We’ll have a very good idea as to which way our season is headed by the time the month of October comes to a close. First of all, we’d like to see key players return to the NE injury free after some important international games over the coming days. These aren’t just kickabouts, with the results for France, Ivory Coast and Senegal going some way to determining whether a decent chunk of our squad will be off to Brazil or Butlins next summer. Not that Papiss Cisse will be heading to Minehead any time soon but you see what I mean. Given the absolute paucity of our squad a knock to one of our ‘purple’ players, especially one in a striking role would be nothing short of a disaster so a safe return forms the first hurdle that we need to get over.
From there, Liverpool come into town next Saturday with the scars of last years howking still all too fresh for a lot of our support. I’d suggest that fresh on the back of the Derby defeat, that Saturday afternoon formed a turning point for Pardew in the eyes of a decent chunk of our support and the goodwill lost has never been regained. For that reason alone, I would expect that the manager is determined to exorcise the ghosts of that defeat and I would expect to see a Newcastle side fired up and desperate for redemption. But then I expected that when the Scousers rolled into town last season and we all know what happened then. Plus they will take to the pitch with a stronger side this time round, level pegging with Arsenal at the top of the table and with Suarez bang in form.
That said, if the Newcastle that played the first 45 minutes at Cardiff shows up, then we have a chance. 12:45pm is always a funny kick off time for generating atmosphere but if we start well, then a result is within our capability. The Time4Change march will also take place before the match and I will touch upon that shortly but I would hasten a bet that after venting a spleen or two, the lads and lasses will make their way into SJP with a shared love of NUFC and a shared desire to see us succeed on the pitch. As it should be.
Then, of course we go to Sunderland, who will be revved up to welcome both us and their new manager. Make no mistake, Sunderland are terrible. They haven’t only amassed a solitary point at this stage of the season by bad luck and voodoo, they are a really poor side. Roll out the clichés though – form book out of the window, new manager, famous (cough) ‘Roker Roar’ and you and I both know that it won’t be easy down there. We’ll turn our thoughts to that once we get Liverpool out of the way but for me six points would be a dream scenario from the two games, four would be a great return, three agreeable, two OK, one not good enough and zero relegation form. It’s a fine line.
Rounding the month off, we have Manchester City travelling up here for a cup tie which not so long ago would have whet the appetite. Fast forward to 2013 though and I think it is being anticipated with a mix of fear, dread and apathy. It shouldn’t be. The club have done nothing to heighten expectations when it comes to cup competition but a victory would take us into the Quarter Finals and as close to winning a domestic trophy as we have been in over a decade. Going out with a whimper wouldn’t be acceptable. Going out with a whimper on the back of two iffy results in the league would be justifiable ammunition to those wanting to see the back of Pardew. As I say, big month is October.
There was some fairly thinly veiled criticism from Yohan Cabaye earlier in the week aimed towards Kinnear that spoke volumes of the level of esteem in which the Director of Football is held. Cabaye hinted that the truth of his absence from the side was yet to come out and insinuated that the only person that could tell the full story behind the breakdown of his move to Arsenal was Kinnear.
The cynic in me speculates that the process went something like this….Cabaye wanted away, Arsenal bid for him, Kinnear played a minimal role in the transfer negotiations but came across like a boorish oaf, Arsenal backed off and Cabaye didn’t get his desired move whilst all the while being kept away from the first team on the premise of being ‘on strike’ but with the added bonus of avoiding injury in advance of a larger bid coming to the table. This is all a bit OJ Simpson and his ‘If I did it’ book isn’t it but I’d be surprised if the truth was too far away from that.
Cabaye’s comments this week highlighted two things for me. Firstly, that the disdain for Kinnear is as apparent amongst the senior players as it is amongst the support and that is hardly surprising really. It is also a possible explanation for the team continuing on the whole to play for Pardew, with no harsh words directed from any of the players, including interestingly those that have left the club in recent months. Perhaps they are as acutely aware as the support that things could get a whole lot worse were the manager to be relieved of his duties.
The second point that the statement from Cabaye cemented was his petulance, which is never far from the surface. Having returned to the starting line up and put in his best shift for a number of months down at Cardiff, I wasn’t sure why he took the opportunity so willingly to underline the fact that in all honestly, he’d rather be elsewhere. We were led to believe last season that an offer from Tottenham unsettled Cabaye and, alongside an injury contributed to a very disappointing season indeed. Were any residual disappointment at not pulling on an Arsenal shirt to manifest itself in the form of half arsed displays and a willingness to leave/not take to the field at the earliest opportunity then his relationship with the support would be as adversely affected as our potential on it. Again, wearing my cynics hat, I was a little dubious just as to how injured he was for the Everton game and wondered exactly what his ‘lengthy chat’ with Pardew which led to him taking his place on the bench actually contained.
A properly switched on Cabaye playing to the top of his game would be an asset to any side in the league, Arsenal included. A brooding, sulking Cabaye is a luxury we simply cannot afford at NUFC this season so we can only hope that the Cardiff performance was the start of things to come.
The Editor wrote what I believe was a well balanced, positive assessment of the forthcoming Time4Change march on the website earlier this week and no, I’m not just saying that to be an arse licker. I think like many Mags, I had concerns about both the aims and the intentions of the march but having carefully read the response of the organisers to questions on our own website and digested Michael’s heartfelt assessment of the event, I find myself won over to it’s cause.
As with any modern football club, a large swathe of our support remain apathetic to the direction taken by the club. In some cases this is due to becoming numb to the owners of our club – I am 36 and have never known NUFC have what I would count as a ‘good’ owner and in other cases people genuinely aren’t bothered beyond having a few pints before the match and cheering the side on for 90 minutes at SJP every other Saturday.
I would estimate conservatively that the apathetic make up around half of the matchday support at SJP. This isn’t a vehicle to criticise those people though and it is stating the obvious to say that in order for Time4Change to have any sort of impact, that the starting point is weight of numbers. To that end, I understand the opportunity for Newcastle fans at all ends of the spectrum is to a certain extent limited by a lack of finance and a lack of desire for the owner to listen.
The more people that are on the march, the more credibility it carries, provided that it is carried out in the way the organisers anticipate. If it ends up as a platform for attention seekers and cringeworthy stunts then it will serve no purpose other than make us look ridiculous. Getting this one right with the right number of people might just be the wake up call that at least the apathetic have been waiting for, even if it doesn’t have Ashley packing his bags and heading out of town by 3pm on Saturday. Good luck.
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Thanks for listening to the ramble and the Editor will be back next week after a well earned break. Hell, with a victory over Liverpool you might even get a pint off him in the Forth.
Enjoy your week one and all