By Ian Carroll
On May 24th 2015, Newcastle United limped, some would say un-deservedly past one of the least bothered Premier League (Best League in the World, AND IT’S LIVE etc etc) sides ever, to stay in the English First Division and avoid oblivion. Their owner (the NUFC owner, not the dildo seller from the Olympic Stadium), a man that appears to be the only overweight man that can find a way to sell crap sportswear to similarly un-sporting people, through probably the worst ‘shop’ of all time, had clearly had enough, and announced beforehand that he was going to stay at the club until they’d won a trophy (or finished in a place the club had finished in five times in the previous twenty one years) Investment would ‘continue’ and the grand plan was set to be carried through, and all the deluded Geordies (arrogant, ideas above their station, you know the kind) would head home to their Northern Powerhouses in good spirits. Or something.
In reality, and to massively generalise, most United fans were utterly sick of the whole circus, and from what I could gather, thoughts ranged from jacking the whole thing in, to carrying on going to watch, with no real idea what the point was. The inevitable appointment of Steve McClaren, after a super-brief idea that Patrick Vieira (un-proven, yet exciting) might succeed John Carver (remember him) was certainly one to get the pulses working, slowly, and the initial few weeks did nothing to suggest it would be anything other than a repeat of the last few years, though perhaps without the smugness of Alan ‘Chunky’ Pardew. I saw this as an improvement, but there you go.
Alan Pardew is, and always will be, an utter charlatan (not them) who ultimately gets found out as a football manager (no comment on his personal life) and should always be binned after his first good season in a job. I do agree that Palace might well be the ‘surprise package’ this season, but I’m not sure it’ll be in the way that many of (Alan’s mates in) the media suggest. Anyway, I digress because there’s a seemingly common idea that United fans ought to have been careful what they wished for, and look at what Chunky has done at Palace (I assume the whole squad are happy with him- it’s usually the case) ignoring the fact that regardless of whether Pardew was/is a good manager or not (and, having been bored to tears by the man, his antics and his ‘football’ over the last few years, I can say that he isn’t) it’s clear to anyone (other than John Carver, or ‘Pards’ himself) that he’d long since ceased to be a good manager for Newcastle United. I won’t claim any credit for that line of thinking, but as George Caulkin isn’t reading this, I can pass it off as my own.
Then, all of a sudden, we signed a player. Madness. Not only that, the third most expensive player in our history. Quite a big thing. Then we added the fourth most expensive signing we’ve ever made. So we’re now left with three of the five most costly footballers ever seen at United, all signed within the last tweleve months. Number five in that list is, I’ll let you in a secret, abysmal. I can’t yet speak for numbers three and four (number one, as it happens, will always be a vile little human, despite scoring two against our relegation threatened, again, friends from down the road in the regional capital) but they both will add a lot (goals, mainly) to the side. Mitrovic, in particular, ought to be fun to watch, an certainly worth a quid on anytime goalscorer/yellow card each and every week.
McClaren has come across really well, I think, when he’s been allowed to speak to anyone other than the Mirror, though he’s not really been able to disguise the fact that the defence is a massive worry. If you assemble enough average-to-rubbish footballers in a possible back four then I suppose that happens. Apparently, Coloccini has decided he wants to stay (thanks mate, I’d rather you’d have gone for the money to Palace) so you’d hope that him and Chancel M’bemba (real age unknown, etc, etc) might form some sort of coherent partnership. Fullback-wise, Janmaat is clearly wasted on us, and the two possible left-backs are just about passable, without being any good. We’ve got a load of midfielders, some of whom might be good. Jack Colback is apparently a shoe-in for a starting slot, having clearly done a load of things I didn’t see last year. The guy isn’t a particularly bad footballer, but his performances last season showed exactly why our friends down the road used him as a bit part, squad player. McClaren clearly rates the lion-hearted Sissoko, despite admitting he’s no idea where to play him, and I struggle to see where him, De Jong and Winjaldum all fit in to the same side, particularly as we seem intent on playing Colback and Anita (the most average central midfield pairing anywhere, ever) I’d play Aarons and Ayoze either side of the big daft lad upfront, but I’m not Steve McClaren.
With a few days to go before the best league in the world starts again, I really have no idea where United might end up, though for the first time in a fair few years I’m genuinely looking forward to it. Given the fixtures, we could be looking for a new manager by the end of October, but I’m going to let myself get massively carried away and confidently expect we’ll finish in the top eight. I know the top eight isn’t really a thing. While enough people seem to think (quite rightly, I guess) that we ought to have signed more players, I’m utterly amazed we’ve signed three very good footballers. Added to that, there are also a bunch of decent players at NUFC who’ve had to work under clowns over the last few years, who might now show something. So, I actually can’t wait…