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What’s Wrong in the North-East?

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Hugh Larkin

Hugh Larkin has a definite policy to support underdogs. Can be relied upon to support any team against Real Madrid and hopes one day to see Walsall as the top West Midland side....
[full biography]
27/11/2007 09:30:00.
read: 183 times.

Saturday 24th November was a pretty black day for the North-East’s three premier football teams. Each of them lost their matches but in so doing they racked up a goals total of 1 for and no less than 13 against.

There are grave concerns about the Premiership status of Middlesbrough and Sunderland while Newcastle appear to be marking time at best.

Being caned 7-1 at Everton will have hurt Roy Keane’s pride and for the first time there will be question marks about his management at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland fans have endured two desperate relegation seasons in their last two attempts at this level and a third doesn’t bear thinking about.

The big question is, has enough quality been bought in? The club couldn’t mix it with the Big 4 but they were expected to build a decent squad to compete. However, too many of the players are underperforming and up front the goals aren’t coming.

Kenwyne Jones is providing a useful target but neither Anthony Stokes nor Michael Chopra have yet justified the faith that Keane placed in them.

At the back there are also murmurings about signings like Danny Higginbottom, who had been allowed to slip out of the Premiership and Paul McShane and Greg Halford who were both lower division players.

Roy Keane has been big on describing the need for character in his recruits but without quality even the most committed players will struggle

Boro have been in transition ever since Steve McClaren left. Gareth Southgate was bequeathed a difficult task as he had players who needed moving out and a lot of promising youngsters who weren’t ready to carry the whole burden.

The real blow was losing both Yakubu and Mark Viduka over the summer; the players recruited to the striker positions just haven’t the experience or ability to do their jobs. Lee Dong Gook is anonymous, Tuncay works hard but can’t buy a goal and Jeremy Aladiere has pace and flair but not the finishing skills.

Much depends on Mido but his fitness record and consistency have always been in question. It leaves Boro looking toothless and despite being well organised, teams have learnt that they can take chances and attack against them.

Injuries to some key players haven’t helped but the side has begin to lack direction- Jonathan Woodgate can command the back four but Boro need similar fire in the middle where George Boateng can’t really offer it any more and Fabio Rochemback has always been diffident, if talented.

The Magpies aren’t in immediate relegation trouble but the expectations at a club where 50,000 plus turn up each week aren’t being met.

Sam Allardyce must wonder why it is that players move to St James and then suddenly seem to go into their shell. Time after time over the past decade a player’s form has dipped when they move to Newcastle.

This is especially true of defenders. Yet again the Magpies have a back four riddled with indecision despite recruiting heavily in that area and the various back four units being put out have been mainly Allardyce signings.

At the moment the jury is out on just about every player that Sam Allardyce has brought to the club- the better performers this season have been the likes of N’Zogbia, Solano and Milner who were all there under the previous management.

The instinct is to dig in but Magpies supporters are probably more wedded to progressive football then any other set of fans in the country and the new manager’s methods will only be tolerated if they provide results.

Sunderland and Middlesbrough’s activity in the January transfer window could well decide the fate of each club. Roy Keane will be around come what may but Gareth Southgate needs some positive results to keep him there until January.

Mike Ashley should continue to back Sam Allardyce as long as there are no more disasters like the Liverpool game but the manager needs a dominating centre back at all costs.

Latest article feedback

Tony Ratton:

It was certainly a shock to the system the debacle @ Goodson Park but I still think Keano will deliver. Derby Co.has now become the most imprtant game of the season so far. We MUST win it and I think we will as long as Kenwyne Jones is fit.


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