Been a few weeks since my last blog, and in that time we have accomplished wins against West Brom, and more notably our first (league) win at Old Trafford in nearly 41 years. Not to mention a creditable draw against a good Southampton side, a game we could, and possibly should have won. The only blip on the recent form was the Swansea debacle, but I’m not going to dwell on that, other than to say that I think after that game was the first time I heard Pardew admit responsibility for the poor display. I think that is a great step forward from him, as only when he realises he is doing something wrong will he then look to correct it.
West Brom was a decent performance by us, not assured by any stretch, but even when they equalised I still felt we were never in danger of defeat. I don’t think I have felt like that ever before under Pardew. Sissoko got a wonderful strike which made up for him being at fault for their goal, allowing Chris Brunt to stroll away from him.
Man Utd away was probably, along with Chelsea at home, one of Pardew’s finest victories this season. Tactically spot on, dominating the midfield against the poorest centre mid pairing I’ve seen in the Premier league for Man Utd. Man Utd are shadow of their former selves, and will be lucky to make the Europa through the league, let alone the Champions league without significant strengthening in January. It was the most confident I’d felt in a long while going to Old Trafford, I’d made numerous bets with Man Utd fans around Bwandilo (where I watch the games) offering to pay for their drinks all day if Newcastle lost – funny how they all disappeared very quickly after full time. I have to give a quick mention to HBA here, I’m quite critical of him, but when he came on for half an hour he did well in this game. He didn’t try to do it all himself, and played for the team. If we can marry the two sides of him on a consistent basis he could be a great player.
I missed the Southampton game as it wasn’t on over here, couldn’t even listen to it as my internet was down all weekend, so other than seeing the goals, Remy’s missed chances and the shot that clattered Krul’s post I can’t say too much. Still, if you had offered me a point prior to the game then I would have taken it.
With games against Palace, Stoke and West Brom coming up over the festive period we could be sitting quite nicely when come the F.A. Cup match in January. Arsenal on the 29th at home will be interesting. I will be watching that here, no doubt with people reminding me of our trip of the Emirates this time last year, 7-3 if you need reminding. Realistically, 7 out of 12 over the festive period would be a good return for us, but I’m greedy, so would prefer nine or ten points please Santa!
All in all, I think we have about the right number of points for the season so far, although getting them from games we wouldn’t necessarily expect to. Pardew has done well so far, and the players that play are putting in a good shift, and other than a lack of goals from the team in general things are promising. So, the big question now is whether Ashley and Kinnear will also up their games, as the playing staff have, and give Pardew a couple of late Christmas presents in January. Provided no first teamers leave (Obertan, Gosling and Marveaux are all surplus this Jan) then one striker and one centre half should suffice. I’d also be tempted to speak to Blackpool about a Gosling/Ince swap deal in January. Both are out of contract in the summer, so it could work for both parties to arrange a swap deal with a small amount of cash heading to Blackpool as well.
The biggest story coming out of Africa over the past two weeks is obviously the news of the passing of Madiba (Nelson Mandela for those who aren’t aware of the name Madiba). A sad time for South African’s, and many others globally, but in a way his death could be seen as a positive as it has reminded people globally of what he did for his country and people, and brought his values and his struggles back to peoples mind in a world that is being torn apart by violence and persecution in many places. One foot note to Mandela’s death was the attempt by Turkish football authorities to bring charges against Galatasary’s two Ivorian’s, Drogba and Eboue. Both revealed messages under their tops during a match, one saying “Thank you Madiba” the other saying “Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela”. The Turkish FA deemed these to be political messages, and as such charged both players with that offence. Fortunately, following huge support from clubs and other players – Galatasary hung a large image of Mandela saying “Your legacy is in our hearts” outside their stadium – the charges were dropped by the FA.
Flags have been at half-mast for the past week in Malawi as a mark of respect for his passing, but life has gone on as normal here, although a late rainy season has worried many growers, particularly in the northern region where rain has yet to come in some places. In the Super league, relegation spots are all done and dusted with two games to go. All three of the sides promoted at the start of this season will be returning to their respective regional divisions. Mponela were the last to be relegated after losing last weekend to Kamuzu Barracks 2-1. They will return to the Central League Chipiku division 1 for next season. Mzuzu Utd are relegated back to the Northern Region Sinama league and Envirom will be playing in the Southern regions Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika league. Just to clarify, it is pure coincidence that a team from each region has been relegated. It does not have to be like this, you can have more than one team relegated from a region in a season, it just alters the composition of the leagues for that region a bit the next year.
To go back a few weeks, I said my team were coming up against a former Superleague striker. Sadly (I think), I didn’t get my wish to play as centre half against him; I was put into the centre of midfield. He was pretty impressive, although I think his pace was the thing that made him stand out the most. We lost 4-1 with him scoring three of their goals, two from our full backs losing the ball and him having a clear run on goal, and his third was a long ball which left him with another one on one thanks to his pace. We had our last game of the year last weekend, playing against the Carlsberg Brewery social side. We won 3-2 in this one, thanks to a late goal by our American striker Zach. I got our opening goal, a header from a corner. I reckon it is probably the first time I have ever scored from a corner, it isn’t often I go up for them given that I am one of the shortest on the pitch. It was my first goal for a while though, so more than happy to sign off 2013 with a goal and a win!
After the Arsenal game, I am heading back to the UK for a brief spell. The ex-pat community in Lilongwe is starting to disperse to the various parts of the globe they originate from, or touring round other parts of Africa. Only a handful remains around Lilongwe over the Christmas period, and I will be one of them. I’m back in Newcastle on the 1st for a week though, hopefully a mate will have sorted me a ticket for the cup match so I can take in a game (if anyone has a spare ticket for the West Brom game as well I’d be more than grateful!), and then I head off to the Caribbean from the 8th to meet the girlfriend’s family. So my next two blogs will likely come from Newcastle and Guyana.
Finally, and completely off NUFC and Africa, I see Tim Sherwood has said he should be in the frame for the Spurs job… Based on what exactly?? His 3/4 years as a coach, or is it because he is an ex pro?? The whole mentality of former players getting the top jobs in management and coaching is crazy. If I spent 12 years as a labourer on a building site would I then be eligible for a top role in an architecture firm? There are people who become coaches at the ages of 18/19/20 and dedicate their life to coaching and improving their knowledge about coaching and their methods. Why aren’t these people given these roles as they are far more qualified. All they require is probably a bit of media training.
Hats off to the FA for giving 31 year old Mark Sampson a shot as England woman’s team coach, despite the fact he is younger than some of his players. 31 and has managed the Bristol Academy female team for 5 years and being relatively successful, and worked as Academy Manager under Martinez at Swansea. That is a coaching resume, not having played as an average midfielder for 10 years.
That’s it from me for 2013; all that’s left is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.