Newcastle United Preview

joe-kinnear

Ola, bien venue and welcome to This Is Not Football, especially if you have arrived via Newsnow for the very first time – the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a couple of tasteful, unobtrusive logos dotted here and there.

If you are one of what we like to call ‘newbies’ you might appreciate bit of a ‘heads up’ about what to expect during the fun-packed week ahead. Regular readers will be more than aware of all this so we thank them for their patience.

Tonight – real time updates from the Everton versus Newcastle game on the site itself or via SMS or the TINF app.

Tuesday – Statman John and his infostatistographics break down the action into easily understandable numbers and arrows and that.

Wednesday – the latest edition of This Is Not A Podcast, featuring a very special guest.

Thursday – The Banter Shack.

And so much more!

Before we get round to all that though, it’s time to look ahead only as far as tonight’s game against Newcastle United.

Now, if Premier League games were Monty Python characters – it could happen – then Liverpool would be shopkeeper in the dead parrot sketch while Everton and Newcastle would both be the moaning Yorkshiremen.

‘We lost money from the NTL deal because Keith Wyness used the paperwork to wipe the grease off his KFC from around his mouth or something….’

‘Bloody luxury.’

Seriously, for a set of supporters who pride themselves on their militant outlook the Geordies have taken lorry loads of shite down the years but keep on coming back for more. In fact, they skive off work and school to cheer on the shite lorry as it rolls up to the stadium, and rumour has it that one fan even got a tattoo of it.

On his face.

Incredibly they are still owned by grotesque human potato, Mike Ashley, the school bullying victim lashing out at the world and his perceived tormentors with his every action. A multi-millionaire who dresses like a pub landlord, Ashley has made his money by clothing the nation’s TWOCers from head to toe: The Jeremy Kyle Show is like an infomercial for his jumble sale shops. In fairness to the big guy though, he never gets the credit he deserves for his work in UK race relations. Whatever his detractors say, there’s no denying that from the Midlands BNP rally to the controversial Muslim cleric spewing race hate in North London, the Reebok sweat-pant and the Lonsdale slip-on see no race, creed or colour.

Word.

His appointment of Regency footman Joe Kinnear as Director of Football is only the latest in a long line of ‘fuck you’ gestures that seem almost purposely intended to have no other effect other than boil the piss of the paying Geordie public. Amongst many other bold pronouncements on getting the job he said he can ring up any manager in the world – actually getting them to sell him any players though appeared to be another matter altogether.

‘Hello, this is the Guardiola residence. Sorry? What, I can’t hear you over that jukebox. What, yes, I can hear you better now, thanks. Who, Joe Ki… Hang on, we’ve been told not to talk to you if you ring again. No, seriously. And what’s that noise? Are you having a piss? You dirty bastard. Dad, DAD!’

One player that that Kinnear may or may not have had in attracting on loan was Loic Remy, the Queens Park Rangers striker who originally knocked them back when signing for the doomed Londoners but was left with few options once they got relegated. Despite his obvious talent there were no other Premier League clubs interested thanks to the fact that he faces court on a serious sexual offence. According to the Newcastle Chronicle many supporters were understandably dubious about adding another potential charmer to the long list of wrong ‘uns they have had on their playing staff, although a chap called Stephen Scott tried to add some sense of perspective with what is possibly the most ‘football’ comment imaginable:

‘The views will soon change if he scores goals.’

Indeed.

Remy is obviously innocent until proven guilty, but that shouldn’t prevent a McVicar inspired chorus of ‘Sex case, sex case, hang him, hang him, hang him’ during any lull in tonight’s proceedings. If the Jimmy Saville case taught us anything it’s that you should always have a go at suspected nonces before it’s too late. After all, which one of us hasn’t fantasised about going back in time and lashing hot tea in his face while he’s mugging for the cameras during the London Marathon or even fracturing Rolf Harris’s eye socket in a stairwell didgeridoo bashing.

So think on.

Hey there Newsnow guys, how are you enjoying it so far?

There’s still a palpable excitement every week about Everton, because we are still not 100% sure what to expect from them game to game. There are really exciting signs at times though, and you can’t help but feel that at several points during this season everything is really going to click and we are going to smash the back out of a few teams.

A lot of those positive vibes emanate from Romelu Lukaku and it’s fair to say that tonight’s home debut is keenly anticipated to say the least. The home crowd are still hoping to see a bit more of Gerard Deulofeu too. Newcastle for their part have one of the league’s in-form attackers, Hatem Ben Arfa, in their line-up, as well as Remy, so all in all this has the potential to be an absolute end-to-end cracker.

My God, what a dreadful way to end an article. Only just short of predicting the score.

Shocking.

Newcastle United 1 Everton 2

Ka-Pow

Imagine a few years ago some Geordies sitting watching Shola Ameobi being generally cack and turning to his mates and saying, ‘One day he’ll be partnered up front by his younger, shitter brother’. He’d be laughed all the way to the Strawberry.

Seriously, it would be like us giving a dream Premier League start to Frankie Hibbert.

Anyway, both sly-eyed Ameobi boys did finish this game for the hosts but it was no, wait for it, joyous ‘family affair’ as Everton won with an oddly inconsistent performance. They have certainly played better and drawn this season, but they overcame some trademark horror defending to overturn Newcastle’s early lead and eventually take all three points.

With shameless sly-arse Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Shola Ameobi began the game up front for the home side and it was him who attracted both Sylvain Distin and Johnny Heitinga towards Tim Krul’s long punt upfield. Tim Howard shouted the Everton code word, ‘Kroldrup!’ and as both centre-halves collided with each other NFL chest-bump style and Leighton Baines stepped up to try and play Pappis Cissé offside – presumable expecting a touch off Ameobi – the Senegalese striker with the lonely tooth looped a header into the Everton net.

That was just over a minute in, so the Blues were almost certainly choosing to ignore the whole ‘put them under pressure early’ advice we offered in the preview, as is their right. Similarly, Steven Naismith chose to take no heed of the praise he got in a similar piece last week and had an absolute shocker of a game.

In fact, a few of them were distinctly sub-par for long spells, but fortunately an absolutely cobblers Newcastle team failed to take some of the decent chances they created. Very few of them came from great football – the most profitable route against this Everton side seems to be bladder the ball up the middle and feed of the chaos. At times we resemble one of them slick-looking Continental teams who provided so much fodder for robust English sides in Europe in the 70s and 80s. If Cheltenham have got a couple of hod-carriers up front on Monday night they will have half a chance.

James Perch hit the post with a header for the Magpies and Tim Howard was grateful to watch a couple of low crosses whistle harmlessly across his six-yard box. At the other end, where Nikica Jelavic played well without getting much of a sniff of goal and Steven Pienaar always looked dangerous, Baines had one shot smothered at close range and a delicately curling free kick pushed around the post.

On 42 minutes the returning Marouane Fellaini – who had some nice touches but seems to have developed a habit of admiring his own work at times – won a free kick 35 yards out. Much has been made about the soft nature of the award and it’s true, neither Fabio Coloccini nor Chiek Tiote really touched the big Belgian. However, it’s probably also fair to say that when Baines stepped up to have a dig he really did still have ‘a bit to do’.

What ensued wasn’t exactly art, science or even magic, it was more like Industrial Age heavy engineering. The sort of free-kick that could have been designed by Isembard Kingdom Brunel, such was its raw awe-inspiring defiance of the elements. When one of those modern balls gets struck with such power it ends up at some sort of event horizon, battling bleeding edge physics where nature struggles to know what to do with it, so what chance has some dopy-looking Dutch goalkeeper got?

On 58 minutes Naismith’s miserable night was mercifully cut short when Victor Anichebe was introduced and lordy did he make an instant impact at the end of the best move of the night. Well maybe the second best actually; Pienaar had a shot saved in the first half following a splendid through-ball from Baines into that weird, angled inside-left channel that the pair them often exploit so efficiently.

They combined again for the winner, with a classic example of what Tony Cottee in his book continually referred to as ‘third man running’ that also involved Fellaini, who released Jelavic down the left. The Croatian ‘hitman’ took on Coloccini before crossing low to the near post where Anichebe slid in and netted with what was apparently his first touch.

It was a brilliant goal and Anichebe also did well for the remainder of the match, especially in the closing stages, holding the ball up and frustrating the home side as Everton hogged possession and prevented them from building any sort of momentum.

Gabriel Obertan did force a save at the near post from Howard and the older Ameobi flicked a decent chance just wide following poor play from the distinctly off-colour Phil Neville, but the Toffees held firm this time.

An odd, open game then – one of those where the result and a couple of great goals masks the deficiencies that would have been picked over endlessly if it had ended up as even a draw, which it easily could have. However, given the number of points we have spunked while playing superbly, no one is really going to grumble. Just take the win and thank the man.

Elsewhere, Phil Jagielka has signed a new contract, which is great news, but Everton announced £9 million losses for last year, which doesn’t seem so brilliant. However, given that football finances are so fucking weird – think about it, how many people would actually be happy if Everton were making a profit? – how disastrous those figures are very much depends on who you listen to.

Chelsea And Newcastle United Things And That

Distin against Chelsea

1. Although they lost, Everton showed everything that makes us very proud of them. Not only were they up against a side that won the Champions League last season before having another ton of money spent on them, but they faced them with a seriously weakened team.

It’s to the credit of David Moyes though, and the spirit that he has engendered within his squad, that players who are filling in, be it Thomas Hitzlsperger who is on a short term deal, Victor Anichebe stationed on the left wing or England centre-half Phil Jagielka at right-back, all pulled their tripes out and did their best for the team as a whole. Some of the football was superb.

2. The gap between Chelsea and Everton should be far greater given the money they have spent. Rafael Benitez’s side rode their luck, especially when Nikica Jelavic hit the woodwork with a free-kick and a flying header, and were comprehensively outplayed for most of the first half.

There were times when Manchester United used to sing ‘You’ve only come to see United’ and there was a degree of substance to their claims in that you were witnessing a magnificent, all-conquering side. For Chelsea to chant it about this lot though is a joke. They do have some cracking players, but for all that everyone, and excuse the terminology here, ‘wanks over’ Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, they didn’t look any better than Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar here. The key thing is though they simply have more individuals of that sort of level than we do – their worst player would probably get straight in our team whereas ours might not even trouble their reserves.

3. Moyes apparently wants an advance on the new television money in January. Bill Kenwright has agreed this – he’s told him he can have a couple of grand as long as he gets one of them 3D Panasonics.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the transfer window now that this is in the public arena. As fans we like new players, and so the gut reaction seems to be that if we draw down on the improved broadcasting revenue and strengthen the squad we stand a great chance of clinching a place in the Champions League. It’s now or never, essentially.

However, there are plenty of factors to weigh up. First and foremost, we got into our present financial predicament by borrowing money to spend on players and their wages. This massive new broadcast rights deal will presumably give us a degree of wiggle room to at least work one hand out of the financial straitjacket Everton have been wearing for about as long as anyone can remember now. Borrow against it by all means, but you have to at least consider what then happens in two, five or ten years’ time when you want to buy players but all your income is going towards paying off old debts.

One of the biggest problems with football finances is that decisions with long term ramifications are made by managers who by the very nature of their role are only ever really interested in the short-term. That situation is even more pronounced at Everton at the moment because of the situation with Moyes’s contract. How willing are the owners to put the financial future of the club in the hands of someone who might walk away in six months and leave everyone else to deal with the repercussions?

On a footballing level, just how much money would be required to make a realistic push for the Champions League? We’ve done great so far but still we find ourselves outside of the top four with Arsenal and Tottenham starting to look pretty good, especially going forward. Are a couple of squad fillers – improvements on Anichebe and Steven Naismith – going to be enough to swing it, or do we need fellas who go straight into the line-up even if everyone is fit?

Finally, how much of a windfall would coming fourth represent? In terms of risk/reward is accumulating further debt in the hope of Champions League qualification a proposition that can be sold to the decision-makers, be that Kenwright or, more pointedly, the banks?

4. All the media talk after the match was about how Roman Abramovich can’t afford to let two-goal Frank Lampard leave. What about Sylvain Distin though? He’s in the same boat in terms of his contract and is more important to Everton than Lampard is to Chelsea.

He was great in this game and if the acceleration he showed at the end to catch up with and then welly Victor Moses was anything to go by there shouldn’t be any concerns whatsoever about his age.

5. It’s probably a bit soon to be writing Ross Barkley off just yet. Moyes must regret throwing this kid in at the start of last season because the hype and expectation surrounding him is in danger of stifling his career. He’s clearly not ready to start games and boss Premier League matches – otherwise he’d start before Hitzlsperger – but on the other hand it’s tough for him coming on when we are chasing the game, especially in his position. It’s alright for Apostolos Vellios, for instance, as he’s just got make a nuisance of himself in the box. Barkley has to try and influence the game from much deeper and with him being so eager to do well and make an impression he made some silly mistakes that Chelsea almost punished.

Another loan spell somewhere would probably do him the world of good.

6. Newcastle United is a weird one. St. James’ Park is never an easy place to go and after getting that weird hiding at Arsenal after playing pretty well in the first half there is every chance that they will have a point to prove in front of their own fans.

If Everton can get straight at them though, like they did against Chelsea, hounding them in their own half and then dominating possession, the reaction of their players and the crowd could be interesting.

One of the worst of the numerous frustrating draws this season was the one when the Geordies came to Goodison and Demba Ba’s late goals snatched a point after we absolutely murdered them, especially in the first half. We are better than them then – we just are – but we have to put them under pressure and make them do things and play in areas where they are not comfortable. Don’t you sometimes get the feeling that we do that well against the top sides but maybe don’t work quite as hard and concentrate as fully against the lesser teams and that’s why we drop so many stupid points?

7. Some welcome news is that Marouane Fellaini, who returns for the trip to Newcastle, has said that he is happy to honour his contract at Everton which runs until 2016.

Phone been quieter than expected then?

8. Happy New Year.

9. There’s no 10.

Everton 2 Newcastle United 2

Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said, “Football eh? What a cunt.”

Well, something like that anyway, and the strawberry-nosed Scot words reflected the emotions of Evertonians following a veritable ‘ding dong’ battle at Goodison Park on Monday night.

It was an odd encounter to sum up afterwards in many ways, because it felt as if the Blues, who threw away two leads – one of them in the final minute of normal time – were the architects of their own downfall given the dominance they displayed in the first half. However, for all the perfectly valid accusations levelled at them regarding a failure to make the most of countless chances, they still scored two goals and had two perfectly good ones disallowed.

Perhaps the best way to look at it is that they were the victims of some dreadful refereeing but they have themselves to blame for not already being in a position where that couldnt affect the result.

The evening started with a tribute to the Hillsborough victims that has received universal praise. In the age of ludicrous self-congratulatory Fabrice Muamba tributes from the ‘football family’ and, more widely, grief-junky coach trips to Soham, it’s easy to get the tone of these things mawkishly wrong. It was clear in this instance though that the club put a lot of thought into this and displayed a commendable level of sensitivity. The choice of music – ‘He Ain’t Heavy by The Hollies – and the photographs and names of the victims on the big screen were a reminder that we were remembering, first and foremost, a terrible human tragedy, not a football one.  They got the tone just about perfect.

As for the football, Everton’s night was encapsulated in the very first minute. A slick move saw Steve Harper parry Marouane Fellaini’s low shot into the path of Nikica Jelavic who slid it home from a tight angle. Jubilation! Only to be cut short by the sight of a raised linesman’s flag and our star striker lying in a heap at the foot of the post.

Thankfully the Croatian recovered but was replaced by Victor Anichebe before the break.

Despite Jelavic struggling throughout the first 45 minutes Everton were superb, and the one goal they scored in that time was a perfect illustration of what this team is about at its best. Leighton Baines pushed a neat ball infield to Steven Pienaar, charged onto the back-heeled return and drove a low shot into the far corner of the Park End goal.

Kevin Mirallas, making his first Premier League start, tortured the visitors’ defence and forced a number of saves from Harper. Phil Jagielka then had the keeper beaten with a scorching low drive that skimmed the outside of his left-hand post.

However, the precarious nature of Everton’s lead was underlined by a couple of rare Newcastle sorties out of their own half. Baines cleared Vernon Anita’s effort off the line and Pappis Cissé snatched his shot wide following a weak header from the dreadful Phil Neville.

The consensus at half-time was that Everton might regret the missed chances, and as seems to be a worryingly regular occurrence, opponents who we had under the cosh made a tactical change and got back into game. Alan Pardew introduced Demba Ba and turned the night around completely.

Four minutes after taking to the pitch, Ba latched onto Yohan Cabaye’s angled pass from the right wing, let the ball run across his body and shot early, wrong-footing Tim Howard and finding the bottom corner of the net.

The goal clearly lifted the visitors, but from a tactical point of view Cissé and Ba never gave the Everton backline a moment’s rest. Jagielka and Sylvain could no longer bring the ball out and build attacks, forcing Howard to kick long and reducing the effectiveness of an Everton attack that lost much of the fluidity they had shown in the first half.

The Blues continued to graft though, even if their football lacked some of their earlier finesse, and on the hour they saw a goal by Fellaini denied because a linesman decided incorrectly that the Belgian was offside when receiving Pienaar’s through-ball.

The same official was to make an even worse decision a little under 20 minutes later when Anichebe’s close-range header was judged to have been kept out by Harper when just about everyone else believed it had crossed the line. Cameras showed afterwards that it was well over.

It was a rough call for Anichebe who still doesn’t seem to have won over much of the home crowd, despite his best efforts. He probably felt even further frustrated when, put clean through from the halfway line, his efforts to control the ball resembled the scene where Apollo Creed sets a startled chicken loose in the gym and tells Rocky Balboa to catch it with his bare hands.

Ba missed a chance to the Geordies ahead while Hatem Ben Arfa drew a stop from Howard when it looked like he would burst the net.

On 88 minutes though, it seemed for all the world as if Anichebe had his moment of redemption. If the big striker does one thing well, when he feels  a defender get too close behind him he spins around and has a vicious dig – much like an irate lapdancer – and his turn and excellent low shot left both Harper and Steven Taylor floundering.

The Everton centre-halves were terrified by the rampaging Ba though, and on 90 minutes, with the ground still buzzing from Everton’s ‘winner’, he barged on to a flick by substitute Shola Ameobi and prodded an effort past Howard who, instead of standing firm and claiming the ball, did a Norman Wisdom convulsion and pulled a face that Viz would describe as like an adult actress’s ‘spunk gurn’.

2-2.