Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughSelf Destruction or Re-Construction: A Newcastle United Story  - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Self Destruction or Re-Construction: A Newcastle United Story  - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Self Destruction or Re-Construction: A Newcastle United Story 

2 years ago today, the proud Toon Army were preparing themselves for the inaugural match of the Coca-Cola Championship after falling victim to relegation from the Premiership, nobody believed it until it would happen, but fans and pundits alike were awestruck when the Tynesiders faced the drop. Not even the prodigal son Alan Shearer could save them from dropping out of the top tier of English football.

Now back to the present. After an immediate return to the top flight in comfortable fashion under the helmsmanship of Chris Hughton and thanks to the undoubted class of players like Joey Barton, Fabricio Coloccini, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique. After a season establishing themselves in the Premiership, which was interrupted by the sale of prize striker Andy Carroll, yet they still finished a comfortable 12th and now are looking to re-establish themselves as one of the forces in English football once more.

Then arrives the summer break and seemingly the backroom staff of Newcastle United thought, out with the old guard, in with the new stars. Queue the sale of top-scorer, captain and talisman Kevin Nolan for a fee reportedly under £4m.  Outrage was sparked amongst the Toon Army’s following, who after the sale of Carroll were already very bitter about losing top players. Pardew commented that he couldn’t see any long-term future for Nolan at the club and that while he led the clubs scoring charts, he was surplus to requirements at this new St James’s Park.

The outrage didn’t end with the fans though. No, controversial figure Joey Barton added his 2 cents to the row with his now notorious tweet ‘Great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD #mejoseandjonasnext.’ He may have yet to see what happens to Jose Enrique and Jonas, but yesterday Barton’s fate was sealed as the Newcastle hierarchy decided he was ‘persona non grata.’ (His words not mine).

Barton’s next move is even less obvious than the reason he is being forced out  of the door. But surely an experienced Premier League player of his caliber will spark a lot of interest. Arsenal seems to be as good a move as any, providing some experience and grit in the centre of midfield which they have been lightweight the past few seasons. Wherever he goes though, the decision to let him go for free will surely be questioned, no matter how much of a disruptive influence he is he could easily command a fee of over £5m in this market.

Seemingly to us outsiders it look as if Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew have gone mad, their two top midfielders and stand out performers last season sold, self-destruction could be the only route.

However, summer signings Yohan Cabaye, Sylvian Marveaux and Demba Ba are all huge signings for the future of the club. Barton and Nolan’s departures have left holes in the United midfield, while Andy Carroll has never been suitably replaced… No matter how hard Shola Ameobi works. Newcastle fans are not convinced by the signings and the look of the squad at the moment, I however am quietly convinced at how Newcastle’s squad is shaping up, and here is why.

Last season’s arrival of French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa was in my eye’s a serious coup for the club, a young player with heaps of talent and ability at his feet. He was unlucky to have his season cut short after Nigel De Jong’s tackle caused him to break his tibia and fibula leaving him sidelined for the rest of the season. He is the direct replacement to Kevin Nolan, a midfielder comfortable behind a central striker with a good amount of skill and an eye for goal, as we all saw with his strike against Everton on his full debut. He could very well turn out to be the suprise of this season, injuries aside, this man is someone to look out for. 

Next we have ex-Lille man Yohan Cabaye, a player who describes himself as a Box-to-Box midfielder. He fits into the Joey Barton mould and arrives with a flawless discipline record along with his Ligue 1 title medal. He is a midfielder with a record of 31 goals in his career and will undoubtedly create numerous chances for the Toon’s fantastic wide men. The fact that last season he played in a team who played some of the best football the French leagues have seen in a good while seems to have been overlooked and he is another one who I can see making a massive impact over the next year. 

Senegalese hit man Demba Ba managed 7 goals in 13 appearances for a side struggling against relegation and devoid of any kind of drive. So a move to a team comfortably safe from relegation is a good step for the ex-Hoffenhiem striker. While he may be a different player to Andy Carroll, he does look a frugal, effective replacement for the England international. He is dangerous in the air, has a fine shot on him and is only 26 so has years on his side. Pardew says he is still looking for another striker, but for now Ba, with a back up of Ameobi should surely do the trick up top for the Toon.

With the start of the season fast approaching then, Newcastle are definitely looking like a different side to the bunch Chris Hughton brought kicking and screaming from the Championship. Their fortunes this season will very much reliance the keeping of Spanish full-back José Enrique and the adaptation of the new signings to the English leagues.

One thing remains certain though, Mike Ashley can ill afford another season like 2009-10, while Pardew will surely be shown the door if his upheaval fails to manifest any progress. It seems this close seasons re-construction will be pivotal in the future of the Tynesiders, for the worst or for the best is yet to be seen though.

John Fernandez



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