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Newcastle United; Season Review 2006/07


Stephen Orford

Due to the mild irritation of his disability Stephen Orford has never kicked a football in his life. However, he is a serious asset to any editor looking to comply with equal opportunities legislation....
[full biography]
24/05/2007 08:00:00.
read: 834 times.

It’s been another frustrating season for Newcastle United.

A few short years ago the club were competing in the Champions League, but a 13th placed finish in the Premiership in 2006/07 represents another desperately disappointing return.

And yet it was always going to be thus. The permanent appointment of Glenn Roeder as manager at the end of the previous campaign always had the distinct and stale whiff of desperation about it. Having sacked Graeme Souness from the post in February 2006, chairman Freddy Shepherd lurched from one clueless panic measure to another. He pleaded with the FA to allow special dispensation for the appointment of the under-qualified Roeder, an act that now seems almost as pointless as the Millennium Dome.

The persuading factor in Shepherd’s ill-advised decision was the form of the team post-Souness. In the remaining months of the 2005/06 season following the Scot’s dismissal, Newcastle’s form picked up noticeably. They rose to seventh in the Premiership, securing an opportunity to qualify for the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto Cup.

Initially things looked promising for Roeder as he guided the team through July’s Intertoto minefield. A place in the UEFA Cup was theirs, and hopes were high that the improvement in the league could continue. An opening day win over Wigan Athletic heightened the optimism, but defeat at Aston Villa eight days later brought everyone back down to Earth.

From then on the side have been a model of inconsistency, with almost half of their 38 league fixtures ending in defeat. Five teams managed to win at St.James’ Park including relegated Sheffield United, toothless Manchester City and the fair-to-middling Blackburn Rovers, yet interestingly none of the top four managed to leave Newcastle with all three points.

If the home form was perplexing, the away form was little short of abject. Twelve defeats from 19 road trips is the most suffered by any side outside the relegation zone, an undistinguished record shared by West Ham United. Wins at Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United showed what could be done on their travels, but Newcastle still have one of the poorest away records in the division.

And so to the cups, as Newcastle looked to end a miserable 38-year run without a meaningful trophy (no, the Intertoto Cup doesn’t count). The 5-1 FA Cup defeat at home to Birmingham City (at that point still fighting to get out of the Championship) was undoubtedly the worst single performance of the season by the Magpies. What hurt even more was that the club were therefore knocked out of the competition in the third round, seeing yet another opportunity for silverware slip by so early on in the season.

The Carling Cup offered a little more success as Portsmouth were beaten 3-0 at St.James’ Park, before a penalty shoot-out was needed to dispose of Watford after a 2-2 draw. That set up a quarter final tie with Premiership champions Chelsea, where Roeder’s men were far from disgraced in losing to Didier Drogba’s late goal. By this time, hopes were high in the UEFA Cup, and it was their fate in that competition which arguably played the biggest role in Roeder’s eventual exit from the hot-seat before season’s end.

Four-one up at half-time against the well respected Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their last 16 tie at St.James’ Park, Newcastle crucially allowed a second away goal late in the match. It was to prove their undoing, as a tactically paralysed Roeder could not find the answers to the flowing football of Louis Van Gaal’s silky side. A 2-0 win in Holland saw Alkmaar through to a quarter-final tie with Werder Bremen. They lost, but as they did so they left Roeder and company, not to mention the fans wondering what might have been.

It came as no surprise to learn of Roeder’s departure from Tyneside just a few weeks before the end of the season. Nor was it any coincidence that Roeder’s apparent resignation came just a few days after Sam Allardyce performed a similar disappearance from the Bolton Wanderers job. It now falls on Allardyce to revive the flagging fortunes of Newcastle, that after his appointment as manager on a three-year contract earlier this month.

The 52-year-old has wasted no time in making big decisions. He has already culled five players from the squad, with all of Titus Bramble, Olivier Bernard, Craig Moore and Pavel Srnicek shown the door aswell US international loanee Oguchi Onyewu. Allarydce may or may not be the answer to Newcastle’s prayers but he is unlikely to stand idle while the club drifts along aimlessly. If the former England managerial candidate fails, rest assured it will not be for the want of effort.

As I write there is good and bad news for Allardyce as he continues his rebuilding work. Republic of Ireland international winger Damien Duff seems just the type of player to fit into an Allardyce-type system, but it has been revealed that the former Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea star will not figure in the first team for five to six months after undergoing foot surgery. Tempering that disappointment is the prospect of some badly needed investment in the club, with retail magnate Mike Ashley rumoured to be offering a Ł133million buy-out of the club.

Whether that kind of investment will be enough to keep Michael Owen on Tyneside is another question, as the England striker continues to be the subject of speculation over his future. Arsenal are the latest club to be linked with the ex-Liverpool striker, and it is for Allardyce to decide whether cashing in on Owen would be in the best interests of the team overall.

Despite another season of despair, Toon fans will once again be looking forward to August with optimism.

By Stephen Orford

23 May 2007

Latest article feedback

harry mccarthy:

 i think newcastle need to keep owen and strengthing the defence i was angry with the way mr sheapherd treated both roeder and robson which was a disgrase i think we finally found the manger to move us forward we dont need freedy sheperd anymore newcastle future look exciting


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