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.