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Saturday, October 28, 2006


Such an ugly word, "stymied", and yet so appropriate. TDH's last prediction came eerily true with Duff and Rossi up front... and we're left to rue the result.

Okay, Parker and Duff are clearly two of the hardest workers ever to wear the shirt. Zog played his heart out, too. Yet with no finishing touch, what could you really expect? Duff chose to take it all on his own shoulders, which resulted in half-a-dozen shots taken well away from the perpendicular. A couple more crosses to Rossi might have paid dividends. But forget Martins and Ameobi - even with Dyer in the side, at least one of those chances would have hit the back of the net.

TDH has a solution for all this. Yes, TDH is getting on in years and has lost a step or two. But TDH is still pretty good in the air, and (here's the best part) TDH will wear the bar code FOR FREE. So, we might be in for a couple of tough months, but if nothing better comes along in January, TDH will be expecting the call.

In the midst of the frustration, it must also be noted that, had Charlton been a slightly better team, i.e. if Marcus Bent hadn't been rubbish, the Toon probably wouldn't have come away with even the one point. Defenders, defenders, defenders. TDH has been saying it for years. Years! What will it take to get a commanding Gareth Barry type into the side?

Angst aside, TDH is still willing to pony up to pay off part of that six million pound deficit. (We'll need it, with thousands of seats going unsold on a Saturday evening.) The question, of course, was whose number to put on the back of that beautiful European jersey. Alas, with Shearer gone it was bound to be someone younger... but there really wasn't any question, was there? Scottie P it is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Janus Team Redux

Hoity-toity title, yes, but TDH couldn't think of a better way to put it. This team has two faces: one it shows to Europe, the other to England. And we've seen it before with Souey. Is this a dynamic that transcends coaches and players? How can we take down a thoroughly decent team like Fener and then collapse at the feet of Boro? Or are those teams closer in quality than TDH would like to admit?

Has TDH been overoptimistic by predicting even a mid-table finish? Will we be stuck in a relegation fight with the likes of Curbs-less Charlton and increasingly Psychotic Psity? Should TDH just start supporting Reading, aka Yanks Abroad? Are Jermain Defoe's Mike Tyson moments the best hope for entertainment? (See the similarity of approach, by the way?) Does Javier Mascherano taste anything like Argentine grass-fed beef? And has Masche's form suffered because Black Angus just doesn't measure up?

And how the hell did the Mets manage to lose Game 7?

Too many questions, loyal readers, too many questions. TDH is exhausted. Please, O Great Sir Bobby, send us a sign....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More crap

What else can one say? The Magpies have gone ahead in every home match this season, and yet they've taken only a third of the available points. It's scandalous. The defensive set is clearly lacking, and there's no prospect of reinforcement before January. Just think about it - ask yourself if other Premiership teams would covet any of our strikers or midfielders, then ask the same about our defenders. It's a different kettle of fish entirely.

TDH has to admit, guiltily, to having spent the duration of the Bolton match at a private kitchen in Kowloon and afterwards drinking bourbon at the bar in The Peninsula. For that reason TDH witnessed only the last four minutes or so. But is this really all of a piece? Would TDH not have made more of an effort to spectate if there weren't the sinking feeling of dread that the Toon were sure to drop more precious points at home against mediocre opposition?

It's a sad state of affairs. And again, TDH will go back to the initial prediction for the season: mid-table finish in the Premiership, interesting cup runs cut short when confronted with real opposition. It certainly looks to be on the mark now.


TDH also caught a bit of Wigan v Manure yesterday. Quite an exciting match, actually, and too bad that the Latics couldn't hang on. One has to say, though, that Manure can go through long periods looking quite pedestrian without Kiki Ron in the side and Rooney playing out wide. Wes Brown surely does not belong on that team. And where is all of Ole Gunnar's Shareholder United activism now? A distant memory, surely, for the Norwegian hypocrite....

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What were you thinking, man?

Certain commentators have been saying that Stevie Mac used a 3-5-2 against Croatia. One look at the squad clearly shows that idea to be hogwash. Let's be honest - it was more like a 4-1-2-1-2. And where were the wingers? No, Stevie Mac, I don't mean our beloved Scottie P (viz. last post). England has so many talented wingers, and you decide to use none of them? It's shocking, shocking.

TDH was ready to see a real 3-5-2, with two real wingers. The whole idea of a 3-5-2 is that you can play dedicated wide men. They have to be the kind who can score, too, i.e. not Cashley Hole, whose shot is about as menacing as that of Juampi Sorin (viz. earlier TDH rants).

The Croat coach was right - Stevie Mac did his side a favor. It's hard to believe, too, that the FA couldn't arrange a match for this mad-scientist 3-5-2 against MK Dons or Grimsby, just to see if it passed the smell test. Must Stevie Mac use an away Euro 2008 qualifying tie as his laboratory? It's crazy, crazy.

Well, much work to do for England. Hopefully Stevie Mac will make El Tel the fall guy and bring in someone who actually knows some tactics. TDH also has a conspiracy theory on this: El Tel encouraged Stevie Mac to make a fool of himself, so that he could take over! Devious and yet so believable!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

As inspiring as yesterday's porridge

Oh, England. Remember the World Cup qualifying campaign, where every game was an occasion? Hopes were high, the line-up was packed with stars who seemed like they could do anything, and the team just kept on finding ways to win. It looked as if England could right the wrongs of the past 40 years.

Well, the World Cup itself scratched the luster right off. What we learned was that England could only score through David Beckham. Now he's gone, and quite rightly given that he's got no chance of playing in 2010. But Stevie Mac seems to be all out of ideas. And as TDH said previously, the return of El Tel to the coaching bench signals more mediocrity to come.

TDH saw the match with commentary from Martin Tyler and David Platt. Tyler was ready to see a 9-0 drubbing; he called the Macedonians "brazen" when they had the nerve to attack - would you believe! And in Old Trafford! Platt was much more realistic. He knew Pandev was a real player, and the balding striker duly caused all manner of problems, especially for the aging 'Tache.

Platt also sussed three major areas where Mac's tack seemed to lack:
1. Lampard should have pushed forward more, leaving Carrick to distribute.
2. Neville should have been substituted, not Downing.
3. When Wright-Phillips came on, he should have swapped with Gerrard.

But he missed one big thing: without Becks on the pitch, the crosses and dead balls were absolutely horrific. Except for an occasional good ball in from Downing, the service was atrocious. And anyway, the Empire State Building was, as usual, crap in the air. That free header in the last minute especially should have been a goal. The only bright spot was Ledley, who covered almost everything for the lagging 'Tache and the often-strangely-out-of-position JT.

The overall verdict? England and their coach are devoid of inspiration. TDH proposes playing Gerrard in the center (after his unfair suspension) with Downing and SWP or Cole and Lennon (when they're healthy) on the wings and Carrick behind. Put Bent, Harewood or Defoe up front with Rooney.

Leave Lamps and Crouch on the bench to think about what bad boys they've been. Besides, Crouch is the perfect suprise to spring on a tired defense, as he showed against the Argies. Yes, remember that famous victory? Back then, it actually appeared that England were good.


Looks like a tough group for the Toon in the UEFA Cup. Don't worry, though - we'll make it out, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in the quarterfinals. Oh yes.

And come on, ye Scots!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

When it rains, it f*ckin pours

Never just content to lose, are we? No, to complete a true Toon defeat away at a big club, we need to fulfill some other stringent criteria: at least one important player injured, at least one player sent off, and several defensive gaffes that will live long in the memory.

Okay, no red card this time, but Steven Taylor surely would have received one if his gunshot-to-the-chest act hadn't worked this time around. (Who remembers that from a little while back?) Sure, the Manure goals were flukey, but so was the fact that Kiki Ron hit the woodwork three times. To be honest, TDH watched most of the match in misery, mentally compiling the list of flaws and failures. Not wanting to bore or depress you with all of them, loyal readers, here are the top few:

1. Amoeba is unfit. After 35 minutes he was walking. Start Martins.

2. Duff didn't see enough of the ball. The 4-5-1 doesn't use him enough.

3. Harper isn't ready. He made two excellent reaction saves, yes, but generally speaking he was about as far from a safe pair of hands as Hong Kong is from Gateshead. Plainly scary. Let's see what Krul can do.

In fact, this last point makes TDH think, yet again, about the excessive regulation of the labor market in European football. If there were no transfer windows, the Magpies could have signed an in-form goalkeeper from a Championship club on short notice, rather than resorting to the obviously rusty Harper. Better yet, if football teams were allowed to use feeder clubs the way baseball teams do, they could simply have called him up from a lower or foreign league. Now, you may say, that's what reserve teams are for. But come on, is reserve competition anything like being in the thick of the action where points are at stake?

At least we continue in the UEFA Cup. Not long ago, TDH predicted another mediocre Premiership season and another interesting but ultimately disappointing cup run. Well, here we are. Lone bright spot: Pattison seems to know that the boxy thing with the net is where the ball should go.

And there was one other downer, of a sort. The best player on Manure isn't Paul Bunyan. No, it's that pizza-faced kid who runs like a girl. Sleep easy, Macedonia.

In the meantime, bully for Reading and its American stars!