The DA’s Dan Green continues his journey of discovery, mystery and away trips to Barnsley.
So, after two weeks of boredom and a vacuum of Newcastle-related news, the ‘International Break’ is finally over…hurray! Stephen Merchant’s ugly brother Mr. Crouch has once again staked his claim to the seat-with-the-extra-leg-room on the South African-bound England team plane, leading many to re-use the same old hackneyed Crouch line: “Well, he does give England something different going forward…”. Well, if we’re going for “different”, why don’t we push the boat out a bit? Why choose a footballer to lead the line? How about placing one of London Zoo’s Giraffes up top, with Rooney slotting in just behind in the ‘hole’? If we’re going for height, let’s do it properly. Well, maybe not. My point is, ‘different’ is not a synonym of ‘better’. However, Crouch seems to have sealed his own England (and Spurs) fate this week by poking his inebriated face out of a car’s sun-roof at 3am in the morning. What is perhaps more shocking is that the country’s media seem to relish documenting such antics on both the front and back pages of the UK’s leading papers. It’s almost as if footballers are viewed as high profile public figures, representing both club and country. Who knew?
Right then, ‘Crouch-rant’ over. Thankfully, the Coca Cola Championship freak-show has rolled back into action this week, shambling on from town to town as the smaller teams fight for Championship survival and the bigger teams…well…lose to the smaller teams. You’ve probably already prepared yourselves for the tirade of abuse, ‘Effing ‘n’ Jeffing’ and general displeasure at Newcastle United’s last two fixtures. However, to be truthful, that’s not going to happen. Yes, I am disappointed with losing two ‘winnable’ games on the trot. Yes, I am concerned that we haven’t tasted victory in our last four games. And yes, I do own the new FIFA 10 videogame, spending most of my spare time with my head in the ‘virtual’ clouds, battering Barcelona with the same Newcastle team that capitulated in front of the Scunthorpe United faithful. However, as David ‘The Broken Record’ Pleat has probably stated 5 trillion times, “Form is temporary, class is permanent.”
Now, I’m not inferring that Newcastle United are by any means a ‘class act’ at this point in the season, however, the club still remains level on points with league leaders West Brom who have themselves suffered a recent dip in form. What is more encouraging is that none of the other likely promotion contenders (Cardiff, Middlesbrough etc) have been able to produce the consistency required to overtake the top two. In terms of tightness, the Barclay’s Premier League is like Ebenezer Scrooge at a pre-Christmas fundraiser for disadvantaged orphans. On the other hand, the Coca Cola Championship is more like my Dad – he fancies himself as a bit of a miser and can be heard constantly retorting about the ‘value of money, however, the second the old TV starts playing up he’s down to nearest electrical store queuing at the checkouts with a brand new flat screen in hand.
Nottingham Forest (always a difficult opposition as I pointed out at the end of my last blog) ran out as deserved 1-0 winners, capitalising on a good first half display through Dexter Blackstock’s adequate finish. And yes, the loss to Scunthorpe United, self-proclaimed owners of the league’s smallest fan base and budget (as well as the most amusing derogatory nickname for their home town/city – “Scumthorpe”), was obviously an unwelcome surprise for many conscripts of the Toon Army. However, as Papa Hughton correctly pointed out, Newcastle are coveted as the league’s ‘Prize-Scalp’, a fantastic morale boost for smaller teams looking to cement their place in the second tier of English Football or with aspirations for top-flight football.
Saturday’s game at home to Doncaster will be a huge test for Mr Hughton, a man with very clear aspirations to become the permanent manager at Newcastle United. Based on his Championship campaign so far, it is hard to form a case against him – he has already won both Manager of the Month awards and has managed to keep his squad relatively intact, whilst making some very intelligent loan signings. And perhaps most importantly, Chris seems genuinely excited by managerial life in the lower leagues – it’s hard to imagine a certain Mr. Shearer relishing the likely prospect of a 0-0 home draw with Doncaster when he could be curled up on the Match of the Day sofa spooning Lee Dixon.