Sven for the Toon? I think not!

Note to the people wondering why I’ve not been posting much about the Toon lately — I’ve been trying not to think about it, okay?

The papers yesterday morning (well, the Murdoch red-top tabloid rag, you know the one) were suggesting that former England Manager Sven Goran Eriksson was being mooted as a potential replacement for Glenn Roeder as Newcastle manager. This was apparently the first that either Sven or the club had heard about this, which surprises me not at all.

As was painfully obvious to every Newcastle fan at the start of the season, the problem was not with our manager, but with our woefully thin and poor quality squad. Despite the fact that Alan Shearer in effect gave us two years notice of his retirement, we’ve singularly failed to sign a striker with a physical prescence who is capable of unsettling defenders in the penalty area and can be relied upon to be in or around the six yard box if someone’s putting a cross in.

No, we’ve managed to hang onto Shola Ameobi, who tries hard, bless him, but unfortunately has a niggling hip injury that needs surgery that is going to put him out for the season. This would be the same Shola Ameobi who we were told at the end of last season would have his niggling hip injury cured by resting it and didn’t need an operation. Hmm. Seems that if we’d got the right medical advice in the first place, he could have had his operation over the summer and then he would have been available for more of the season?

…having said that, he’s still to convince me he’s got sufficient physical presence to be that sort of a striker, anyway.

The problem is also not with our much-maligned defence, it’s with the attacking play. I’ll hold my hands up and admit our defence do make mistakes, but over the entire course of the time we’ve been in the Premiership (13 years), we’ve conceded more than the median number of goals on only 5 occasions. That is to say, on 8 out of 13 occasions, our defence has been better than average. We therefore clearly have a better than average defence. The problem is, you don’t see the great tackles, clearances etc. You do get to see the slips, missed tackles and poor headers that lead to a goal for the opposition and then the defender in question is ridiculed (usually Bramble or Boumsong).

But when a forward player — e.g. Duff, Shola or Rossi misses a sitter in front of goal, they aren’t subject to the same degree of approbation. Why not? Why is an easy chance fluffed at one end less of a problem than an easy chance presented to the opposition at the other? And that’s where our problem lies at the moment. Last season — when we finished seventh — ten teams scored more goals than us, but only six teams conceded less goals.

Our defence was the seventh best in the Premiership, but our strike force was eleventh best. So as usual, it’s the defence that gets the blame?

To win matches, you need to score goals. Far too often we’ve scored no goals or one goal. Of our last 48 premiership matches, we’ve failed to score on 18 occassions, and on only 16 occasions have we actually scored more than once in the match. In the same time, we’ve kept 15 clean sheets, and conceded more than one goal on 17 occasions. What does that tell you?

Well, it tells me that the problem should be no more put at the blame of the defence than at the other end.

Where were we? Oh yes, the tabloid reports. And now that tabloid rag is suggesting that no-one with the possible exception of Shearer would be good enough for the Newcastle fans. Bollocks. We wanted Martin O’Neill or Ottmar Hitzfeld. Freddie Shepherd gave us Glenn Roeder (who’d done a canny job as caretaker, and importantly for Freddie, was cheap) and then had the gall to say that he’d given the fans who they wanted. Bollocks Freddie, we told you who we wanted, and you got someone else. Don’t blame us for this one. I think you’ll find we didn’t ask for Souness either, but after all, you know best, don’t you?

Not that I’m holding Roeder responsible for the current mess. He lost Shearer to retirement, Owen to injury, Ameobi to injury, Dyer to persistent injuries, Bowyer to West Ham to cut down our wage Bill, and Boumsong to Juventus because frankly they were daft enough to give us money for him. He’s had a net transfer spend of about £12m to replace all of these. Is it any wonder we’re short of firepower? I’m happy to see Roeder stay, but the financial constraints he is being forced to work under are preventing him from doing his job effectively.

The blame, as I’ve said before, lies squarely at Freddie’s door. We need investment, we need lots of it, and we needed it last summer. Investment in January will be too late to do anything other than (hopefully) get us enough points to avoid the drop. Champions League? You’re having a laugh…

But given the fact that Shepherd has been doing his best to build a backroom staff on the cheap, and trying to sign players on the cheap — what possible reason would we have been going for Mark Viduka ahead of Andy Johnson if we’d had the money to spend? — then I think it’s unlikely he’d want to sack Roeder and appoint Sven on at least three times the salary.

Let’s make it explicitly clear: Newcastle fans hold Shepherd to blame for this mess, not Roeder, and Shepherd’s the one we want out. But as Shepherd has insisted all along to fans that “he’s never taken a penny out of the club”, then let’s hope that this remains true and he’s prepared to give his shares to anyone willing to come in, take over and give the club some serious investment. After all, if he’s really serious about not taking money out of the club, then he’ll not be wanting to raise £30m for his own pocket by selling the shares, will he? He’ll be wanting to give them to someone who’s going to take the club forward. Unless he was just in it for himself after all…

And let’s not hear any guff about the money Shepherd’s backed previous managers with. Shepherd pulled the plug on the Boa Morte deal because he reckoned £7m was too much for a proven Premiership player and he then sanctioned £9.5m for Luque. And it’s not like it’s been coming out of his pocket, is it? No, as usual, it’s the fans who pay for it all, through season tickets, through merchandise, through watching the pay-per-view channels and so on.

Regardless of the feelings of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle (who try to stay in the club’s good books so they get access to players), it’s quite clear that the vast majority of the fans I speak to want Shepherd Out. We couldn’t care who comes in — obviously an Abramovich is preferred, but we’ll take an investment group, as in order to make any money the club will have to be reasonably successful. Don’t believe the hype that we want Roeder gone: it’s Shepherd we want out.

Newcastle fans have been taken for mugs for long enough: paying premium quality prices for low-to-mid quality product. Many fans have had enough: as you can tell by the poor turnouts for recent cup games, and the increasing desperation with which the club are trying to push season tickets. Give us something worth paying to see, and we’ll pay to see it again. Keep feeding us this dross and we’ll not bother. So don’t expect us to continue to be happy to line your pockets with our money, until we’ve got something worth paying to watch again.

Shepherd Out.

One Response to “Sven for the Toon? I think not!”

  1. mark fairlamb responds:

    it’s not investment newcastle need, it’s common sense.
    over the years they’ve thrown away embarassing amounts of cash and won sod all while clubs like leicester & middlesbrough have at least won the league cup on occassion. while chelsea & man utd have spent large sums on quality players and arsenal have snapped up some amazing youngsters, newcastle have managed to pay top dollar for apparently quality players who suddenly come to newcastle and forget what it’s all about. damien duff looks like quality, but i bet he’s wondering what he’s got himself into (as is scott parker nowadays). and what happened to nicky butt? a player we used to hate simply because he always excelled against us. i’ve totally loast all interest in these overpaid part-time ballerinas and don’t think they deserve the cash that 50.000 geordies work their arses off all week for

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