mafia' stuff. Let's face it, if as it appears being a Cockney geezer is the main requirement for getting a job with Ashley, then Venables is the epitome of it.

It's incredible how we've gone from being a confident team playing good football to a the current mess between the second and third rounds of the League Cup. It obviously doesn't help that we've got a load of players unavailable, but the transformation just confirms that football is largely about confidence. Look at Coloccini. He looked so good the first couple of games, now he's all over the place. I'm really hoping it's just a blip, otherwise he'll be the latest in a long line of centre backs who we've paid a lot of money for but who have turned out to be crap - specifically Bramble, Boumsong, Cacapa and Rozenhal. Clearly the sooner that we get things sorted out at the club the better. Just as long as Terry Venables isn't involved anywhere along the line.

Too little, too late

I've only been watching football for 40 years and obviously have a lot to learn about the game. For instance, I would have said that starting with a midfield of Cacapa, Butt, Geremi and Duff was a recipe for disaster, and would have given Gonzales a start after his bright display coming on as sub last week. Fortunately though Chris Hughton clearly knows a lot more about the game than me. And it certainly paid off, didn't it! Ok we didn't get the breaks at West Ham - their first goal relied on a massive deflection and their third was offside (the initial ball down the right), while we had a couple of decent penalty shouts ignored. However, we just didn't play well enough overall to get anything out of the game. Coloccini had a shocking first half, but improved massively second half. Cisco had a much better game than last week, but with little end product.

At least the Toon fans were on fine form at Upton Park, giving good support throughout. A few left as soon as the third goal went in, but that seemed to galvanise those who stayed into upping the noise level. That seemed to be picked up by the players, and our best spell of the game ensued, culminating in Owen's well-taken goal. If we'd have managed to score a second then West Ham could well have folded, but it wasn't to be.

Here's a brain teaser. How did Tom and Jude get away with not only travelling back on a different train to that which they had tickets for, but also sitting in First Class the entire journey?

Another fine mess

No doubt there'll be a lot of people celebrating the news that MA has decided to sell up. Well I'm not. While I hold him largely responsible for the events of the last couple of weeks, he's done a lot of good things over the last year or so. I honestly think that he has throughout done what he believed to be in the best long-term interests of the club. And apart from obviously paying off a stack of the club's debt, we've seen loads of welcome initiatives under his ownership:
- the introduction of the singing section
- the 'friends and family' facility for away tickets
- on-line ticket sales
- more imaginative ticket pricing
- free beer!
He's made mistakes though. Appointing KK was one. Not communicating his financial strategy to the fans was probably a bigger one. If he'd explained a few weeks back that he was only committed to subsidising the club to the tune of 20 million a year then I'm sure people's transfer expectations would have been very different, and sympathy for KK (Beckham, Lampard, et alia!!!) in much shorter supply.

So where do we go from here? The numpties you see on Sky Sports News will no doubt assume we'll have a new owner tomorrow, Keegan will come back the next day, and we'll all live happily ever after. Meanwhile back in the real world we're looking for someone with quarter of a billion pounds to spare and who doesn't mind getting a load of abuse into the bargain. That narrows it down a bit. And then if they're not prepared to write off more than 20 million a year we're financially in a worse position than we are now. And what about a manager? No-one who's half-decent and in their right mind will come in at the moment knowing that a new owner might replace them with their own choice.

Never a dull moment following the Toon.

Carry On Cocking Up

I received an email this morning (no doubt I wasn't the only one) saying "Newcastle United have renamed their ground 'Sid James Park'...  Because of all the carry on!  Boom boom." It's right though, isn't it. I can't believe Mike Ashley's allowed things to reach this stage. He's sacked one manager after a few months, appointed the dream ticket as his replacement, and then put in place a structure which constrained him in a way which he was never going to accept. Like everyone else I was concerned (not to mention bewildered) when Wise arrived at the club. Still, I consoled myself with the fact that the impending appointment (if not the actual appointee) was supposedly made aware to Keegan before he took the job, so he must have been reasonably ok with the situation. And my understanding was that as far as transfers were concerned Keegan would say what sort of player he wanted, then Wise would do all the donkey work of watching players and working out who was available, but it was Keegan who had the final say. This made some sense to me - football's changed and it's unrealistic nowadays to expect one person to do everything. But it seems that Keegan ultimately had little or no say in who we bought or sold. It might be how it works in other countries, but it's not how it works here! And the problem we've got now is that there's hardly anyone out there who's any good who will be prepared to take over from KK. Shearer's the only appointment that could possibly placate the fans, but he's another one who would insist on being allowed to manage on his terms. The alternative is to bring in a foreign manager coach (Spanish no doubt) who will be happy to work within a continental-type set-up. But that's hardly going to appease the masses.

What a shambles.

Gooners 3  Toon 0

... and we were lucky to get nil! When you come up against Arsenal on a day when they're on form the last thing you need on the rare occasion you get possession is surrendering it cheaply. But that's exactly what happened on countless occasions, especially in the early stages. The game wasn't 2 minutes old when I shouted "F**k off Shola!" at the telly (one of the good things about watching games on the box is that it's ok to slag off our players) when he stumbled over the ball and gifted possession to Arsenal. He wasn't the only one mind. It's not so bad when a player's under severe pressure or is trying a difficult pass, but failing to complete a simple 10 yard pass when under no pressure is inexcusable, not to mention incomprehensible. And what about that time when we won a free-kick not far outside their box and Charlie blasted it into orbit? I couldn't hazard a guess as to what he was trying to do. Although I don't rate Milner that highly, at least you could count on him not giving the ball away cheaply; we could have done with him in this game!

Despite the performance and result, I don't think we should read to much into it. I certainly don't go along with After the Coventry game it was all "feel good factor", now suddenly it's all doom and gloom and we've got no chance of finishing in the top half. Let's look at some facts:
- we're in the middle of the table despite the toughest start of any team in the league
- we've got one more point than most people would have expected at this point
- we've played the first three games with loads of players missing
- we're only 3 points off the top of the table!!

A lot of people are clearly concerned about the size/quality of the squad and the lack of signings. The time to judge though is after the transfer window closes. There are a load of clubs (including Man U) who are in a similar position to ourselves. If we can get another 2 or players of decent quality in then we'll have a reasonable squad. And if we can pick up another one like Spiderman I'll be more than happy. He's one player who can hold his head up after the mauling at the Emirates.

Through - but not by much

I'm not sure just what to make of the Coventry game! At times we played some great stuff, we had millions of shots and corners, and yet we might have lost. At least it was a great game for the masses of Toon fans who made the trip, such a contrast to that game at Wigan a couple of seasons back. And the extra time (courtesy of some extravagant timekeeping by the ref - I was quite happy for him to add a bit on the to original 2 mins stoppage time, but he really should have blown as soon as the throw-in was taken) gave EMO an extra 30 minutes to improve his match fitness. On the subject of Owen, despite him scoring the winner I thought our play deteriorated after he came on. Up to that point we'd been very fluid up front and Coventry found it difficult to defend against it, but with Owen on we stuck to a rigid front formation (Milner wide right, Charlie wide left, and Owen in the middle), which was a lot more predictable.

Anyway, it keeps our treble dreams alive (only joking!!), plus the three goals we scored means that four of the people I'm up against in the Predictions competition can't now score points on the League Cup goals bonus question. So all in all not a bad night.

Toon 1  Trotters 0

There can't be many Toon fans who wouldn't have settled for four points from the first two games. It means we can go to The Emirates under little or no pressure. Even if we lose we'll still be in the middle of the table having got two bogey games out of the way. Mind, we should be going there fancying ourselves to get at least a draw the way Arsenal have started.

There's a p!ss-take about Bolton in the new Mag. One of the things it says is that Jaaskelainen would be time-wasting during the warm-up. P!ss-take or
no p!ss-take, that's pretty much how it was. Even when in the second half Bolton looked the more likely winners, they just couldn't not play for 0-0. So it was doubly pleasing to beat them. We'll never know for certain, but I just couldn't see us coming back if Nolan had stuck away their penalty. And I have to confess that I was resigned to us going behind because let's face it Shay's penalty record is absolute pants. But save it he did, and then our subs made the most of it by combining for the winner. It's mystifying that Geremi can put in those fantastic diagonal crosses, yet he can't take a corner to save his life!

Our Paul isn't at all impressed with the new location of the away section because it's closer to where he is. I'm very happy with it though - I can't see them or hear them from where I am! Having said that, I don't think I would have heard the Bolton fans if they'd been in the row behind me with such a pathetic turn-out. On the subject of turn-outs, the attendance was obviously a major disappointment. However, I think it's just a sign of the times - Man U didn't sell out last week despite having won the league and Champions League last season. As ticket prices (not to mention players' wages) go up and up despite all the extra TV money, and it gets ever easier to watch games in pubs and on the net, it's only natural that fans will get more fickle when it comes to attending matches. My big hope is that gates will drop to a level where they have to significantly cut ticket prices. I'm not holding my breath though.

Just rewards

So the Toon are looking to cut their wage bill? Seems to me that a good place to start would be to get a certain Alan Smith off the payroll as quickly Ok we rode our luck at times, especially in the first half, but no-one can seriously say we didn't deserve a point at Old Trafford (sorry, make that "The Theatre of Dreams"). I put the performance and result down to two things. Firstly, we went there clearly believing that we could get a result, such a contrast from the attitude in recent seasons where it's been a matter of trying to hang out for a 0-0, and failing that keep the score down. But also it was ("He's here, he's there, he's every fcuking where, Spiderman, Spiderman") Gutierrez - what a fantastic league debut he had. I can't remember the last time I saw a Toon player as effective at both ends of the pitch. Another big plus was the quality of the corners - quite a few of them actually caused Man U problems. The only real negative for me was the number of times we gave the ball away in dangerous areas; the chief culprit was Nicky Butt (he was so bad that some people next to me were suggesting he shouldn't be allowed to play against Man U!), but he wasn't the only offender by any means.

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