Welcome Siem and why the American (soccer) dream must be kept alive!

Ok, as this was conceived to be a blog devoted to the trials and tribulations of supporting the mighty NUFC, I will open up by expressing my acute joy that on the (official) opening day of the transfer window, we have made 3 signings!  Like London buses and all that…

– Ayoze Perez – will most likely go into the development squad (and judging by our previous record never been seen again.) Hopefully not because by all accounts he is a talented boy and does come with a decent goalscoring record of just under 1 in 2 (albeit in the Spanish second division).  Unless sufficient investment is not made in our striking department then I we’ll probably be seeing Ayoze get a run out in the cup games

– Jack Colback – A young man (older than me still) who has finally seen the light and crossed over the troll infested bridge of the river Wear to come and ply his trade at the best club in the North-East! One of Sunderland’s more consistent performers last season, Colback is hardly a marquee signing by any stretch of the imagination and he is certainly no replacement for the almost irreplaceable Yohan Cabaye.  However, Colback is a local lad, a boyhood Toon fan, versatile and almost ran the show in midfield in the last Tyne-Wear derby.  Considering we got him for free as well, I would say it is a good piece of business and can help to cover our increasingly leaky defence.  

– Siem de Jong – This one moved uncharacteristically quickly and quietly by our boards’ standards.  I have to acknowledge here that I have a complete lack of knowledge of Dutch football, but the guy is the captain of a title-winning side and there appears to be a groundswell of good feeling around this one.  Shame really as this is probably the most exciting signing we’ve made thus far.  

Whilst this is good business thus far, I still feel we need 4 or 5 more bodies in through the door.  Definitely need 2 or 3 decent strikers in, as well as another creative midfielder (although I am still firmly behind bringing HBA in from the cold, stick him as a number 10 and absolve him of defensive work.)  I would also like to see another defender come in as well, we conceded far too many goals last season and the defence needs shoring up badly, I’d also like to see MYM get a stretch at centre-half, clearly isn’t a full back and he + Iron Mike had begun to form somewhat of a decent CB partnership.  Do all of this and we could be in for a decent season! 

 

On the World Cup front, sadly it’s the end of the road for the US of A and by God it was a hell of a journey!  

Since England’s spectacular collapse I have been closely following the fortunes of our friends Stateside and to be honest, I have genuinely enjoyed it!  I know it’s somewhat of an overrated quality but still, can’t help but admire the spirit with which they played each and every game.  The sheer energy they put into pressing the opposition to win the ball, and they’ve even looked reasonably tidy on it as well.  The team was well drilled and hard to break down, each and every man fought like a lion out there and it is somewhat a shame to see them out.  Make no mistake, Belgium unquestionably were the better side, and were it not for a Herculean performance from Tim Howard plus some Belgian profligacy then it would have been over so much quicker.  But still, the US did their nation proud in Brazil and I am so glad to see that the people over there have been getting behind it, sure they’ve done it in the typically American style (over-the-top and endlessly positive/patriotic) but it’s been really good to see and I really hope football takes off over there as a result of this. I truly believe this game is the greatest in the world and it would be brilliant if it could finally take off in America.  The US are what I want England to be in both Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, a team who presses high, who never gives up and a team who can contribute to the atmosphere.  

I never thought I would seriously say that in footballing matters we could learn a lot from America, but after tonight, we really could learn a trick or two from those who still give it the wrong name. 

How do you solve a problem like Suarez?

It reads like some sort of Shakespearean/Greek tragedy really.

The protagonist, Luis Alberto Sanchez Diaz, the man with the gifted, golden feet.  A man who has seemingly been handed his footballing gifts straight from the gods up on Mount Olympus.  Mercurial dribbling ability, footballing intelligence, and the seeming ability to hit the net from anywhere and at any angle.   Mix these in with an amazing workrate, tenacity, courage and strength and it’s not hard to see why he won all the awards he did at the close of last season, as well as winning the hearts of all of those who frequent Anfiled.  Make no mistake about it, Suarez is a wonderfully gifted talent, and, for that alone, we are blessed to have him in England.

Unfortunately, like those tragic heroes of literary origin, Suarez has a fatal flaw.  Much like Gaius Martius Coriolanus, despite the battling qualities which made him a hero to many, it was only these virtues which made him so beloved.  When not at war, his ‘lack of education [made him] so choleric and impatient that he would yield to no living creature, which made him churlish [and] uncivil…’ This unfortunate lack of control over his temper would eventually be manipulated against him in order to force his exile from Rome.  The similarities are uncanny aren’t they?  Suarez’s apparent lack of control over his temper could overshadow his undoubted ability on the pitch and should at least lead to his ‘exile’ from this most spectacular of World Cups.  It could also lead to his ‘exile’ from the Premier League and even England.

As I’ve said before, Suarez is a fantastic footballer and our league will be a lot poorer without him from that standpoint.   The very least you could say is that every incident Luis Suarez has been involved with has taken place on the pitch, against an opposing player, usually bigger than he is!  Whilst that does not excuse his beyond abhorrent racist or violent conduct on the pitch, there are players out there who have done considerably worse to others off the pitch and have seemingly been allowed to continue without anywhere near the scrutiny Suarez finds himself under currently. The very least that has to happen to Suarez is to kick him out for the remainder of the World Cup.  The tournament thus far has been a real feast of football and it would be a shame if the remainder was tainted by this controversy.  In an ideal world, I would also impose a season-long ban on him from playing any form of football anywhere in the world.  I would also compel him to seek psychiatric help for whatever issues he seems to have, cause after all, no sane human being bites their opponents three times throughout their career, and it’s not like any other Uruguayan players (or any other South American player for that matter) have done anything like this, at least not with the regularity Suarez has.

I do not intend this to be a hate post against the guy, I actually am quite a fan of Luis Suarez.  He really is a truly gifted and incredibly hardworking footballer, he also has a truly insatiable desire to help his team to victory, through fair means or foul (hence why I won’t criticise his handball against Ghana in 2010, cause I’m sure if it was your club side/England, you would want one of your players to do it.)  If Suarez is found guilty, he should seek psychological help throughout his ban, he should also show a considerable amount of humility and repentance.  I feel if he is prepared to make a concerted effort to reform his character, he can and should be given one absolute, final chance.   If however (should he banned of course) he refuses to make any effort at all, he or his camp bleat about perceived injustice or cry conspiracy and he remains completely unapologetic for his actions, he has to go.  English football can not afford the corrosive influence of Luis Suarez anymore, regardless of how talented the guy is.

Scents to inspire the sense of Summer

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/seasonal-scents/ 

 

Cut grass, 

grazed knees,

hot sun,

gentle breeze.

 

Barbies grilling,

Shades on,

Beers chilling,

Cream scone

 

Playing soccer,

all out in the sun,

Some say we’re off our rocker,

But it’s damn good fun.

 

Chilling in the heat,

with some ice cold beers,

This simply can’t be beat,

Feel the feel of summer cheer. 

 

The cold and dark can get you down,

Winter can be a bummer, 

but when the sun shines bright in town,

I sense the sense of summer. 

(terrible I know but still, thought I’d shake things up with a poem)

 

 

 

 

Keeping the International dream alive

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/groundhog-week

It’s really been a magical World Cup thus far hasn’t it? Great football, some excellent, high-scoring games, some fantastic goals and even a refreshing lack of play-acting.  Even had some gutsy performances from some of the ‘lesser’ nations, I for one have enjoyed watching Australia and the USA give it a go somewhat, but also Iran, Costa Rica, Bosnia-Herzegovina have all put in (from what I’ve seen at least) good performances and troubled the ‘bigger’ teams.  It certainly has been one of the best WC’s in living memory… 

Unless of course, like me, you happen to be English.  

Whilst we all sat at home, pretending that our expectations were rock bottom, that we had never a hope in hell of getting out of our ‘group of death,’ that we were to use Brazil 2014 as a learning curve for our refreshingly young Lions to prepare them for France in 2016.  But as kick-off grew closer, the traditional patriotic roar began to stir in every Englishman’s belly.  The cries of ‘We can beat these lot’ began to become more commonplace.  Indeed, English hope does spring eternal.  Yet the hopes are never met, and we head into tonight’s game preparing to bow out of the World Cup.  Our only hope is to salvage some pride and inspire some hope for the future.  

If I was granted the power to go back and change anything from the previous week, I would go back to that evening in Sao Paulo, and I would reverse the small margins which can govern a nations fate in International football.  I would ensure that Wayne Rooneys free-kick fell just an inch lower, with a goal (and scenario) reminiscent of David Beckhams free kick which took us to Japan-South Korea in 2002.  I would ensure that his header was again just an inch lower, bulging the back of the Uruguayan net and breaking Uruguayan hearts.  Diego Godin would have received his so richly deserved second yellow card and been sent off for an early shower, and I would have pushed the English defence back just a yard or two around about the 85th minute, thus keeping the international dream alive! 

There is something special about International football, especially during the biggest tournament in the world.  They allow nations to come together, to put aside club rivalries and to bond together to form one voice.  Success and failure affects us all rather than an lucky/unfortunate few and it can allow for a sense of escapism from the drudgery of supporting your club side (except if you support someone like Newcastle, as I do).  But alas, the dream is over.  After tonight the St Georges cross will fly no more outside every pub, the Ant and Dec songs will be put back in the great musical attic for another 2 years, and the footballing behemoth that is the Premier League will return in August.  Of course I will still enjoy the rest of this fantastic World Cup first, and it will probably be more enjoyable without any vested interests in it! 

Lest we forget, thanks to Costa Rica’s superb performance thus far in the tournament, one of Italy and Uruguay can be eliminated tonight.  So hopefully, we’ll all get to enjoy Luis Suarez’s tears this evening, and providing the result goes the right way and with at most a three goal swing, we might not even finish bottom of the group! Every cloud and all that! 

Premier League Predictions 2013/14

After another successful summer of sport in which we saw Britain and Ireland beat the Australians at rugby, where we saw England beat the Australians at cricket and watching the British number one win Wimbledon, it’s time to fill that gaping weekend-sized hole!  Yes Premier League football is back, allowing the football lovers among us to rejoice as we settle down to watch another 9 months of drama and controversy which only the world’s greatest sport can provide.  It’s that time of the year in which people try and predict how the season will go for their team, here is my effort at predicting the table, including a brief paragraph attempting to justify my selections.

1st. Manchester City:

The change of manager from the unpopular Robero Mancini to Manuel Pellegrini will have something of a galvaninisng impact on City I feel.  There is also the fact that some of the more controversial figures from the club have been moved on, particularly Carlos Tevez.  I feel we will see something of a more professional City side this year, without all of the off-field baggage which came with players like Tevez and Mario Balotelli, I feel we will see a more focused and driven City.  A City determined to wash away last season’s failures.

2nd. Chelsea:

It’s the return of the Special One, and I for one am glad to see him back.  Top flight football has suffered from a distinct lack of characters in the past few years.  Yes, he does have an arrogant streak, but he has the track record to back it up.  I can’t see Chelsea winning the league under Mourinho’s first season back, simply because I feel the upheaval at City will provide too great a challenge, but it will be close.  I can see Chelsea winning silverware this season, could even do a double?  But no league title for the Special One this year

3rd. Manchester United:

Well, the beginning of the post-Ferguson era, and its down to David Moyes to carry the torch.  It has been a long held opinion of mine that the current United side is not one of their all-time great sides, being driven to dominate through a world class manager.  It will be interesting to see how much of United’s success is actually down to the players rather than SAF.  I know it’s dangerous to write off a side full of title winning know-how, but without any fresh blood, I can’t see United winning it this year, or at least not winning as comfortably as they did last year, although I reckon it will be close between the top 4 this season.

4th. Tottenham:

White Hart Lane has been a hotbed of activity this summer.  With Roberto Soldado, Nader Chacli, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho coming in, and perhaps even more significantly, Gareth Bale has not left.  I feel that this bout of strengthening is enough to mount a serious assault on the top four, then again, Tottenham are perennially unlucky when it comes to the Champions League, but I just think this year will be their year, especially if Bale commits to the Spurs’ cause for another year.

5th. Liverpool:

With the speculation about Luis Suarez dying down now, and it looks as if the mercurial Uruguayan is set to stay at Anfield, I can see Liverpool edging closer to the top four.  I can’t see them breaking Champions League, unless it’s at the expense of a United side in decline, but I can’t see that decline being so dramatic.  The key for me between who emerges as Tottenham’s main rivals for the top four lies in Luis Suarez.  If he leaves for the Emirates, then you can swap 5th and 6th place around.

6th.  Arsenal:

It may seem unusual putting a side who have consistently finished in the top four for the last 15 years, or somewhere around that time, down in sixth,  However, my reasoning is as follows.  Whilst the Gunners have an undoubtedly talented team, all the teams in and around them have strengthened significantly.  Whereas Arsenal, with their significant lack of transfer activity could suffer from stagnation.  Targets such as Gonazalo Higuain, Luis Gustavo, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney have never materialized as actual signings.   This stagnation will cost Arsenal dearly in terms of the Champions League race.

7th. Everton:

Another new era dawns at Goodison Park, as Roberto Martinez takes the reigns over from David Moyes.  I can’t see a whole lot of change happening at Goodison, Martinez’s teams play good, attractive football.  Martinez will not take Everton to the next level yet, in my opinion.

8th.  Norwich:

I’m a big fan of what Norwich have been doing over the summer, signings such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer and Gary Hooper have added some genuine quality to Chris Hughton’s Norwich side.  Provided they can keep these players fit and on good form, I think Norwich could be one of the surprise packages of the season.

9th. Sunderland:

.Here is my pick for the other surprise package of the season.  It’s been busy over the river at the SOS, with almost an entire new first team being signed.  Of course we’ve seen this happen before during the days of Steve Bruce, but I think that Paolo Di Canio and his infinitely more competent (than ours) Director of Football, Roberto Di Fanti are too intellegent in the tranfer market to sign players of equal ineptitude to the ones they already have.  A front five of Fletcher, Altidore, Sessegnon, Giaccherini and Johnson is a mouthwatering prospect for the Mackems.  It can also be guaranteed that Di Canio will make them one of the fittest, and hardest working squads in the league.

10th. Southampton:

Dejan Louvran and Victor Wanyama are the only two players brought into St Mary’s by Mauricio Pochettino thus far, two signings which will add plenty more steel to the spine of the team.  Judging by his recent contribution in the recent Home Nations derby, it seems Rickie Lambert hasn’t lost his scoring touch and I can see the Saints carrying their improving form under Pochettino into this new season, dead on mid-table for Southampton.

11th.  Swansea:

Swansea had a great season last time out, winning the League Cup, subsequently leading them to Europe, and landed themselves a top-half finish.  As has been the case with English sides in the Europa League, I can see Swansea’s league form taking a dip, although thanks to their clever summer recruitment, I can’t see this dip being threatening to their place in the league.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Swansea retain the league cup either.

12th.  Newcastle United

It’s been a typically strange pre-season here on Tyneside.  The only signing which seems to have got the fans pulses racing has been the return of Joe Kinnear as director of football (and that’s through anger rather than excitement).  Rumours have been plentiful over the summer as well, with players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubeymang, Wilfred Bony, Darren Bent, Bafetimbi Gomis etc. linked with us, all of which never materialized in an actual signing.  However, I feel we do have a competitive first 18 players, and providing we can keep them all reasonably fit throughout most of the season, plus the lack of European competition, we’ll be just fine!

14th. Cardiff:

Finally, after years struggling against promotion under Dave Jones, Malky Mackay has finally steered Cardiff up through the attic door and into the Premiership.  Cardiff are the best backed out of the three promoted teams in terms of finances, which has been shown through Mackay’s dealings in the transfer window, breaking the clubs transfer record three times with the signings of Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel,  Cardiff will be absolutely fine this season and I’m also slightly looking forward to the Welsh derbys.

15th. West Ham:

Under Sam Allardyce, West Ham are guaranteed to be a solid Premier League team.

16th. Aston Villa:

Villa struggled for the largest part of last season, I don’t think they’ll have it so tough next season, thanks to their ability to hold onto Christian Benteke, the young players will also feel the benefit from playing the majority of last season.

17th.  Fulham:

Fulham have recruited well in the close season, today completing the signing of Newcastle-target Darren Bent.  They have a few handy players, with the likes of Bent, Ruiz and of course Berbatov.  That quality should just be enough to keep them afloat, but I reckon it will be nip and tuck.

18th. Hull City:

Steve Bruce is back in the top flight, it will be interesting to see how his Hull City team get on.  For me this season will be very much like the last in terms of the bottom half.  It’s such a tight one to call this year, any team in the bottom 6 or 7 could go down.  I feel Hull will just be dragged under, but under Bruce, I think they’ll put up a hell of a fight.

19th. Crystal Palace:

Ian Holloway’s second coming in the Premier League, whilst Holloway has brought in some good experience and he has brought in some quality in terms of Chamakh.  One thing however struck me as I noticed the players Holloway has brought in, they are all attacking players.  Holloway’s attacking philosophy has not changed since his Blackpool days, and whilst there are those who say that attacking in the best form of defense, and whilst I like that Holloway is setting up to have a go at teams, there is the danger of the defensive frailties which existed during his Blackpool days.  Palace will be a fun team to watch but I again think they will go the way of Blackpool, which is a shame.

20th. Stoke City

It seems strange putting a usually solid Premier League team up for relegation.  However with the departure of long-serving boss Tony Pulis, it could trigger a case of trying to change the playing style far too quickly, aiming for a more offensive game plan, potentially undermining the defensive solidity which Stoke owe their success to.  Whilst I am glad to see the  back of Pulis and his crushingly boring style of play, the appointment of Hughes represents somewhat of a gamble.  Whilst Mark Hughes was once the manager who led Blackburn Rovers to the dizzy heights of 5th place, he is also the manager who had QPR perennially fighting relegation.  The situation at Stoke could go either way to be honest, but I have a feeling that this season will be the end of the Potters’ stay in the League.

Come January I’ll have a look at how my predictions have held up and do a mid-term report card.