August 23, 2012
Our five year wait for European football ended tonight with a 1 v 1 draw in Athens against Atromitos.
It was 38C during the day in the Greek capital and the temperature barely dropped approaching the 2000 local kick off time.
Alan Pardew surprised a few by including Papiss Cisse in the starting XI. There was a shock start for 212 year old Steve Harper too, 16 months since he last started a game for the Mags. Before the game he joked that some of the lads have started calling him 'cocoon' because of it!
17 year old local lad Adam Campbell had been rumoured to make a start, but he had to make do with a spot on the bench.
Anita and Bigirimana, who from my perspective looked like twins during the game, also made their first starts since signing for the club.
Krul, Tavernier, Perch, Williamson, R.Taylor, Bigirimana, Anita, Marveaux (Gutierrez 70), Obertan, Gosling (Amalfitano 64), Cisse (Campbell 77).
Unused Subs : Krul, Santon, Cabaye, S.Taylor.
The first 20 minutes of the game were largely unremarkable with the heat clearly having an impact on the pace and style of the game. We kept possession well without ever really looking to threaten. There were a lot of short balls between the midfield and the back four.
Twenty minutes in, a deep cross from Tavernier out from the right exposed Itandje as he tried to gather it with one hand! This led to a number of aerial assaults throughout the game be it from corners, open play and throw ins.
August 21, 2012
We make our long awaited return to European football this coming Thursday evening with a tie in Athens against Atromitos. Unbelievably it is over five years since we last competed in continental football when we were eliminated from the UEFA cup last 16 on away goals by AZ Alkmaar under the management of Glenn Roeder in March 2007 (we blew a 3 goal lead in the tie!) At the time we were used to it and many of us took it for granted - oh how we've missed it!
So, who are Atromitos?
Krul, Simpson, Perch, S.Taylor, Santon, Tiote, Cabaye (Anita 71), Gutierrez, Ben Arfa, Ba (Obertan 85), Cisse.
Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson (Van der Vaart 68), Livermore, Sandro (Kane 85), Defoe.
Premier League football returned to a sunny St James' Park on Saturday afternoon and it was a dream start to the season for the home side with three points bagged.
There had been fitness doubts surrounding Ben Arfa and Cabaye before the game but both players were in the starting lineup. Coloccini missed out through injury and was surprisingly replaced by James Perch with Mike Williamson only taking up a spot on the bench.
For Spurs AVB surprisingly opted to start with Gallas ahead of summer signing Vertonghen.
August 12, 2012
Premier League football is back! Even the Euros and Olympics weren't enough to stop me pining for a competitive Newcastle game.
Last season was one of the most enjoyable in recent years. We started off strongly and spent the majority of the season in the top 6 - who would have thought that we would be in with a chance of a Champions League spot right up until the final day of the season? We ended up with a 5th placed finish and a return to European football. Marvellous.
So what about this coming season?
Our success in 11/12 was triggered by a strong, unbeaten run at the start. We have a more difficult start this time around - the opener with Spurs at home is no more difficult than our matchup against Arsenal was last year, but the potential 3,500 mile round trip to Athens for our Europa League with Atromitos less than 48 hours before a game at Stamford Bridge vs the European Champions is a big ask. As I write this Newcastle are waiting to hear whether the club have been successful in their attempt to have the Europa League fixtures reversed meaning that the first leg tie would be at home in between the Spurs and Chelsea games. Whatever the order this is a tough schedule.
Then again none of us are complaining, we will enjoy the ride!
August 8, 2012
In ten days time we kick of our 2012/13 Premier League campaign at home to Spurs and I can hardly wait.
Almost everything surrounding the club of late has been positive - a strong 2011/12 season, European qualification, great morale amongst the players and fans and most importantly, so far, no high profile sales - even the Demba Clause has been and gone. We have brought in some high potential youngsters who will almost surely contribute to our Europa and League Cup campaigns and we have been linked with high quality first team additions such as Debuchy and Andy Carroll, though we have not yet agreed deals with any senior players and our squad needs to be strengthened in one or two areas.
July 18, 2012
Unless you've been on Mars for a few days, you will have heard that we have declared firm interest in re-signing our former number nine - Andy Carroll. This has split fans opinions on Twitter, Facebook, phone ins - every forum for opinion has been inundated.
The local paper polled opinion on whether the fans would like to see big Andy plying his trade on Tyneside once again - 67% voted in the positive. My thoughts? If the price is right (¬£15 million maximum) I would have him back straight away.
May 31, 2012
A couple of weeks ago a taxi picked me up at Heathrow airport and my conversation with the driver, an elderly Chelsea fan, was something like this:
Driver: "Noocarsew are doing well ay? Bet you're not slagging Pardew now ay? Cockney mafia and that ay? None of you wanted 'im did you ay? Bet you aww feel darft now ay?"
Me: "You show me a person who from day one believed that Pardew was capable of this and I'll show you a liar."
He then went on to say that he was born in Blackpool but moved South as a kid so that's why he supports 'Chewsee'. He was also furious that Hodgson got the England job and not "Arry the choice of the people" but that hasn't really got anything to do with this blog!
I stand by the point I made to the driver and I'm the first to admit I got it completely wrong on Pardiola. Who honestly didn't?
A win ratio of 26% in season one after he arrived in December coupled with a cup exit to Stevenage and I was even less convinced.
May 30, 2012
We are ahead of schedule.
Not many of us foresaw our fantastic 5th placed finish and only a few more people predicted the meteoric rise in the popularity of our manager. In a pre season note that I wrote last summer for 442 magazine, I said that a 7th placed finish for 2011/12 would have been a fantastic season - but where now after a season in which we massively exceeded expectations?
In my end of season 'awards' blog I asked you to comment on your expectations for next season. As ever, the response was mixed with some concerned about the number of games we will face as we embark on a Europa League campaign and others looking to push onwards and upwards into the top 4.
Alan Pardew has been looking to play down expectations: ‚ÄúExpectations are going to be higher,‚ÄĚ Pardew said. ‚ÄúPeople will be aware of us and that is one of the biggest challenges we are going to have next season. We are going to find it harder.‚ÄĚ
I have to agree with the boss.
May 24, 2012
Thanks for all of the feedback on the questions that I posed last week - I received a number of comments here on ESPNsoccernet, Tweets and texts with all of your nominations.
Here are the winners:
May 15, 2012
That's it! We are all done. In the Champions League race until the very last day of the season and an amazing 5th placed finish getting us back into European football, not to mention the gaffa collecting both the Barclays and LMA Manager of the Year awards.
I for one can not wait to visit some random towns around the Continent with NUFC next season.
Over the next few days I will be working on two new Blogs - one about the boss and the other being a full season review.
I'd really like you to leave comment on your moments of the season:
Your NUFC player of the year and why?
Your most improved NUFC player?
Most promising NUFC youngster?
Your NUFC goal of the season (and there are PLENTY of candidates!)
Your favourite game of the season?
Your favourite moment of the season?
And what you expect next term.....
Leave your comments (as long or as short as you like) on here, or on my Twitter page @MarcSDuffy