Blog 14 – Sewera Mpira Afrika 07.02.14
Anyway, let’s start off over in Africa; as predicted, SULOM have decided to rescind the bans on Mighty Wanderers and Silver Strikers. SULOM increased the fines of both clubs, the Strikers had their fines increased to 5.2million Malawi Kwacha and the Wanderers fine was increased to 700,000 Kwacha. The huge difference in the size of the fine is down to the fact that Strikers had been solely responsible for the security at the match. The match was ordered to be replayed at the Balaka stadium. However, this wasn’t the end of it, Strikers appealed to FAM who then decided to review the case. FAM decided that SULOM had failed in their duty of ensuring fan safety, and reduced the fines to 1.25 million and 500,000 respectively, and also imposed points deductions for the upcoming season of -9 and -6 points.They also ordered that the match be replayed behind closed doors at the Kamuzu Stadium. So, Silver have an excellent opportunity to wrap up the title, needing only a draw to be named champions, but the points deduction means the Bankers are unlikely to make it 3 in a row next season.
After months of waiting FAM finally announced the new management team for the national side. Having set the bar far too high in terms of qualifications, and a lack of applicants for the role from abroad, they finally turned to 2 former captains and sweepers to take the country forward; Young ‘Yugo’ Chimodzi and Jack ‘Africa’ Chamangwana. Young, who became captain of the national team following Jack’s retirement, will be in charge, with his predecessor as captain assisting him. The Flames haven’t had a game for several months, with friendlies being cancelled and the decision not to enter the CHAN tournament for financial reasons, it is difficult to see the way forward for them. Their are no scheduled fixtures, with the FAM website having no fixtures listed at all for 2014. It is a disappointing state of affairs, especially when you see the success that some of their players are having abroad currently. Kamwendo will start the new season at TP Mazembe, one of the continents powerhouses, Robert N’gambi is cementing his place as one of the most influential goalscoring midfielders in the South African league with 9 goals from 23 games and the future hope, 21 year old Gabadinho Mhango is starting to find his feet at Bloemfontein Celtic and has managed 3 goals in 7 appearances, or a goal every 125 minutes played, when his appearances from the bench are taken into account. It is unclear what fixtures FAM will arrange, but without the competitive fixtures of CHAN qualification, then they are unlikely to be able to persuade these players, and others in the well paid Mozambican leagues to travel back for friendlies.
I spoke a while back about a young Nigerian player, who starred as his nation won the U17 World Cup, at the same time our very own Adam Armstrong was scoring goals for England in a European tournament. The player, Kelechi Icheanacho, has now signed a deal with Man City, and will arrive there in October following his 18th birthday. While it has been celebrated by many in Nigeria, there are some journalists and fans, me included, that worry for the players development. All to often we see top prospects go to big clubs, and end up languishing in the youth team and reserves as expensive signing after expensive signing comes in blocking any path of progression. At Chelsea, you can look at Gael Kakuta, once the most promising French player of his generation, now he goes from club to club on loan and hasn’t managed to fulfil even a little bit of his potential. Another player, Matic, has just been bought back for around £20million, after letting him go for a fifth of that just a few years ago. For Man City, you can look at the former Spanish ‘heir to Xavi’ Denis Suarez, who was shipped out last summer and snapped up by Barca no less, despite City having fought very hard to get him from Celta Vigo. Then there is Abdisalam Ibrahim, a Norwegian international, that signed as a 17 year old in 2007. Back then Ibrahim was expected by many to be East Africa’s biggest footballing star (he was born in Somalia, but left and was given refuge in Norway as a youngster), now hardly anyone remembers him, and Wanyama is the big name – a player 1 month younger who was unknown in 2007. The worry is that Iheanacho will go the same way. It is tough to get a game when your club can happily spend £50million each summer on 1 or 2 players that play your position. At one point, their were rumours he had turned down City in favour of Porto, but then his family were offered an improved package, and he ended up at City. I hope he doesn’t regret turning down Porto, as he looks an incredibly exciting prospect, with Nigerian media claiming he is the brightest hope the country has had since a man named Foluwashola Ameobi was born in Zaria. Okay, I made the last part up, but they do claim he is the brightest prospect in 2 decades since the likes of Okocha, Yekini, Amokachi and Finidi came through. Maybe one day young stars will realise that rather than heading for the bright lights straight away, it is better to learn your game and develop out of the limelight as if you are good enough, you will get there in the end anyway. Or maybe not…
I really am not sure what to say about NUFC at the moment, Cabaye sold, no replacement, Kinnear resigns/was made to resign by the board (a polite way of saying sacked), Willie Donachie hits one of the kids (allegedly), and something else happened….oh yes, the derby. What a thoroughly wonderful couple of weeks it has been to be a Newcastle fan. At least we will have a great balance sheet for that open top bus parade!
Cabaye, well no real problem with the fact he left, wish him all the best and hope he gets the silverware he craves at PSG. Two games in though, and 0 starts for our former playmaker, he will have to earn his spot, and with Pastore, Verrati and Rabiot all challenging for the one attacking spot in centre midfield, he will have his work cut out. However, the fact we apparently said he would be allowed to leave months ago and failed to prepare sufficiently by bringing a replacement in prior, or having one lined up for after is tantamount to negligence. The squad now looks bereft of creativity. Is it time to bring Marveaux in out of the cold, or can HBA solve the creativity void by producing consistently? Who knows, but I think more likely is we go “back to basics” as Alan said and play direct hoping to get on the end of De Jong’s knock downs… I can’t wait.
Kinnear going as suddenly, but a lot quieter, then when he arrived is… well, I suppose a positive. I, like most, have no idea what he was there for, or what he did. Yes, it is good not to have the oaf around the club, or claiming to represent the club, but the void it leaves is a worry. We now have a club which boasts a Club Secretary in Lee Charnley, and a Finance Director, John Irving solely in charge of the day to day running of the club. In my opinion that seems a bit light. If I was an optimist, I’d say we were trimming the board and key employees ready for a sale of the club. One can hope.
The Under 21’s, languishing near the bottom of the development league, and looking likely to be in the lower division next season, were beaten by Sunderland on Monday night, and according to reports, coach Willie Donachie has been suspended following an altercation with young centre half Remi Streete. Allegedly Donachie wasn’t happy about Streete’s tackle to concede a penalty, and they were separated by other players. Whatever the truth here, it doesn’t shine a positive light, and with allegations against other youth team coaching staff in the past, it is hardly a welcome mat for young talent wanting to come play here.
The derby, the last really meaningful game of the season for many fans, was abysmal. Blame has to lie with every player on the pitch, the lack of any inspiration, tactical nous or ability to change a game from Pardew and his coaching staff, and the people in charge for failing to kick the squad on. Even without Cabaye we started with 8 full internationals. Only Johnson for Sammi, and maybe Borini or Altidore for Shola would have made our starting 11, yet we were so comfortably beaten it was galling. Worryingly reminiscent of last season, we never even got competitive, we were outthought and outfought in every department and it was embarrassing. I’m struggling to think of what there is to look forward to for the rest of the season. We are 99% safe, so maybe it is time to allow some of the squad a chance to prove themselves. Bring Vuckic back, Campbell, Ferguson and maybe Newton, bring Bigi in and throw Streete the opportunity to take Willo or Taylor’s squad position – we will never get a safer time to do this. Let us see what they have at this level, if they fail, the rebuilding process Pardew spoke of happens in the summer. If they take to the Prem like ducks to water then great, clear out the non contributing squad members and let’s build for next year! We won’t, Pardew isn’t brave enough or secure enough to do it, so I’m expecting an uninspiring last 14 games, and who knows after that.