Player Ratings: Newcastle United 3 – 0 Sheffield United (21/06/2020)

Premier League

Newcastle United took on Sheffield United at home for the first match back after the Corona virus break. Newcastle looked dominant and well organised. Credit to Steve Bruce for a great tactical setup, that led to a well deserved win for the Toon Army!

The first half was fairly evenly matched but the lions-share of chances fell to Newcastle. Most notably was Joelinton’s chance which he failed to test the keeper with. He later rectified this, with a great finish off an Almiron assist. I couldn’t be happier for the lad!

The second half started off with John Egan getting his second yellow in the 50th minute thus reducing Sheffield United to 10 men. Newcastle broke through in the 55th minute with Allan Saint-Maximin capitalising on a Enda Stevens defensive error. Matt Ritchie then made it 2-0 in the 69th minute with an absolute cracker of a strike, and in the 78th minute, Big Jo put the final nail in the coffin and sealed the game up with the 3rd.

Martin Dubravka: 7.5/10

Surprisingly quiet afternoon for one of Newcastle’s best players. Nonetheless, rock solid from Dubravka – what an asset he is to this club!

Javier Manquillo: 8/10

A player who is just improving as each week goes by! Great performance from Manquillo who worked that flank up and down.

Jamaal Lascelles: 7.5/10

Solid game from the skipper, he’ll be happy with the way his team has performed this afternoon! 3 points gives Newcastle almost certain assurance that relegation will be avoided this season.

Federico Fernandez: 8/10

Another fantastic performance from a player who has been patient to get his CB spot back. He is solidifying his position at the back and was a strong cornerstone for the team today.

Danny Rose: 6/10

Still trying to find his feet at Newcastle and not entirely convincing out there today. The potential is there, maybe more time is needed?

Isaac Hayden: 8.5/10 (Assist)

One of the most underrated players in the Premier League. Was absolutely outstanding today, practically didn’t put a foot wrong. Superb performance!!

Jonjo Shelvey: 8/10

Controlled the midfield with Hayden today. When Shelvey is on song, he is a treat to watch! Great game from this talented individual!

Matt Ritchie: 8.5/10 (Assist + Goal)

Loved seeing Ritchie back in the midfield and what a goal with a thunderous strike!! Grabbed the assist too for ASM’s goal. A great afternoon for a fan favourite!

Allan Saint-Maximin: 9/10 (Goal)

Took his chance when it came and gave United the lead. Terrorised defenders the whole afternoon – just getting better and better! Deserved Man of the Match!

Miguel Almiron: 8/10 (Assist)

Worked as hard as ever and put in a wonderful pass to assist Joelinton today. Making fantastic runs and was a nuisance for the defence today.

Joelinton: 7/10 (Goal)

Couldn’t be happier for the lad! After squandering a relatively easy chance, he did EXTREMELY well in the third goal for Newcastle. Started it all off by playing a lovely ball to Almiron down the wing and then worked extremely hard to get into the box and score with a great finish! Onwards and upwards big Jo!

Substitutes

Bentaleb: 6.5/10
Carroll: 6.5/10
Schar: N/A
Lazaro: N/A
Yedlin: N/A

Who is the Best Goal Scorer in Premier League History? Let’s settle this…

Premier League
Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, Premier League, Total goals, average goals
Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, goals scored, goals to game ratio, career goals
Career Premier League goals (as of 19/06/2020)

It irks me when folks point to statistics like the above to prove who the best PL goal scorer in history is. If one had to draw conclusions from it, you would say that Aguero is the best goal scorer because he has the best goal/game ratio (or goal/min ratio). Some would say Shearer for having the most goals – but this logic & these metrics are fallible when considered out of context. I will explain exactly why a bit further on.

Scope – The Case for the Greatest Forward/Striker

You will note how I specifically labelled this article the case for the best ‘Goal Scorer’ and not the best ‘Striker or Forward’.

To assess the latter, I would need to contemplate several statistics including assists, dribbling, passing etc. So, before I upset some of you (which I will inevitably do – but only in about 2 minutes time), this is not an analysis on the best striker or forward. Some would say Rooney was a great goal scorer and a great passer, some say that Henry was the most complete with his dribbling, passing and scoring ability etc. All of these are valid and could be very well crown them the greatest striker, but we will be nulling & voiding as many variables as possible to objectively analyse the best goal scorer.

What metrics NOT to use when comparing

As mentioned earlier, there are issues with using the goal/game ratio as well as absolute values as metrics to compare players’ goal scoring abilities, here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Goal/Game ratio doesn’t account for age differences as well as team differences. For example, Sergio Aguero (who has the best goal/game ratio) arrived in the Premier League relatively close to his prime at age 23. Players like Rooney, Shearer and Cole started playing in the Premier League (First Division pre 1992) when they were teenagers. Furthermore, Cole and Shearer were playing in the league until they were 34. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to understand that this would undoubtably skew this ratio against them, as many games were played outside of their prime years. You essentially are then comparing a goal/game ratio of Aguero in his prime years against Shearer’s, Cole’s & Rooney’s entire career – hardly fair.

  2. Absolute number of goals aren’t an appropriate metric either. People often visit the list of all-time scorers and thus conclude that Shearer is the greatest goal scorer the Premier League has seen. But this isn’t a reasonable foundation to draw conclusions from either, as it fails to consider two pertinent points:

    1. Firstly, it doesn’t consider the team the individual played in. If you watch football, playing in a better team drastically increases the amount of chances you get as a striker, which then drastically increases the percentage of probable goals – the two are directly correlated (it isn’t complicated). It has been 19 years since the PL top scorer has played in a team outside the top 4 (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for Chelsea), and they still finished 6th that season. Furthermore, how common is it that league top scorers come from a bottom 6 side? It’s not a common occurrence, I’ll tell you that much.

      The point is, there are players who, I believe, were incredible goal scorers but just played in some relatively poor teams. Given the chances a striker would get at a better team, this could have significantly improved their goal scoring statistics.

    2. Secondly, and most obviously, players who played more games have a chance of scoring more goals. So, in this case, the likes of Shearer & Cole, who spent their entire career in sunny England should technically have more goals than players who only spent 5 years in the premier league.

We are then left with the question; how then, do we accurately and fairly compare these players? Let me give it my best shot…

Players selected & Methodology used

I have selected these 5 players for a few reasons. Most notably because they are normally the main subjects for debate in the ‘greatest goal scorers in Premier League history’. Coupled with this, they also are the top scoring strikers since the PL’s inception in 1992.

There are a few strikers (e.g. Luis Suarez) that were prominent, but unfortunately didn’t spend enough time in the Premier League to enter this debate. It therefore would become a ‘what if’ analysis.

I have also assessed them over 8 years (from the ages 21-28), as this was the least amount of time spent in the Premier League of the 5 of them. Thierry Henry joined Arsenal at 21 and left for FC Barcelona at 28. All other players have spent more than 8 years in the Prem. You will notice I have asterisks’ next to Aguero’s name on the graphs. This is because he only arrived in the Premier League at age 23, and thus we have compiled his statistics from ages 23-30.

The methodology I have used is the most critical part of this article. If you don’t understand this then the analysis won’t make any sense to you. It is exactly the same methodology I created for my Messi vs Ronaldo article. Enter the GAC (Goal Assist Contribution) Methodology. Please note, and as mentioned, we will only be considering goals and not assists.

Methodology (GAC):

I created this GAC methodology because it emphasises the importance of contribution of goals to a specific team as opposed to absolute values.

If I could explain it this way. Player A scores 40 goals out of his team’s 110 goals, and player B scores 27 goals out of his team’s 70 goals. Although player A scored 13 more goals in absolute terms, he was actually only a part of 36% of the team’s goals whereas player B was a part of 39% of his team’s goals. Player B is thus contributing more value and is statistically the better goal scorer.

Why this methodology is so effective in assessing performances, is it completely nullifies the impact the ‘team effect’ has on a player’s goal scoring figures. It all boils down to margins and it’s all about value of goals scored as opposed to absolute numbers.

In other words, even if a player is playing for a ‘weaker’ team, the players direct contribution to his team’s goals is what matters. A percentage evaluation of a player’s contribution allows them to be compared fairly with someone playing for a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ team.

Critically, I have also adjusted it for their minutes played in a season. So, for example, if Andy Cole only played 80% of the total minutes available that season, his contribution will only be measured up against 80% of the total team’s goals.

One could call this ‘total available team goals’, as it doesn’t measure up his goals against team goals scored when he was on the bench. We are therefore assessing his impact when actually playing on the pitch. This methodology accurately depicts the value of their goals in the context of the total available team goals.

Put differently, using minutes as opposed to appearances voids the effect of coming off the bench. For example, a player could come off the bench and play 3 minutes and most likely not score. This is then counted as a cap, and it adversely effects his goal/game ratio.

In conclusion, what this methodology does, is isolate the player by excluding the variables of the team played in and the games not started. When you isolate this statistic as far as possible, only then does it become comparable.

Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, Premier League finishes
Respective players average PL finish between the ages of 21-28. *23-30 for Aguero

To give you context, this table shows the respective players average league finish from the ages 21-28 (23-30 for Aguero). Cole won 5 titles in this period, Rooney & Aguero won 4, Henry won 2 and Shearer won 1. Furthermore, Shearer had 3 of the 8 comparative years, playing for a team that finished outside the top 10, which is why his average league finish is far lower in comparison. In conclusion, Shearer played for a weaker team and as a result, it is fair to assume he was given less opportunities to score which then directly impacts the amounts of goals he scored.

This is why contribution to total team goals whilst playing is the most accurate metric to compare by.

So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the data and compare who was on average the best goal scorer from the ages 21-28 (Aguero 23-30).

Contribution value of Goals Scored

Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, Premier League, Total goals, average goals
*Ages 23-30 for Aguero

Accordingly, from the ages 21-28, Alan Shearer has been contributing more goals to his team’s total goals in comparison to the other four. Shearer comes in at a whopping contribution rate of 42.1% of the goals, followed by Henry at 37.5%. What this is saying, in layman’s terms, is that from the ages of 21-28, whenever Shearer was on the pitch he was scoring 42.1% of his teams goals – this is remarkable. To break it down further, I have created a graph that shows their respective goal contribution at different ages (remember, Aguero’s comparison is between the ages 23-30).

Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, Premier League, Total goals, average goals
*Ages 23-30 for Aguero

Alan Shearer, clearly the dominant goal scorer here. He is contributing more to his team’s goals in 6 of the 8 compared years. The other two are split between Henry and Aguero.

The next item to be discussed is that of non-penalty goals. It is true that some of these players were the first point of call for their team when the ref pointed to the spot. As a result, a larger contribution of their goals came from penalties. For instance, in the comparative years, Alan Shearer scored a total of 33 penalties whereas Andy Cole only scored 1.

Let’s see what the goal contribution looks like once one removes the effect of penalty kicks.

Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, non-penalty goals average
*Ages 23-30 for Aguero

Even when isolating open-play goals, Shearer still comes out on top with a contribution rate of 34.4% which is followed up by Aguero at 31.5% – a slight reduction in Alan’s his lead. Once again, I have also broken this down year by year for comparison purposes.

Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry, non-penalty goals
*Ages 23-30 for Aguero

This one is slightly more evenly distributed with Shearer, Henry and Cole being more prolific in non-penalty goals in 2 years whilst Rooney & Aguero having 1 each.

In conclusion, and according to the data and methodology, Alan Shearer is thus the best goal scorer in Premier League history.

Fans from other clubs may be disgruntled with this, and if you happen to be one of them, please let me know your objections in the comments below and I’ll be sure to reply to them.

Thanks for reading!

Sources

www.fbref.com

www.goalometer.com

www.premierleague.com

Newcastle United’s Top 10 Kits of All Time

Premier League

This is obviously a highly debated and subjective topic. Nonetheless, it’s good to reminisce on some of the highlights of Newcastle United’s history. Over the last 5 decades Newcastle have been lacking in silverware, but one aspect where United always seem to show up, is dapper kits.

Few jerseys in football have been as iconic as the black & white stripes of Newcastle United since switching to the magpie colours in 1894. We could have made a list of the top 30 kits and we’d still miss out on some epic ones. So, please feel free to comment and let us know of your favourite kits or ones you may have owned throughout the years.

Without further ado, here are ToonTalk’s top 10 Newcastle United kits of all time:

10) 1993-1995 Away Kit (Asics):

Newcastle United, Away kit, 1993, Blue, Asics
Admiral Blue, Newcastle United Away kit

This kit was an Asics master piece. Playing off the admiral blue you’ll find on the torso of the Eurasion Magpie, this kit was a fantastic change kit for United. Sponsored by McEwan’s Lager and accompanied by a black collar & blue socks, this was United’s first away kit at the dawn of the Premier League era – and we think it was a beauty.

9) 1992/1993 Away Kit (Umbro)

Newcastle United, 1992 away kit, yellow and green newcastle, Mcewans lager
Newcastle United 1992 Yellow & Gold Away Kit

The green and yellow combination dates back to the 1960’s and has reared it’s head from time to time in Newcastle away kits. Upon closer inspection, this specific kit, has unobtrusive green triangles in the background of the shirt. The jersey is accompanied by green shorts and collars, with yellow and green socks – McEwan’s Lager being the sponsor. This jersey paved the way for other yellow kits that were to follow in the years ahead.

8) 1993-1995 Home Kit (Asics)

Andy Cole, Newcastle United, Home kit, Asics, 1993, Tyne Bridge
Andy Cole scores for Newcastle United

This iconic kit was a worldwide sensation. The iconic Brown Ale’s blue star with the Tyne Bridge on it was etched into the memory of all Newcastle United fans. The first thought that springs to mind is Andy Cole’s sensational season, where he amassed an incredible 41 goals. Newcastle went on to finish 3rd in the Premier League, thus qualifying for Champions League football. Such an iconic shirt is only worthy of playing at the peak of club football.

7) 1969-1973 Home Kit

Newcastle United, Home kit, Malcom Macdonald, 1970
Malcom Macdonald in Newcastle United’s Home Kit 1970’s

A black and white master piece. This simple yet elegant kit set the tone for Newcastle United dress-wear for the decades to come. In the Summer of 1971, Joe Harvey signed Malcom Macdonald for £180,000 from Luton Town as he became a figure attached to this iconic kit. Supermac went on to be United’s top scorer for 4 seasons in a row, subsequently writing his name into Newcastle United’s history books.

6) 2009/2010 Away Kit (Adidas)

Newcastle United, Yellow jersey, yellow kit, bananas in pyjamas, 2010, Andy Carroll
Andy Carroll scores in Newcastle United’s away kit 2009/2010 season

This kit was met with a few gasps at first sight, and the Toon Army were soon to be dubbed the ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’. But this kit grew on Newcastle fans and was the uniform of an up and coming young Newcastle striker, Andy Carroll. Led by Chris Hughton, Newcastle comfortably won the Championship division to secure promotion back into the Premier League. This kit was a play off our previous yellow kits, and although Adidas took a leap of faith in producing this – they got it spot on.

5) 1932-1958 Home kit

Newcastle United, 1932 home kit, Winston Churchill, Newcastle FA Cup
Winston Churchill shakes hands with Jacki Milburn

Newcastle’s last successful era, as they won 4 FA Cup’s with this jersey, two of them being back to back in 1951 & 1952. United wore this kit for 26 years and with it’s loose fitting, baggy design, Newcastle cemented itself as one of the biggest clubs in the UK. Wouldn’t mind winning some silverware now, mind you.

4) 2013/2014 Members Kit (Puma)

Newcastle United, Members kit, Yohan Cabaye, 2013
Newcastle United Members Kit 2013

An instant sensation, this kit worn for a friendly against Braga took Newcastle fans by storm. It was Puma’s best creation for United by a country mile. A black and white kit that wasn’t striped – many fans would have loved to have seen this as our home kit for a season. Nonetheless, it was only worn for 90 minutes and then available for sale to members. One of the few highlights of the Ashley era at United.

3) 1995/1996 Away Kit (Adidas)

Newcastle United, Away Kit, 1996, Adidas, Newcastle Brown Ale, Newcastle Jersey
David Ginola in Newcastle United’s 1996 Away Kit

One of the most popular united kit’s of all time. Still worn by a plethora of fans, globally. This kit wasn’t only a classic for Newcastle, but ranks as one of the best away kits since the inception of the Premier League. Not only that, but this kit was worn by a team of superstars who were incredibly unlucky not to win silverware during their tenure at United. With the infamous Brown Ale as the sponsor, this jersey was accompanied seamlessly by white shorts and striped socks – mouth watering.

2) 1999/2000 Home Kit (Adidas)

1999, Newcastle United, Home kit, Adidas, Newcastle Brown Ale
Alan Shearer scores in Newcastle’s 1999 Home Kit

This kit was impeccably designed and also an instant classic. The blue trim was the icing on the cake and made this kit one of Newcastle’s most iconic. What accompanied this kit was even more special – the arrival of Sir Bobby Robson, the darling of the North East.

1) 1995/1996 Home Kit (Adidas)

Newcastle United, 1995 Home kit, Adidas, Newcastle Brown Ale
Peter, Ant & Dec in Newcastle’s legendary 1995/1996 Home Kit

Yes, you guessed it right. What else could it be? With the likes of Beardsley, Ferdinand, Ginola, Gillespie, Peacock, Clark, Asprilla etc. United unfortunately finished runners up this season, but what a team and what a kit. Lets hope they can produce some more amazing kits in the near future! But more so, lets hope Newcastle can generate teams that challenge for silverware that is oh so deserved for the Toon Army and well over due.

We are sure we have missed some saucy kits off this list, so please feel free to comment below! Howay man.

Year 2104: Newcastle fans assured that takeover to be announced “Next Monday” by newspapers.

Premier League

It’s a warm summers evening, 12 June 2104, and John Smithers (born in Jesmond) has just turned 102. Sitting on his couch, he yells out – “Alexa!! Has the takeover happened yet?”, to which she replies “Nee, wor John. But the papers are reporting that next Monday, it’s definitely going to be announced.”. Hearing this for the millionth time, still brings John some excitement as he imagines Diego Messi (Leo Messi’s great grandson) in the black & white. Good times are coming back to the North East…


What is most impressive in John’s eyes, is that Mike Ashley has been in charge for 97 years. Yes, can you believe it, 97 years – he just “can’t find a suitable buyer”, apparently. After finding out the takeover has been delayed just ‘another few days’, John is interested in further updates on the club; Alexa relays the following:

1) Newcastle United still have no comment on the takeover rumour.
2) Andy Carroll is injured.
3) St James’ Park was renamed, ‘Ashley’s Arena’ in 2052. This was in attempt to ‘attract potential new owners’.
4) Shola Ameobi is manager (at least some good news).
5) Matty Longstaff is still on £250 a week.
6) We haven’t played Sunderland since 2017. The Mackems find themselves in National League North now… tragic.
7) Amanda Staveley is still seated in the stands.
8) The world doesn’t use oil anymore…

Take what you will from the above facts, but there is absolutely no doubt that the imminent takeover will be announced…. next Monday.

Alan Pardew: Newcastle United’s most unfairly treated manager.

Premier League

Some might see this headline and dismiss this article right off the bat. But bear with me for a few minutes and you’ll see why I think this title is perfectly justified.

As a backdrop, it is good to remember that when it comes to managers, a sacking is only as good as the replacement. I remember having this debate over and over again in 2014, when fans were calling for Pardew’s head. My argument was never that he was the best manager, but rather, who would replace him? Football fans often think that situations can never get worse, but this is a fallacy. We have seen all too often that they can; Portsmouth & Sunderland are just two prime examples of that.

Towards the end of Pardew’s tenure at Newcastle, the scene at St James’ Park was utterly toxic. The Chronicle commented, “This was arguably the worst personal abuse a Newcastle manager has had to endure…”, and they were very right in asserting so. A dedicated website was setup, “sackpardew.com” as well as tens of thousands of cards being printed and waved at the stadium calling for his departure. The abuse he took was second to none and I’d like to address why it was misplaced and unjustified at its core.

alan pardew headbutt

Contemplating the lows of Pardew’s time at United.

I believe first and foremost it was his character that didn’t sit well with the Geordie faithful, and understandably so. Coupled with this, he isn’t from the North East, which can earn one a few extra mercy points when being dealt with. Pardew was often seen as a ‘yes-man’ that folded under the control of, and essentially his boss, Mike Ashley. I do however see a mitigate here in that it was his boss, this isn’t redundancy. I ask myself, how many of us reading this article stand up to our bosses when it could potentially cost us our job and therefore our livelihood’s. It’s often easy in these situations to expect others to do it, but unfortunately we do not hold ourselves to these same high standards.

In parallel with this was a few pitch-side stunts that were unfathomable in all honesty. Most notably was his head-butting of David Meyler, which was almost incomprehensible at the time. I remember watching it and having to rewind the TV to see if it really happened… unfortunately for Pardew there are no mitigates for these sorts of occurrences. It was completely inexcusable and a Premier League manager should be held to a much higher standard. Accordingly, he received the toughest managerial punishment in Premier League history with a 7 match ban and a £60,000 fine.

Referring to his side’s performances, Pardew, like many Newcastle managers in the last 2 decades failed miserably when it came to cup runs. Newcastle never made it past the 4th round in either the FA Cup or the League cup. There were also certain periods of his stewardship where the football was one-dimensional and Newcastle found themselves lingering at the bottom of the Premier League table; however we were never relegated during his tenure.

Assessing Pardew’s successes at United.

Alan Pardew had many significant accomplishments during his tenure at Newcastle. Most memorably was his 5th place finish in the 2011/2012 season. Given the relative spend of Newcastle compared to other clubs, this was nothing short of incredible. There is no other way to describe it. Newcastle also played some of the most fantastic football that season, carving up the Premier League’s biggest sides in impressive fashion. He still holds the highest Premier League finish Newcastle has had in over 16 years – noteworthy at the very least.

Subsequent to Newcastle finishing 5th, United qualified for the Europa league where he guided us to a very impressive quarter final finish. This is the only European football United has had in 13 years. Although the Premier League run was poor this season, Pardew can hardly take all of the blame for this. With poor investment in a very thin squad, losing our best striker, Demba Ba, to Chelsea as well as the heavily burdensome fixtures of playing Thursday night Europa football – I believe we did well to finish 5 points clear of relegation.

An aspect that Pardew never gets enough credit for are his transfers during his time at United. He signed some of the best players Newcastle have bought in 2 decades, and this aspect is all too often overlooked. Just to list a few, and please note the amount paid for each player: Ayoze Perez (£1.6m), Yohan Cabaye (£4.17m), Moussa Sissoko (£1.6m), Jamaal Lascelles (£4.17m), Mathieu Debuchy (£5.17m), Demba Ba (Free) and Davide Santon (£4.7m). This is nothing short of incredible, and I think any manager would be happy at snapping up these players for the above price-tags.

Pardew also had phenomenal personal achievements whilst managing the Toon Army, ones that you seldom hear regurgitated like his failures are. He was the first Newcastle United manager ever to win the ‘Premier League Manager of the Season’ award (he is also only the second English manager to win it) and likewise, he is also the first Newcastle United manager to win the League Managers Association Manager of the Year award. Coupled with this, he won two ‘Premier League Manager of the Month’ awards, one more than Rafa Benitez and he joins the only other two Newcastle managers who have won it, Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan.


Now, post reading this, does this sound like someone who is the ‘most terrible manager’; one who some have made Pardew out to be. This sounds at best a decent manager and at worst a mediocre one. But unfortunately, mob-mentality sometimes reigns amongst football fans. I think that the frustration during this time at Newcastle United was completely misplaced. It should have been directed elsewhere and it won’t take a football pundit to know who I am referring to. Managing Newcastle United is like sailing a ship with one arm tied behind your back – the manager is extremely limited in what they can achieve. Without the appropriate backing and support from the owners, you are destined for either failure or premature departure. For reference, just google Kevin Keegan’s comments of the difficulties that come with the job.

Lastly, and with reference to one of my opening statements, a sacking of a manager is only as good as his replacement. There is a common phrase, ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ and this could not have been more appropriate at the time. Securing a top manager under this current ownership is near impossible. Rafa was an anomaly amongst a host of failed attempts. Pardew wasn’t the greatest, that’s not the point of this article, but he was good enough and the vile, personal abuse he took was completely unwarranted. What followed was his departure, and the passing over to the not so ‘green-grass’ of Steve McClaren, and we all know how that one ended.

The cases for and against the return of Rafa Benitez

Premier League

Takeover speculation has sparked all sorts of rumours and debates amongst Newcastle fans. Alongside possible transfer budgets & targets, a hotly debated topic is that of ‘who should take the reins under the prospective ownership’. The three most prominent names in this discussion are the continuation of Steve Bruce, Mauricio Pochettino and the return of Rafa Benitez. In this article, we will discuss the cases both for and against the return of Rafa.

AGAINST:

We ran a poll where close to 1000 Newcastle fans voiced their opinion on preference of new management. It was very close, but most preferred the arrival of Pochettino as opposed to the return of Rafa. Now, we don’t conclude for a second that this represents the sentiments of all Newcastle fans, however subsection polls can be great insights into preferences if extrapolated out appropriately. Below were the three salient reasons for not wanting Rafa back.

1) Rafa left us for money’:

This comment has been floating around since the day Benitez decided not to renew his contract and leave for China. There are valid concerns here and some have felt this was a red flag – a sign of disloyalty towards Newcastle.

We do know that he is on copious amounts of money out East but there are a few mitigates here that are worth considering. Most noteworthy, was that Rafa was fed up under the current ownership and he isn’t the first manager to feel this way and act accordingly. Lack of ambition and frustrations in dealing with both Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley are often cited as the salient points. This is credible, but the most plausible reason for his departure would be a combination of both large monetary offers abroad and the difficulties with ownership on Tynseside.


2) Defensive football:

Rafa has been criticised for his defensive approach to football. Newcastle, which has a history (quite a few years ago now,) of attacking football has seen a change in the general trend of tactics as the Mike Ashley years have gone by. Rafa learned much of his tactical prowess from Italian legend Arrigo Sacchi, who coached the famous AC Milan side that won back-to-back Champions League titles in ’89 & ’90. This model of football is centred around the ideology of distinctly organised attacking formations as well as zonal defensive marking, which succeeded the typical man-to-man marking in Italy at the time. ‘Organised attacking’ setups can often be detrimental to the fluidity of play and we have seen Rafa (not only at his time in Newcastle) more than happy to ‘shut-up-shop’ and frustrate opposing teams with tightly knit defensive structures and limited go forward ball. Some believe, that if massive amounts of transfer funds are available, and given that more talented players could be purchased, Rafa won’t bring that riveting, exciting football to St James’.

In Rafa’s defence (no pun intended), he didn’t have the world greatest players at his disposal whilst in charge. On top of that, it was his tactics that kept us in the Premier League and even secured us a top 10 finish, which well surpassed the expectations of many.


3) It’s time to move on:

Some believe that the prospective new dawn for United should usher in a fresh set of minds. Pochettino is the most heavily linked name to Newcastle and his stellar resume precedes him; with successful stints at both Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, he’s considered a top tier manager, and rightly so. There is good grounding for those apprehensive of Rafa’s return to St James’; as a fellow fan correctly pointed out that managerial returns are seldom successful and more often than not, complete failures.

In parallel, there is the option to continue as is with Steve Bruce. He’s a Geordie, loves Newcastle United and seems to be one of the nicest blokes in football. But is he the right man to take Newcastle forward? Can Bruce take the Toon Army onto bigger and brighter things? Most fans don’t seem to think so.


FOR:

Rafa managed to capture the heart of the entire city during his tenure at Newcastle United. Post Sir Bobby Robson, it would be fair to say he has been the most adored boss. Managers in years gone by have found it difficult to work with the current ownership but Rafa managed to outperform his predecessors, albeit with little transfer funds available. Here are a few pointers advocating for the return of Rafa:

1) Rafa is a great manager with a proven track record:

Few argue that Rafa isn’t an accomplished manager. His track record speaks for itself, with successful stints at Valencia, Liverpool, Napoli and most recently Newcastle United. He has won the most coveted of club trophies, the Champions League as well as an often forgotten accolade – the La Liga with Valencia. This is an incredible feat in a league that is completely dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

If the supposed takeover happens, one would want a manager that has experience on the grandest of stages – Rafa most certainly has this. He is also highly ambitious and isn’t happy with mid-table finishes or relegation survival. This is clearly evidenced by his fall out with Newcastle’s current ownership, and was his main justification for leaving to China. Further to this, is Rafa’s knowledge and love for Newcastle. He knows this club and what it means to its fans around the world, bringing him back would not be a complete reset but would instead make assimilation with new owners far more streamlined.

2) He stuck with us through relegation:

Some tend to overlook this but it is a pertinent point to consider. Rafa’s loyalty has been questioned by many and understandably so, but we cannot forget how he stayed with the club after we were relegated in 2016. Benitez is not someone who would be found short of job offers, so one may argue that him staying does speak volumes for his loyalty towards United. It is also worth considering that we won the EFL that next season and were subsequently promoted back to the Premier League. Would this have been the case had he had gone and another manager were brought in? There is a possibility that Newcastle could have turned out very similar to that small club in red, down the road.


3) Unfinished business

Rafa has unfinished business at Newcastle United. He had a clear vision for the club – to see it back in the top 4 of English football and playing across Europe. Unfortunately, he was not given the tools to achieve this and by Mike Ashley’s own admission, Newcastle cannot spend the way City, Chelsea, Liverpool etc. do. He finished 10th in his first full season in charge of Newcastle in the Premier League, albeit with a squad that was barely Premier League worthy. Many fans want to see what Rafa can achieve if and when given the financial backing. He is a man who is well connected in Europe and has a decent record with player transfers. He is not a manager who is asking for excessive amounts of transfer funds but rather adequate backing to amass a competitive squad.


In conclusion, whether one is for or against the return of Rafa Benitez, one thing is clear, under this current ownership, United is very limited in what it can achieve. When considering a manager, one should always do it relatively. For example, a successful sacking of a manager is only as good as his replacement and accordingly the successful hiring of a manager is only as a good as the replacement opportunities forgone. In economics this is called an ‘opportunity cost’. So if Rafa is given the bosses seat in lieu of Steve Bruce, many would deem this as ideal. But if it was instead of Pep Guardiola, then we may be having a different discussion.

At the end of the day, this is all very wishful thinking and hopeful talk. Having a great manager without supportive owners is building a house on sand, and this is what Newcastle have been trying to do for many years now.


Newcastle United’s reported line up under new ownership… according to our ‘sources’.

Premier League

Rumours have been aplenty since the takeover news burst onto the scene and sports journalists have been LOVING it. I don’t blame them – when you have folks like me who will click on any article with the words ‘Newcastle’ and ‘Transfer’ in it, I’d do exactly the same.

Given all the names being thrown around like Nicolas Anelka on a transfer dead-line day, we thought we would also present our potential starting 11 based on our reliable ‘sources’ 😉

Please see references to our legit sources below.

Manager – ‘Arry Redknapp
“Well ya know”, forget Poch and Zidane – this is the man we want! With all the money that will be behind Newcastle after this takeover is complete, we need a manager who can bring in big name players! I am talking about the likes of Peter Crouch, Herman Hreidarsson, Niko Kranjcar and Benjani.

Goal Keeper – David de Gea
Our ‘source’ 😉 here (Aunty Susan, in the queue at Tesco’s last week) has told us that David de Gea is reportedly unhappy playing for a small club and wants to make the move to the real United. TBH, he’s not nearly as good as Dubravka, but since we’ll be paying £90m for him, we may as well start him for the first few games.

Left Back – Shane Ferguson
To win trophies, we need to show ambition. Our underground reports have led us to believe that this is almost a done deal. We didn’t think we could afford him, but Joe Kinnear also didn’t think he could make it as a director of football – and look what happened.

Centre Back – Sergio Ramos
If you didn’t know this, Newcastle United are LOVED by the referees. We always get the blow of the whistle unlike Manchester United, who just never seem to catch a break. Given this unfair advantage, our new owners have thought it appropriate that we sign the best behaved player in the game, who only has 20 red cards in La Liga. Should get him for a few quid.


Centre Back – Mike Williamson
Was he the best defender Newcastle United have ever had? No. But what can we say, our reliable ‘sources’ 😉 say contract talks have been concluded and he’s had his medical. Newcastle need pace, and that’s just what we’ve got here.

Right back – Nelson Semedo
After playing with with the great Lionel Messi, Semedo wants to take a step up and play for the same club as the greatest ever player – Shola Ameobi. Being this ambitious is tough, but this is what top dollar gets you. 16 year old YouTuber, Geoff, says the deal is done and that means it’s true – expect to see this break in newspapers soon.

Left midfield – Luka Modric
Luka, reportedly, is tired of feeding poor quality strikers like Ronaldo and Benzema in his career. This is why it was an easy catch for Newcastle United. We could have got him for £85m, but we have reportedly paid £120m just because we can. Howay Luka.

Central Midfield – “Yohan Kebab”
Joe Kinnear put this one together, and we just have to say “job well done!”

Right Midfield – Kevin De Bruyne
There has been no link here whatsoever, but since we are new to this game, we just thought we’d start a rumour. So please spread this and tell all your mates. It’s definitely happening, #cans.


Right Forward – Ferenk Puskas
Yes, we know what you are thinking – “this guy died 14 years ago!”, but still, it’s what our reliable ‘sources’ 😉 have informed us of, and we are obliged to bring you the latest news. Credit to our new owners for getting this one over the line!

Centre Forward – Peter Crouch
This is why our new owners have signed a top quality manager – to bring in players like Crouchy. Can you just picture it already? Yohan Kebab floats a long ball into the box, as Crouchy towers over the defence to header it home – then proceeds to do the robot in front of the Gallowgate end! Gold.

Left Forward – Lionel Messi
Messi – not half bad. New owners couldn’t afford Shola Ameobi unfortunately, so they went for second prize in the little genius. Our ‘source’ ;), Sergio, who runs a falafel shop in Marbella, says it’s a done deal for a cool £250m. The partnership and connection between him and Redknapp is mouth-watering.

So, Newcastle fans, this is what you can expect the line up to be very soon and we believe it’s honestly untouchable. As promised we have listed our very credible ‘sources’ 😉 below.

1) 16 year old YouTuber – Geoff.
2) Sergio, falafel shop owner in Marbella.
3) Susan, in the queue at Tesco’s last week.
4) Had a dream once.




5 proofs you’re a true Newcastle United fan.

Premier League

Loyalty is a such a pertinent characteristic in a human being. I’ve always said, if anyone had to question my loyalty, they’d just need to check my track record in supporting Newcastle United. I think many of you reading this right now are the same.

Given all this take-over talk and the prospects of a new dawn (however doubtful) looming, I thought I’d write a piece on what are several key characteristics of a true Geordie (not the YouTuber). This litmus test is by no means exhaustive, but whether you’re from Newcastle or Moscow, supporting United is likely to have developed some of the below.

1. Goodness gracious, you just hate Sunderland

Given that they are our rivals (despite being in some division in Scotland or Armenia or wherever they play), you’d think that this hatred is standard procedure. But the hate runs deep here, real deep. I’m not sure how it grows into this unending pit of loathsome emotions – but the force is strong. So much so, you’ve found yourself at the airport, glancing over at the monitor & notice a plane leaving for Milan – this will be followed by a quiet whisper under your breath “…never seen a Mackem there before”. No one will find that funny, but it’s a powerful feeling, very powerful – moving on.


2. You are an absolute SUCKER for clickbait articles

We all hate them, we are all tired of them, but we cannot stop reading them. Some say drugs are addictive and I bet they are – but have you ever seen an article titled “Messi, Newcastle’s new number 10??”, I cannot elaborate the heights this takes my dopamine levels to, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to read that article (with a photoshopped Messi in the black & white). From the arrival of Mpabbe & Vidal to the supposed Vince McMahon takeover rumors, we have seen and heard it all. If you still find yourself just having a quick browse over any articles like this – yup, you’re a Newcastle fan, sorry pal.


3. Alan Shearer makes your heart beat faster


We don’t have much going for us in the North East, but we do have Shearer – if you don’t know who he is, you’re too young bro. Without doubt and unmistakably the greatest striker in Premier League history (don’t argue), with 260 Premier League goals (and 283 top flight goals) – a million more than the next. We love Alan Shearer, who turned down a move to that club in red with someone “at the wheel” now, to play for his boyhood club Newcastle United. A clear manifestation of Magpie fandom is if you have spat out your chewing gum and hit a full volley screaming “SHHHEEARRRRREEERRR!” whilst your crusty gum misses the bin and lands somewhere, 7 yards from you – glorious.


4. You are a “When we…”


Newcastle United hasn’t had much success under the current regime…… okay its been utterly abysmal. Since we don’t have many accolades to flaunt and Joelinton’s goal scoring record isn’t turning heads, we resort to the dreaded “When we” approach. It’s the classic, “When we had Beardsley & Ferdinand…” or “When we were in the Champions League…” – if you are doing this, unfortunately Geordie fandom has spread to your vital organs – you are screwed. I have found myself at dinner tables, randomly blurting out, and completely off topic “You know, when we were under Kevin Keegan…” which is shortly followed by awkward stares. Maybe it’s the ignorance of my dinner guests, or maybe I am just hurt and this is a desperate cry for help… but it’s probably their ignorance.


5. Wor Bobby


Sir Bobby Robson was a very special person. He was one of the few personalities in football (in my lifetime, at least) that transcended the sport. Not only was he a mastermind and elite in his managerial capacity, but he was just a phenomenal fatherly figure at the club. His love for both Newcastle United and the sport of football has etched his name into the history books forever. As your love for Newcastle United grows, I think in parallel so will your appreciation and respect for Wor Bobby. If this quote gives you goosebumps, you most certainly are a member of the Toon Army.

“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

– Sir Bobby Robson.


I believe if you have some of the above mentioned traits, howay man – you’re a Geordie. We may not have the trophies, but you are apart of one of the best sets of fans in world football. We pack the stadiums when we have absolutely no reason to other than the love that we have for our club. We are so loud and won’t stop singing until that final whistle blows, even if we are losing, and my friend, we lose a lot.

Please feel free to add to the list in the comments below and to share with your fellow footballing fans. #cans