It was good to see the lads carry on the good work started at Anfield last week, and produce another excellent performance against Manu. The defence looked solid; the midfield ran the visitors ragged, but the only thing missing was that elusive finish to give us a much deserved three points. Given we had started with Riveros, Mensah, De Silva and Gyan (all £13 million of him) on the bench, Saturday’s performance was all the more pleasing. I’ve been critic of Canttermole over the last month or so, but I have to admit, Lee’s played very well during the last couple of games. He’s beginning to show a more responsible and level headed approach to both his overall play and duties as captain. Steed was another who had a super game on Saturday – his pace and craft is vital to supporting the front players, both home and away. In terms of the chance he missed, it was a great bit of approach play, and I prefer to think Van Der Sar made a great save rather Steed missing a sitter. Steed isn’t a natural wide right player; his best position is to float around just inside an orthodox right winger.
It was also good to see Darren Bent finally get another England call up. However, it’s about time Jordan Henderson also got a similar tilt at international football. If Theo Walcott can get a cap, it’s high time SOL’s Mr Energy got a shot at the big time!
Maybe now, as we get players fit, we’re finally beginning to see the squad shaping up – as a greater strength in depth begins to emerge.
Ewood Park will always be a tricky venue, even without a burst pipe in the dressing room. Anyhow, bring on the Rovers!
The final insult on Sunday was the public address system’s rendition of the Monkeys classic Daydream Believer. Aside from the mickey or should that be monkey taking, I think we’re all agreed the performance was a disgrace to the name of the club (so much for my prediction last week). Once the Mags broke the deadlock, things degenerated into one of the most gutless disorganised displays I’ve ever witness from eleven men masgarading as a football team, particularly when you consider who the opposition were – not exactly Real Madrid.
I’m not in disagreement regarding the general formation as such, more the fact the defence and midfield were an absolute shambles from the start. Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll had the run of St. James Park. I’d have thought Steve might have plumped for more experienced hands like Zenden and Mensah. I also feel the manager may have blundered in his assessment of Andy Reid. Andy wasn’t exactly slimmer of the year, but he could take a pass and make a pass. The Irishman’s cultured left peg was also a useful addition at set plays – setting up and scoring the odd important goal.
This is becoming a recurring theme, but we’re still short of leadership in midfield. I never thought I’d say this: but we actually miss Dean Whitehead in games like this. What must be pointed out though: is the culture of derby games in England is different to that of Scotland. North of the boarder where teams play each other 4 times a season in the league, the manager and players always have an opportunity to redeem themselves fairly quickly. However, because teams only play each other twice in the league, a manager in England can really only afford to lose derby games narrowly; a historically heavy defeat will inevitably result in questions being asked. Steve Bruce is under pressure now, make no mistake. That said, he needs to get his head up if he’s to have any chance in holding onto the dressing and keeping the fans onside. So, in the words of the Monkeys: “cheer up Steve Bruce ….”
First things first: it was nice to see Mark Halsey back in the middle for Saturday’s encounter. Here’s hoping he’s put his recent health problems firmly behind him. To use boxing terminology: Mark was slightly “ring rusty” on Saturday, with a number of iffy decisions affecting both sides. We were slightly lucky with the first penalty decision, as the player was running towards my end, and it did look like Cats just did enough to impede his stride. Although Villa’s second shout looked as if there was no contact. However, I’m sure once Mark’s had a couple more games, he’ll be well and truly back into the groove. Nevertheless, we’ve been due a little bit of luck against Villa, so the three precious points were well earned in my book.
If anyone watched Match of Day2 on Sunday, they’ll see Gary Neville has now joined the elite list along with a number of his England colleagues – i.e. those who have to commit murder before receiving a red card. It’s high time we signed a couple of players like that, as it might even up some of the decisions against us!
Moving on to Sunday, we need to start beating them on a consistent basis and prove once and for all who is the no. 1 club in the North East. There’s been much deliberation about playing both strikers, but I think on this occasion, I’d stick with 4-5-1. The time to Bent and Gyan together is next Saturday against Stoke. The aim should be to stay in the game for the first 25 minutes, and then once things settle down, the better footballing side (us) should prevail. The Geordies will throw everything but the kitchen sink at us from start; they’ll be trying to show off, and prove they deserve to back in the big time. Self-discipline will be another important factor. It’s important, whilst players stand up for themselves, nobody gets sucked into anything. Lee be warned! Losing a man in a match like this isn’t an option, if the game is still close.
Prediction for Sunday: 2 – 0 away win, and a new DVD for Xmas: Bruce Bursts Geordie Bubble!
So Monday was a night of frustration to say the least. The main positive to take from the game is defensively we looked fairly solid, even before the sending off. Bramble and Turner are beginning to look the part as a double-act. Our young goalie had a couple scary moments, but generally our backline was never really troubled.
Steed has his critics, but by taking him off, Steve only succeeded in opening the game up and midfield – thereby, giving Blackburn a foothold when they should have been dead and buried. Although Darren missed a great chance, he’s obviously carrying a knock at the moment. It’s high time the other strikers started to contribute with some goals. If I were Steve, I might be tempted to start with Gyan on Saturday – let’s see once and for all if he can justify his massive price tag. Houllier has a reputation for being slightly cautious away from home, so we need to go at them right from the start. Over the last few weeks, the form has been pleasantly solid, but we could do with a win, just to try and build a bit of momentum and keeps us away from the drop zone.
Hopefully, there’ll be a little more to talk about next week after a resounding home victory!
Although the first few performances this season have been a tad mediocre, (albeit, with some decent points along the way), Saturday’s performance at Anfield was the first signs of the green shoots of recovery. We began to look like a team again – showing a decent balance between attack and defence. Darren Bent’s second goal in particular, was a great striker’s goal. Let’s hope we can go on a run now and cement our place in the top ten.
Now for the poor old referee, I think most people knew Michael Turner played the ball back so the keeper could take the freekick. Initially, it looked like the official made the mistake because he’d inadvertently turned his back on play. However, even at this point, there was ample opportunity to correct the decision after consultation with his assistant. It’s high time we had a referee in the stand looking at a monitor, who could take control in a situation like this. Technology seems to work well in many other sports – Cricket, Tennis and American football to name but a few. For next season, I’d setup a reviewer with a monitor for all Premiership and Championship fixtures. He could then alert the official electronically to stop play if there any contentious incidents – a goal line call; violent conduct or an issue with the taking of freekick. We’ve already seen during the summer how useful this type of thing would have been during the World Cup. Don’t forget 1966, and that Russian linesman. Only joking! The culpability on Saturday rests with the refereeing team as a whole, not just the man in the middle. Hopefully the Premier League will look closely at the role played, not just by the referee, but also by the assistant. Somebody has just ruined their chances of getting on the FIFA list, me thinks!
Also, what Saturday proved, is that there are some players who are ‘ring-fenced’ in terms of the level of leniency shown to them by the officials. Steven Gerrard can now be added to the same list as his England buddies: Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Sir John Terry. Murder has to occur on the pitch before any of this lot will ever see a red card. Once players become an integral part of the international setup, they seem to become almost untouchable when it comes to basic discipline. We might have an elite list for referees, but it’s time we dispensed with the elite players list!
The one thing the lads showed in abundance on Saturday was spirit. I didn’t really agree with Steve Bruce’s assertion that we played well. I think for the second time this season, we’ve snatched something in the dying seconds when we’ve scarcely deserved it. When you consider we were at home, I thought we were a little too negative on Saturday. By filling up the midfield, we allowed Darren to become rather isolated up front. It was still nice seem him get his goal though – he deserved something for all his unselfish running. Their goal was fluke, although in general play, Arsenal certainly deserved something from the game. In situations like that, you got to hold your hand up and say: “we got lucky” and move onto the next one. The funnies bit about Saturday was Ellis and Sir Nial’s celebrations at the end.
Looking back a week, maybe it’s time the gaffer thought seriously about taking the captaincy away from Lee Canttermole. Lee’s a decent player, but Bobby Kerr he ain’t. Bookings and sendings off are becoming a recurring theme, and as I’ve said time and time again, does he really want to play international football? If the manager takes it away from Lee permanently, who should be captain? Lets face it, there’s a distinct lack of leaders in our team. I’ve not always been Anton’s biggest fan, but I think he’s been playing well of late, and maybe now it the time to change it.
The team hasn’t played particularly so far this season, and we’re languishing dangerously close to the drop zone – one win away from the top half and one defeat away from the bottom three! Although it’s still early days, we still look well short of being capable of achieving the widely published objective of a top ten finish. Looking at the situation with a degree of objectivity, it’s hard not to believe that Steve’s jacket isn’t on a shaky peg, if the current form continues and we stop scoring last minute goals.
Before Anfield, there’s league cup business to attend to. A good cup run is something we’ve been sadly lacking of late. A semi or better still, final appearance would show the fans some real tangible signs of progress under our present manager.
I’ve deliberately waited until after the transfer window before writing this. It seems our owner has loosened the purse strings and allowed SB the privilege of signing a new striker. It’s a hell of a lot of money for somebody that’s not exactly high profile; I sure as hell hope it works. Prior to this, it was difficult not to feel a degree of frustration regarding our lack of transfer activity. Having recouped good money for both Cana and Jones, we hadn’t really managed to make the sort of signings that would propel us into the top 10. If it was a case of simply balancing the books, then fair enough. However, the board seemed to give a slightly different impression when season tickets were being flogged during the summer. The signing of a replacement for Jones was important, but as the result against the Baggies illustrated, we’re still very susceptible to dropping points away from home. I still feel the deficiencies within the squad run deeper than just a new partner for Darren Bent.
By keeping going right to the death against Man. City, at least the lads showed a fair degree of character. It’s high time they started showing the same belief away from the SOL. Funniest bit of the day was Tevez’s miss – it reminded me of a similar howler Peter Van Vossen had against Celtic a few years ago. I thought both Henderson (again) and Wellbeck showed up very well in the second half. Our young goalkeeper, despite looking nervous on his debut against Brum, also did himself proud against City. Still on the subject of safe hands, a big thanks must go to England’s new No. 1: Joe Hart for giving us a helping hand by diving over the ball at the end. Hopefully, we’ll carry the same luck for the remainder of the season.
Bring on the Latics!
Saturday’s result was definitely a case of two points dropped. To loose a two goal lead (even with ten men) was criminal to say the least. Cattermole could play for England, but not if continues to be a preverbal red card magnet. Aside from Lee’s dismissal, I though the defence was posted missing for both goals – there was clearly a lack of understanding between the back four, and the young goal keeper doesn’t look quite ready for this level of football just yet. Hopefully, an understanding will develop during the fullness of time!
The sale of Kenwyn Jones was a good deal for the club, as we managed to make a little profit on a player, who’s probably developed as much as he’s going to at the SOL. That’s the benefit of securing players on long term contracts for you! Let’s hope Steve can use some of the money for further squad strengthening. Even with the acquisition of Danny Wellbeck, I’m not convinced we’re running with the right sort of striking partnership. As last season showed, we’re still relying too heavily on Darren Bent and Frazier Campbell. These two are both far too similar for my liking – both are willing runners in behind defenders, but neither is a natural ‘leader of the line’. At the back, I’m still not convinced we have natural leader there either. A defender in the ‘Steve Bruce’ mould might have managed to get the boys through the second half on Saturday with a preserved lead and 3 precious points.
Anyway, here’s to a win against the Baggies!
Ok, I’m not exactly overwhelmed by the signing of Titus Bramble – a player with undoubted potential, who’s never really developed at the rate some expected. He’s a solid enough defender, but seems to have an underlying problem with basic concentration – making him prone to high profile ‘cock-up’. The fact most of these came whilst he was wearing a black and white shirt is another factor up for consideration. Seriously though, the lad probably represents better value for money than signing the likes of Sole Campbell. Looks like the big man will end ups where truly belongs. Anyway, good luckTitus. We live in hope!
Looking at the potential move for David James – well, we certainly need some short-term experience. However, a bit like Campbell, he’s always one who’s been known to try and maximize his earning potential. I’d b e surprised if SB decided this warrants a minimum one year deal. To be fair to DJ, he was one of the few players to come out of the World Cup with dignity still intact. My only concern is that, like Titus, the former England stopper falls into the ‘calamity waiting to happen’ bracket. Time will tell though!
Not a lot I can say on this, other than very bad news for both us and Scotland. I’m speculating a bit here, but if he’s broken the same arm in same place, why did they take the plate out? For a modern sportsman, surely leaving the plate in provides a more robust solution to meet the rigours of contact sport. Mignolet better be quick learner!
I’m still quite underwhelmed by the lack of quality signing activity. Welbeck may have ability, but it’s yet another loan signing. The signing of Gyan might at least lift the fans. However, players that made their name in the World Cup often come back a mixture of knackered and/or injured, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much, even if we do manage to do business. At least the Murphy deals seems to have finally gone through – Hopefully, this might even give the manager some leverage in terms of money.