It’s that time of the season, ‘the business end’ as we are constantly told by the pundits, when the focus turns to title races, relegation battles, promotion challenges and cup finals, leaving the clubs battling for mid table safety somewhere in the shadow. Having amassed 41 points and sitting virtually safe in 12th position, Newcastle fit the mid table narrative and as such it has been a fairly quiet week news-wise other than the build up to this weekend’s fixture against Birmingham. Suits us just fine.
There was, however, the online launch of the new home kit, some words from our favourite Spaniard (clue – not Xisco), more names added to the ‘out for the season’ injury list, and a pledge to save the Green Army. Here is a round up of Newcastle United news that you may have missed this week:
Black with a bit of white
The club launched next season’s home strip on their website on Wednesday, with the help of captain Kevin Nolan who modelled the new design and Steve Harper who modelled the goalkeeper jersey.
Puma have managed to almost completely ignore the design brief of ‘black and white stripes’ with an almost all black kit (the back is also black) spare two white stripes and white sleeves, while there must have been a ruler shortage in the Puma factory given the location of their logo…
Perhaps more deplorable than the lack of stripes is the £50 price tag of adult home tops, a £10 increase on last season’s home top. Another £10 squeezed out of the fans to add to the extra £10 that season ticket holders are being made to pay to become a ‘member’. Someone taking advantage of the fans’ well renowned loyalty?
To whoever is making the kits next season please may we have black and white stripes, logos and emblems in sensible positions and did we mention black and white stripes?
Here’s a better version than Puma’s efforts that took only two minutes to find via google:
Amid speculation about his future, Jose Enrique spoke to BBC’s Late Kick Off program which aired late on Monday night. Amongst other things El Toro spoke about his difficult first year at the club, his experience of the Championship including that goal against Nottingham Forest and teammates past and present. The full interview is available on the BBC website.
However, of more pressing concern to Newcastle fans is speculation over where their current left back will be playing next season, to which Enrique responded in a non-commital way, saying a lot while not saying much:
“Now this next season is my last season here and I’m just concentrating on playing my games with Newcastle. We have to wait until the summer, we see in the summer and maybe next summer we don’t know.
“Of course we don’t speak about the contract yet. I don’t want to speak about more about that, I’m happy with that and I’m very happy here. I know there are a few difficult things at Newcastle, but we the players don’t have to think about that.
“If I have to continue here , I’m happy. If I have to go to another club, I’m happy in England. If I have to go to another league, I’m happy. I just want to play football – it’s my life, football is the best for me in my life, it’s helped me alot in everything I have.
“For football I have all my family in a good position now, and of course I want to play football and I don’t care where I have to go”.
So to summarise, Enrique is happy pretty much whatever! Not quite the reassurance Newcastle fans would have been hoping for, however the general acceptance now seems to be one of reluctant acceptance that Enrique will move on to a Champions League side at some point in the near future, for which his game merits, and far better honesty from the Spaniard than pledging allegiance to the black and white cause before disappearing at the first given opportunity, a la Andy Carroll.
Out for the season? Me too!
As well as it being ‘the business end’ of the season, with only three games to go, it’s also the point when players picking up injuries are, perhaps overdramatically, ruled out for the season. Following the loss of Stephen Ireland to injury last week, a further trio of Newcastle players were ruled out for the season this week.
Mike Williamson was the first to be ruled out, with the club confirming that the defender had suffered a broken arm in training and was to undergo an operation sidelining him for the remaining three games. A disappointing end to the season for Williamson, who unfortunately ended a fairly solid first full campaign in the Premier League on a sour note with a mistake that gifted Liverpool their second goal in the 3-0 defeat last weekend.
After positive noises coming out of the club that he would be able to make a return to first team action this season, almost inevitably, Hatem Ben Arfa was then ruled out for the season late on Thursday. Ben Arfa suffered a setback in his return to fitness from the double leg break he sustained six months ago and Pardew, speaking on Ben Arfa’s return this season confirmed: “We think that’s probably not going to happen now. He’s had a little setback“. Although it would have been nice to see Ben Arfa back in action, with the club virtually safe it seems a more sensible option not to risk the Frenchman and instead have him fully fit for the beginning of next season.
James Perch has also been ruled out for the season with damaged knee ligaments.
Newcastle Fans United for Plymouth Argyle
Cast your mind back to just over a year ago, 19 April 2010 to be exact, Newcastle made the long journey South to face Plymouth at Home Park, a game in which they won and with it became winners of The Championship. The Newcastle fans spilled onto the pitch and, rather than the jobsworth attitude too often showing to fans nowadays, Plymouth Argyle FC, and their tannoy announcer in particular, were extremely hospitable to say the least in their treatment of the Newcastle Fans. Black and white anthems such as ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Blaydon Races’ played over the speakers as well as the traditional ‘We Are The Champions’ by Queen. A superb gesture, especially considering defeat had spelled relegation for Plymouth, and one that won’t be forgotten by fans of Newcastle United
Unfortunately our friends in the South have since suffered one disaster after another and having endured their second successive relegation this season, are also in administration with fears over their future. Michael Hudson ( @DolphinHotel), writing for True Faith, takes up the story and explains how football fans can help the Argyle Supporter’s Trust keep their club alive.
What we’ve been reading this week… Haris Vučkić: Slovenia’s future?
Since signing for Newcastle in 2009, Haris Vučkić has been widely tipped as the next big thing to break through from Newcastle’s reserve team into the first team set up. However after appearing in the early season Carling Cup games against Accrington Stanley, Chelsea and Arsenal, and showing signs of his impressive potential, Vučkić has suffered from a run of injuries and has had to watch from the sidelines as fellow youngsters Michael Richardson, James Tavernier, Ryan Donaldson and Shane Ferguson acted as first team cover.
At only 18 years old, the signs are promising for Vučkić, certainly the club saw fit to place their faith in him with a five and a half year contract extension in January, and he looks to have a successful career ahead. Kristan Heneage (@Kheneage), writing for www.twofootedtackle.com, previews the Slovenian’s future for club and country.
Best of luck to two of our North East neighbours Darlington and Whitley Bay, who are in Wembley action this weekend.
After a nightmare couple of years for Darlington, following numerous off-field gaffes from various owners and their subsequent relegation to the Blue Square Conference, the Quakers face Mansfield Town on Saturday afternoon in the FA Trophy Final after beating Gateshead in the Semi Final.
Whitley Bay make the trip to Wembley for their third successive FA Vase Final, and will impressively bring the trophy back for the third successive year should they beat Coalville on Sunday afternoon.
Here’s to a Wembley North East double and 3 points for NUFC against Birmingham. Have a good weekend.
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