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Your review of NUFC in 2011


Dave
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A bit early with two matches left, but here's one to start us off.

 

Goodbye Carroll... hello Top 10 finish? My year with Newcastle, by Simon Bird

 

Published 11:00 22/12/11

 

 

There is nothing like Newcastle United to get us veering from downbeat and pessimistic, to enthusiastic and full of hope.

 

This week Alan Pardew summed up 2011 as a "fantastic" year, adding: "It's more than I could have hoped for in terms of where we are."

 

As Newcastle sit comfortably in the top seven, it is hard to disagree.

 

The Geordies have genuine talent in their (still quite thin and vulnerable to injuries) squad. They have a system of play that is organised, has a bit of everything - pace, aggression, deft skills, and team work.

 

And off the pitch progress has been made. The club is starting to pay for itself, the wage bill is under control, and the finances are healthy. (We'll come to why, and the drawbacks later)

 

Only 12 months ago Pardew had just taken charge of United with a popularity/approval rating that one local paper poll had at 2pc. A re-vote this month had it up at 98pc.

 

But the route Newcastle took to get to this position has been the usual rollercoaster.

 

When I report on how 2012 goes, it may well depend on how the club deals with some of the shocks and themes that 2011 also threw up.

 

Perhaps it was a blessing that Pardew got the difficult stuff out of the way in January last year. He had his fingers burned, and reputation as a straight talking boss tarnished, by the Andy Carroll saga last January.

 

He repeatedly denied that Carroll would be sold, in strong terms. Only for Carroll to be sold. "Won't make the same mistake again," he now reflects.

 

Mind you, a year on, few people would argue against the feeling that Newcastle got the best end of the deal in banking £30 million in cash and £5 million in future extras from Liverpool for their home grown striker.

 

Naturally the money was squirreled away with the pledge it would be reinvested, on the proviso that it won't be spent not all on one player, and not just in one transfer window, and er, they may chuck in the wage costs too!

 

Anyway, in Carroll's absence other players came to the fore and on the last day of the season United were 3-0 up and cruising to a creditable top ten finish, until they chucked away the win (and Mike Ashley's top ten bonus worth thousands to all members at St James's Park stadium and training ground staff).

 

To make it worse, Sunderland leapfrogged into the top half.

 

Early in the summer there was concern as skipper Kevin Nolan was swiftly sold for £4million to West Ham - after demanding a five year deal. Joey Barton stepped up his goading of owner Mike Ashley and MD Derek Llambias by opening his now world famous twitter account.

 

Behind the scenes Pardew was plotting to change his team from "functional, likely to score from set pieces and hard to beat" to a more "fluid and mobile passing side."

 

In came Yohan Cabaye, who has proved another bargain at £5million. Arsene Wenger has since allegedly wondered why he wasn't flagged up as a cheaper alternative to Mikel Arteta.

 

Demba Ba also arrived quickly in June, a free transfer. His 11 league goals make that look a bargain too.

 

Barton was out the door too, after one tweet too many winding the club up, and a bust up at a friendly against Leeds.

 

By the time the season arrived Pardew has reshaped the squad and it looked decent, especially with local derby win at Sunderland in the second game raising spirits and confidence.

 

At one point in October, United sat in second place briefly, and kept pace with the likes of Chelsea as the goals and the wins flowed - helped by a fantastic defence.

 

The current position is well deserved but they need to kick on to maintain it after a poor run, hindered by injuries to the previously excellent Steven Taylor.

 

Off the pitch naturally there were moments of anger. Namely the night United announced the St James's Park was no more. From midnight it was being called the Sports Direct Arena.

 

The business logic was sound. Newcastle are searching for a new shirt sponsor and it looks more lucrative if you throw in the ground renaming too, for more cash.

 

The emotional and historic logic rightly dictated a furious reaction. Fans pledged to keep calling it St James's Park. A couple of months on, the name on the side of the stadium in Barrack Road remains St James's Park.... for now.

 

With January approaching Newcastle and Pardew will be grappling with old issues.

 

To sell or not to sell. Cheik Tiote is attracting interest from Chelsea and Manchester United - a profit of £16.5million could be made is he is sold. My feeling is that he will be, either now with United banking the usual mid-season madness price premium, or the summer.

 

Fabricio Coloccini has yet to sign his new deal. If someone offered £10million for the 29 year old would United turn it down even though he is hugely influential and a world class centre back? Liverpool sending more cash the way of Tyneside?

 

Young keeper Tim Krul has made position his own - a big summer call to drop Steve Harper that it appears Pardew got correct. But Krul is also now attracting envious eyes. Will Chelsea see him as the replacement to Petr Cech?

 

At some point Newcastle have to make a decision. Do they ward off all offers and try to cash in on their best start for years to get a top seven finish and the chance of European football?

 

Or do they accept a fate as a mid to lower table team and simply cash in?

 

The year has seen progress. But the same old issued are vexing Tyneside fans as this time last year.

 

What's your overall opinion on this year?

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The Carroll sale started the year off badly however it got better. Good displays and shows of passion for the team like the comeback from going 4-0 down against Arsenal to draw 4-4 is the stand out game. We went a very long time unbeaten and last season we were unlucky/foolish not to finish in the top 10. This season has started very well, injuries has seen our form be hit and our last couple of games has shown it can affect confidence. The talent though we know is there however we are continuing to get frustrated. The fact that so far Carroll has not really done much at liverpool, we have got rid of players who were ageing and letting their mouths go and have brought in better replacements.

 

All in all this year has been very good, yes it's fizzling out at the moment but we have to be delighted how well it has been.

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Hey club you really

Got my tail in a spin

Hey club I don't even

Know where to begin

But club I got one thing

I want you to know

Wherever you go tell me

'Cause I'm gonna go

 

[CHORUS:]

We found love,

So don't hide it

Life is a rollercoaster,

Just gotta ride it

I need you,

So stop hiding

Our love is a mystery

Club, let's get beside it

 

Hey club, you really

Got me flying tonight

Hey sugar, you almost

Got us punched in a fight

(That's all right)

And club you know one

Thing I gotta know

Wherever you go, tell me

'Cause I'm gonna show

 

[Repeat chorus]

 

Can't you feel my heart?

Can't you feel my heart?

Can't you take my heart?

 

[Repeat chorus]

 

So don't fight it,

Fight it, fight it

[x3]

 

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I think Simon Bird's analysis is pretty fair and on the money as far as I'm concerned, although I don't think it quite manages to convey the reality of how it feels to be sat in that great stadium of ours these days, with everything pasted in the cheap, tacky colours of SportsDirect.com. They even flashed up their grimy little insignia during the 11th minute tribute to Gary Speed last weekend. They may have managed to turn the club around in terms of its finances and to some degree the club's relatively good start to the season, but the fact remains that Ashley & Co have no idea what this club means to its fans. And worse, Ashley & Co have no soul.

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February-May was filling in the time. We improved over the summer, bought well and came across much more professional. A dreadful pre-season led into a remarkably good 1/3rd of the season. But now the wheels are falling off.

 

In a nutshell.

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The most entertaining year I've witnessed for a long time, despite the Carroll and Enrique sales we've seen the side make genuine progress and we have an actual foundation to build on. We're on a poor run at the minute but unlike in the past we have a decent amount of quality to turn it around. Bring on 2012! :thup:

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February-May was filling in the time. We improved over the summer, bought well and came across much more professional. A dreadful pre-season led into a remarkably good 1/3rd of the season. But now the wheels are falling off.

 

In a nutshell.

 

Yes that's a good summary - the issue is whether the wheels can be re-fixed. 7th with 27 points at Christmas - who would have taken that in July? Most clubs in this league will have or indeed have had some really poor spells. It is disappointing because the shyte has happened just lately when, after the ManU/ManC/Chelsea run we are now in a spell of games where good points ought to have been on offer and (unlike the first ten weeks or so of the season) we haven't taken advantage. I had us down for finishing 7th in some thread on here months ago and I'd like to think we aren't done with that yet.

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Good year on the whole, with some excellent recruitment in Ba and Cabaye.

Some vexing could-have-beens, especially for a team that's trousered 35M.

 

Not getting a Carroll replacement in Jan that could have meant kicking on to Europe

Shipping three goals to WBA with Alan fecking Smith on to lose three places in the final table.

Starting the season with no CB cover, no real LB, and ACN looming large for vital players.

Not playing-side related, but the ground has also been desecrated for zero financial gain

 

Given the money he's put in, I wouldn't begrudge the fat man taking half of the Carroll money, but the 15-20 left could have come close to paying for itself with European qualification.

 

Still on the whole much better than expected in Jan 2011, so well done Pardew and well done lads. RIP Gary Speed.

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Been entertaining.

Typical NUFC, ups and downs.

 

Got some good players in!

But as always, you fear what players we might loose, more than looking forward to what players we might get in to strengthen the squad!

It makes me a sad, sad panda.

 

That being said, i love this team, so much potential.

Hope we keep our best players injury free, and Pardew get the most out of them.

 

If we manage that, get a top 8 finish, i am very happy.

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:notbad:

 

First time I see this smilie. :lol:

 

Awful Spanish, but funnier because of it :lol:

 

Regarding your year, as an outside observer I think it's been good. I don't think many of you (I didn't) would have expected a 7th place at this time, given the lack of investment and apparent contempt of your board. The signings have been made on a (relative) shoestring, but they have been astute for the most part, and you have the seeds of a pretty good squad if you add to it while keeping what you have. Despite your current crisis, I think you have reasons to be optimistic on the mid-term. NUFC are on the up.

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