sportingeye

Cosmic Forces, Newcastle Versus Villa & The Children Of Pardew

In Football on September 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm

It was judgement day in the house, the twice a season moment when the relationship gets strained. As an estranged Geordie living in Birmingham having shacked up with a Villa fan there was the possibility that it would add an extra element of spice to the fixture. Instead, it has become an exercise in diplomacy, a constant forced grin fixed to my face and having to mumble platitudes to the other half as the game goes on, only to get dagger stares when I accidentally yelp “Have it you cunts” when we bang in that vital goal.

The penalty for defeat is worse than another three points surrendered in a season that screams impending mid-table mediocrity. It will be a week of that kind of smug consolation that women do so well… “Don’t worry about it baby. You’ll get a result next week” with a smirk on her face that can freeze over even the warmest heart. Do the players even know what is at stake here?

The game itself was always destined to be a boring one. It had earlier been tweeted by the MOTD production that Aston Villa would pretty much always be the last match and it’s easy to understand why, The McLeish brand of anti-football is now well documented and his shameless slither across to Villa from Blues is probably the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in the modern game. Having been forced into watching Villa a few times this season I can honestly say it’s never been pleasant viewing. Like a flair vacuum, the McLeish ethos simply sucks the life out of any team he presides over, making me wonder exactly what a training session comprises of.

“Ach, no… Ye passed it forward laddie… That’ll never do”

And while Villa fans have my deepest sympathies, the same sympathies extended to me when it was announced we’d be taking on Alan Pardew, this brand of cloggery isn’t welcome when my beloved team come to town.

We’ve hardly been setting the world alight ourselves, our last match seeing us get humbled by the mighty Q.P.R. as we trundled to a 0-0 draw. The week before that we had to rely on Leon Best being hypnotised into believing he was Messi to come up good against Fulham. I know we’re unbeaten and I know we’re riding up in the Champions League spots but a long, long season awaits, make no mistake about it.

The good news was that Pardew, who declared Shola “Sho Stopper” Ameobi to be one of the bets professionals he’d worked with, finally realised he is shit and dropped him for a player that almost single-handedly kept West Ham up in the form of Demba Ba. He was the one bit of business that excited me in our transfer dealings that seemed content to make us twinned with some shit team in France. Having come off the bench to turn the screws on Fulham with his pace and power he has to be preferred to a player who is only remarkable for the fact he’s stuck around so long. Probably because no-one else wants him.

I wanted to hate Pardew when he came in but all things considered he’s probably the perfect manager to work under a chairman who is as demented as he is overweight. Pardew is “the company man”, that middle-tier manager in the office who continues to apply for promotion while endlessly being passed over for younger candidates. He’s solid and steady so it’s probably understandable that the team we’ve become reflects that. But Newcastle fans get restless with such consistency. We want the terrifying highs, the giddy lows, the constant tabloid inches. We’re simply not used to anything else.

The team lacks invention too and the compact midfield is incapable of supplying Demba Ba in the same way that even West Ham could. Check Tiote is rapidly becoming the next David Batty, unaware of the art of forward passing and good only for a yellow card. Since his goal against Arsenal, which was rewarded with a massive deal and contract, he’s started leading a sedentary lifestyle in midfield. When you couple that with Obertan – a player that has less awareness than Milan Baros, all head down and running in a straight line – and Cabaye, a player whose most spectacular thing about him is his name, you’re not going to create a lot of chances. Probably something that is highlighted by Leon Best being our top goalscorer with three.

A lot of pressure rests on Jonas Guttierez but it’s clear that he is also struggling to find his best form in this new look team. When he first came to the club he was described as “electrifying”. When we went to into The Championship he was “electric”. Now he’s being described as “tricky” and he struggled to make the most of a Villa defence that can be generous despite McLeish being billed as some sort of ginger defensive mastermind.

It’s not as if we’ve got a solid defence ourselves. While it’s clear that our foreign players actively benefitted from the season in The Championship, adapting to the physicality and bringing it back up to the prem, we’ve still got problems. As demonstrated in this game we can’t deal with pace, we can’t deal with strength and we like to be the architects of our own downfall. This was ably demonstrated this game by Steven Taylor, the most disloyal “loyal” player in the game (kissing the badge one minute, transfer requests the next, his agent linking him with Barcelona and a host of other clubs that would never touch him before contract negotiations) when he almost gave away a goal. He made up for it by putting it out for a corner when it was going wide anyway.

We could also use a reliable keeper. Aston Villa have got ours. Ah, Shay… How I miss you. His performance in this game showing that Villa got themselves a keeper that is capable of winning matches on his own, something he’d have done for us more often if we’d actually had defenders instead of applicants for clown college. This is the keeper that somehow managed to keep clean sheets despite playing behind the brothers of destruction Boumsong and Bramble, players that put in as many tackles on each other as they did opposition attackers. I felt his absence more acutely each time Tim Krul came to play out a backpass and winced.

So yes, our team is very much a product of Pardew. Average, steady, opportunistic. There’s no-one exceptional in any position but, I suppose, it is better than having a blend of players too good for the club being made to feel that fact every day by having to play with the bungling and inept. It’d just be nice if I believed that he could be inspiring. Clearly he can’t. His soft whispering voice before the game and at half time clearly put the players into a coma that it took twenty minutes to wake up from each time. Not even Paul McKenna can do that.

What did I learn about Villa? Well, obviously I’ve had the misfortune to watch them a few times this season because of the connection with her indoors. I honestly believe McLeish will do to this team what he did to Birmingham and Villa fans need to be wary of that before backing their man. He simply doesn’t know how to play in a manner that will see an abundance of chances and that wastes the attributes of the best players in the Villa squad. He will have to rely on the form of players like Agbonlahor.

He was the main talking point around the Villa half of Birmingham, whether or not he should be starting for England. As much as he worked our defence he’s not an international class player. He has pace and he’s getting better and holding the ball up but ultimately that’s all he can do. The interview with him on Football Focus before the match showed he lacks the brain power to add much more to his repertoire.

The reality he is that he has come to the forefront simply because Darren Bent has taken so many steps backwards. He doesn’t look anything like the player he was last season and missed a sitter that would have surely wrapped the game up. In previous fixtures this season he’d been caught offside often, his eagerness getting the better of him, or perhaps a lack of concentration. Against Newcastle he played deep and seemed to be disinterested. Worrying times because when he gets like this he’s normally setting himself up for a big money move, much like he did to enable him to move to Villa, a club that were battling relegation as opposed to the team he left that were challenging for Europe.

A draw was a fair result all round, even if we could have nicked it and it looks like we’ll be finishing above Villa this season on this evidence. Certainly our brand of slow and steady seems to be less problematic than the one McLeish is forcing down the throats of the Villa faithful. The result puts Newcastle fourth in the table, a massive over-exaggeration of the footballing side we are, but it’s still a sign of a progress of sorts even if the glory days of the Keegan era remain a distant dream.

As for the relationship with the missus? She and I left the bar and I was allowed to put my arm around her. Indeed, I didn’t mind touching her at all. We were still friends and neither of us had lost anything. The draw was completely fair and the only result that could have created this pleasant outcome. It won’t always be like this but maybe, just maybe, some cosmic force wants this relationship to work out.

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