This evening’s visitors have played some of the most attractive Premiership football this season. In the FA Cup they have a realistic chance of a quarter-final place. Three years ago they put paid to our Final aspirations in the Old Trafford semi.
At Peterborough on Sunday they played without Dabizas, Lee, Speed, Robert and Dyer but still survived the mud and tension to win.
Newcastle have defied the odds this season so far and if we can get into the top six it will be a tremendous achievement but a gap has now developed which means a great effort is required by our team.
There was much disappointment that Saturday’s Cup game was postponed. Of course we wanted to play — I am not sure if Bolton really relished the slog in the mud prior to playing Manchester United last night — but the Referee Mr Dunn was correct to cancel.
He gave every consideration and decided the ball would not roll properly — apart from farcical conditions it is easy to get an injury due to a misjudgement.
Our Youth game at Chigwell had been cancelled in the morning and at 11.30am our groundsmen considered White Hart Lane playable provided the rain ceased. But the rain became fiercer and a violent downpour at 1.30pm created puddles. Mr Dunn wanted to confer with both Glenn and Sam Allardyce before deciding. It was Sod’s Law that their coach was held in traffic and never arrived until just before 2.00pm. It was a late decision but a correct one and we can only apologise to all our faithful supporters who made the journey.
As usual we have been linked with several players recently in the football gossip scenario.
We were all surprised to learn that we were about to sign two Brazilian players whose names escape me but once again this was the work of busy European agents trying to secure deals for their counterparts in South America.
On one day alone last week five Brazilian players were exported to different countries around the world and in any one season, quite staggeringly, over 600 players come out of this football crazy country to other lands.
Many eyes are currently focussed on Argentina after the signing of Diego Forlan from their domestic game for Manchester United. Most of the players playing in Argentina are from that country and the standard is very high and very competitive. That is what attracts English scouts to see their games, particularly as many of their players have Italian and Spanish ancestry.
Three years ago I visited this country twice and saw some of the best young players. Three of them particularly, Walter Samuel, Saviola and Aimar, have gone on to gain tremendous moves and have won accolades in Italy and Spain. True value for money.
We were also expected to be having a press conference with Carsten Jancker, the Bayern Munich centre-forward, last week and Glenn was very surprised when a journalist asked him what time should he arrive at the training ground for this unveiling. Evidently, all the German papers, once again due to the work of agents, are attaching English clubs to one or two players who have become ‘spare’ in the Bundesliga.
The transfer windows will be introduced from next season, although there is still some discussion as to whether that will apply between English domestic clubs. If we do not comply we will be out of synch with the rest of Europe who will have two transfer windows, one in the summer and one in the mid-winter.
If foreign players are then playing in England they will have a distinct advantage of moving throughout the season within our domestic game. The FA here should make sure that we are in line with Europe. Less transfers will mean coaches having to work harder within the confines of their squad and maximise their coaching abilities. It is far too easy when clubs have injuries or suspensions for the manager to plead with the chairman for another pot of money. Indirectly this can be a recipe for disaster. Increasing squad numbers recklessly, denying young players an opportunity and putting clubs further into debt.
Many years ago Malcolm Allison, one of our foremost thinking coaches, suggested that clubs should nominate their squad at the start of any season and not be allowed to use the transfer market at all during that season. Of course there are disadvantages. Particularly for smaller clubs with less staff who would be penalised but I’m sure the concept is worthy.
In closing, I was pleased to note that Lennie Lawrence, one of the hardest working managers in recent years, has gained an appointment at Cardiff as Director of Football, one that he will treat seriously and do conscientiously as people like John Rudge, at Stoke City, Mel Machin, at Bournemouth, and Gordon Milne, at Newcastle are all doing.
Directors of Football are now increasing in numbers as the onus and workload on manager/coaches becomes greater by the day. Dick Advocaat has recently accepted this position at Glasgow Rangers and it will be interesting to see how he works in this role.
I have invited a friend of mine, John McCririck, a television racing pundit to the game this evening. He is a mad keen Newcastle fan and very knowledgeable and opinionated on various subjects. Last season he came to this fixture and saw his team beaten leaving rather quietly for an appointment on BBC radio’s ‘Any questions’. I hope he will have nothing to say after tonight’s game!
Enjoy the game.
Printing schedules for my column prevented me from congratulating our seniors for their great win against Chelsea and the Youth Team’s result at Bolton. This was a tremendous night for our Club.