Posts Tagged ‘ Newcastle United ’

An American’s Guide to Soccer in England

paul-gerald

An American’s Guide to Soccer in England

English groundhopper Paul Gerald came back on the SoccerNomad podcast to recap his latest trip to the UK. Paul hit Watford, Tottenham, West Ham, Bristol and others as he gathers material for his upcoming book, An American’s Guide to Soccer in England. Paul provided some great insight and tips for fans interesting in going to matches. He plans to have his book out in the summer of 2017, so keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, check out his blog English Soccer Guide and follow him on twitter @authorpaulg.

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Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Copa Libation–Newcastle United v Manchester United

Drink:  Gin and Tonic

Snack:  Homemade Tacos by the wife

Manchester-United-v-Newcastle-United

I knew the result of the match ahead of time as it is almost impossible in this day and age to keep a complete media blackout.

I checked the lineups before kickoff and was a little apprehensive with Falcao on the bench and Felliani in the team. Would the giraffe with a mop for a head be the 9 (ie Long Ball Louie ) or would he be the combative midfielder? As for Newcastle I was surprised that Cabella was not part of the team as he has shown some flashes of brilliance this season.

St. James Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Red Devils over recent years with lots of goals but Wednesday’s match left a little to be desired. United continued their dominance of possession but with very little end product. On the flip side, their opponents seemed to cut through United much too easily. One or two quick passes or beat a man and they were into dangerous positions.

Overall, here were my thoughts.

DDG continues his amazing run. Not frequently called upon but when asked, the Spaniard responds. Made a save to end the half and then kept his concentration on Riviere to start the second. He saved United’s bacon with saves right after the goal and to close the match. What a player he has been for the Reds over the last two season.

Defensively, a mixed bag. Evans did just enough while Chris Smalling put hearts in the throats of supporters with a late challenge in the box early in the match (probably a penalty). However I thought he grew into the game and showed real composure in possession. Speaking of Rojo, while defensively solid, he struggles in possession and makes too many loose passes for me, although his layoff created an early chance which Herrera smacked wide. The third man runs were excellent from Valencia although his service was hit and miss.

In the midfield Blind was ok. I like that he goes for challenges and he usually is well positioned but sometimes . . . . Herrera failed to make a real impact on the match. Passes not quite on the mark and he was guilty of a turnover at midfield in the second half which nearly led to the opener. Have to say that Fellaini had a pretty good game and in the second half he had some nice touches. Not the greatest competition but . . . . Anyone who knows me knows that Young is not my favorite player but this year he has shown improvement and given his all. Looks to beat his man and provide service, which is admirable.  His goal was the result of a complete miscue from Krul and continues a trend of United being lucky rather than good.

adm

Then there’s Angel di Maria. Confidence is definitely shaken and he may need a rest away from the firing line. There is the school of thought that he play his way back into form but I would just let him cool his heels. He lasted almost an hour before giving way for Januzaj who was exciting but ultimately a let down. Good to see Carrick get a couple of minutes. His experience and class could be vital in upcoming matches.

I thought Rooney’s activity was excellent and really shows why he’s a 9 and not a 10 or an 8. Checked to the ball to create 1, 2’s with teammates and dropped deeper on occasion to spread the play. Finishing was a little off as his dinked shot rolled harmlessly wide and he missed another chance minutes later trying to be too clever after a turnover form Coloccini. Also he was offside a lot in the second stanza and that was frustrating.

As for the Magpies, Sissoko was a beast for the Magpies. He was strong, decisive and active and his surging run in the first half nearly led to a goal for Riviere before he tripped over his feet. Jonás Gutiérrez’s appearance was a feel good story as the Argentine returned from cancer. The hosts saw a little more of the ball in the second half  but couldn’t make the breakthrough.

young_newcastle

In the end three vital points for the Reds. Still not great but I like this formation and they seem to making it through the gears. How they will be play against sterner opposition will be an interesting story. Chris Waddle kept stressing during the commentary the lack of thrust from United, not committing their opponents, playing everything in front of them. This has been the case against inferior teams and will not hold up against the top five. How LvG sorts this out could make or break their season.

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League

Finally at first glance I didn’t like the Newcastle home shirt with the giant large black area around the pectoral region but have to say it’s growing on me. The gold accents are a nice touch as well. As for United, can I just say that I prefer when United go with matching shorts and socks? Just a much cleaner look and with the white shorts and socks you could almost imagine that the Reds were back in Europe as that is their usual strip for matches under the floodlights.

Bring on the Gunners.

Strip Club–Half and Half Edition (Long Version)

In the summer of 1997, Dutchman Louis van Gaal took over at FC Barcelona from Bobby Robson, with the team coming off a relatively successful season—second in the league, Copa del Rey winners and Cup Winners’ Cup winners.  In the off season Ronaldo had moved to Inter after one amazing campaign with the Blaugrana, but not to worry as the lineup was chock full of stars, including Vítor Baía, Ferrer, Fernández, Guardiola, Couto, Óscar García, Luís Figo, Hristo Stoichkov, Sonny Anderson, Giovanni, Rivaldo, Sergi Barjuán, Guillermo Amor, Pizzi, Nadal, Luis Enrique, Reiziger, and Iván de la Peña.

luis enrique

After falling to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup at the beginning of the season, this assembly of talent went on to win the Spanish Double.  The team got off to a fast start and led the league nearly the entire season, eventually securing the title by nine points over Athletic Bilbao, who had a made a late surge up the table.  Watching the league goals from that season, Luis Enrique was a machine, it was a reminder of how good Rivaldo was, and there were some fantastic goals against Real Madrid.  One other thing I noticed. . . either FCB wore their home kit almost every match or they could only score in the home strip.

rivaldo

In the Spanish Cup, FCB joined the competition in the Round of 16 and hammered Valencia, Merida and Real Zaragoza on their way to the Final, where they met Real Mallorca in Valencia.  An early goal from Mallorca had Barca on the ropes but Rivaldo, the tournament’s leading scorer, equalized midway through the second half.  Despite Mallorca having two men sent off before extra time started, FCB could not find a winner, having to win on penalties, with each team sending eight kickers to the spot.

In Europe the Blaugrana beat Borussia Dortmund to win the UEFA Super Cup but failed to progress in the Champions League.  Latvian champions Skonto were their opponents in the second qualifying round, and after a tough match at the Nou Camp, a 3-2 win, FCB travelled away and won 1-0 to move on to a group that included Newcastle United, PSV and Dynamo Kyiv.  Barca finished dead last in their group and were hammered 7-0 over two games with Kyiv.  I vaguely remember watching Tino Asprilla’s performance against the Spanish team at St. James Park in which he scored a hat trick (and even found the ESPN highlights with JP and Tommy Smyth).  Watching the highlights again, I was stunned by how Keith Gillespie tortured Sergi on the Newcastle left.

barcelona-97-home-use

This was one of the first jerseys I ever bought.  I can’t even remember if I ordered it from a catalog or found it at a store.  This was the last Kappa strip (who took over for the 1992/93 season) before the switch to Nike, and the Kappa color scheme tended to be more royal blue and bright red rather than the historic blue and claret.  One item I came upon in my research was that during the formation of the club, half the shirt was blue and the other claret, the sleeves were opposite colours and the shorts were white. One of the many theories explaining the origin of the kit colours — blue and scarlet — is that Gamper used the same colours as the Basel team, where he had played before coming to Catalonia. (Courtesey of FC Barcelona).  That season the club also had a European strip, which was an altered version of the home strip.

n_f_c_barcelona_1997_98-939735

The ring collar was a major design change after over 15 years of a standard collar, and the shirt also featured typical Kappa design features for FCB shirts, which included sublimated Barca and Kappa logos throughout the shirt and the Kappa logo down the sleeves.  The shirt is light but the collar is a little itchy so I always have to wear some sort of undershirt.  Blue shorts with the Kappa logo down the sides and blue and red hooped socks complete the strip.

FCB 97 98 strip

Of all of my FCB shirts, this is my least favorite although I like them all.  Nice piece of history though.

Strip Club–RIL Edition

It has been said that you don’t find a football club, a football club finds you, and Manchester United found me via my best friend Erik. When we were in high school and college, he would share stories of this great club called the Red Devils from England, and he had all this swag—jerseys, scarves, articles, magazines, trinkets. He would talk about the amazing achievements of Hughes and Kanchelskis and Sharpe and Schmeichel and Ince, and he won me over, taking me to this hole in the wall bar in Detroit to watch live games.

By the time USA ’94 rolled around I was excited but not caught up in World Cup fever. I watched several matches on TV, but this was only a prelude to my viewing dedication for the following tournaments. Soccer on TV in the US was rare in the early 90’s, and in 1995 life changed forever for me. We watched the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners Cup between Arsenal and Real Zaragoza, and I still remember Seaman backpedaling and falling into his own net, unable to stop a ridiculous shot from Nayim.  From there it was on to the 1995 Champions League Final, which Patrick Kluivert won for Ajax against AC Milan.

All of this set up the 1995-96 season, which, thanks to a slow internet connection at college and ESPN’s coverage of the Champions League, I was able to follow. What a year that was. Juventus won the Champions League Final, and Euro 96 was epic, with Poborsky’s chip, Gazza’s goal against Scotland, and Bierhoff scoring the first Golden Goal. But all of this paled in comparison to the Domestic Double won by Manchester United.

Here is a synopsis of the season from aboutmanutd.com:

1995-1996 brought a second Premiership and FA Cup double in just three seasons. Newcastle United squandered a ten-point lead in the Premiership and Liverpool were beaten in the final of the FA Cup.

There was controversy before the season began. Three established players left over the summer. Mark Hughes signed for Chelsea, Andrei Kanchelskis for Everton and Paul Ince for Inter Milan. The first two wanted to leave, but it appeared to be the manager’s decision to sell Ince. With Cantona suspended until the beginning of October, it was assumed that experienced replacements would arrive, but they didn’t. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes all began the opening game of the season and David Beckham came on as a substitute. The game at Aston Villa was lost 3-1, leading TV pundit Alan Hansen to famously declare that you win nothing with kids. Ferguson continued with the ‘kids’, they won their next five consecutive league games and remained undefeated until November. They were strengthened by Cantona’s return. His first game after suspension was against Liverpool. The game ended 2-2, with Cantona making Manchester United’s first goal and scoring the second (a penalty). He was on his best behavior for the rest of the season, ending it as the club’s top scorer and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.

Newcastle United should really have won the league. In December they led Manchester United by ten points. Gradually the gap was closed. Great saves by Schmeichel and a goal from Cantona won a crucial game in Newcastle in March. Alex Ferguson employed all his psychological ploys to successfully get under the skin of Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan. Newcastle imploded and Manchester United won the Premiership by four points. Another Cantona goal won the FA Cup Final. After a fairly dull game, Cantona scored the only goal with just a few minutes remaining.

During 1995-1996 there was embarrassment as well as success. Rotor Volgograd knocked Manchester United out of the UEFA cup. York City knocked them out of the League Cup, winning the first leg at Old Trafford 3-0. Then, towards the end of the season, the club lost at Southampton after being 3-0 down at half-time. Ferguson blamed the grey shirts they were wearing, had them changed at half-time and then determined that they would never be worn again!

A marvelous blend of youth and experience brought success in 1995-1996 and Alan Hansen – a former Liverpool player – had to eat his words.

I still remember watching the replay of 1996 FA Cup Final on Fox Sports South, and after Cantona’s winning goal (about 2:40 in), running around my parents’ house, screaming in celebration.

This was the third jersey from the 1994-1996:

 

MUFC 94 3rdA big fad in the 90’s was sublimation, whether it be the club crest or an iconic image or the home ground. For that year, barely visible all over the jersey, United used the names of the legends of the club, plus a sublimated reminder of the 1968 victory in the European Cup at Wembley. Not only recent players were included, but legends like Charlton, Best, McIlroy, Robson, Law, and Whiteside. I knew about some of them and as I’ve learned more and more about the club, I’ve found out why some of the names are on there. Recently I got a DVD of 1001 Manchester United Greatest Goals and it’s cool to see the names on the shirt actually playing.

This United kit is not my favorite, but when I finally I found it on eBay in my size, I snapped it up. As for the shirt itself, it’s not the greatest, as it doesn’t breathe all that well and doesn’t fit all that great, but for the years and history it represents, it’s a true collector’s item.

Old Futbol Buffet–Red Dawn

Manchester United 4  Newcastle United 3

Due to Winter Storm Euclid, I was able to watch Manchester United v Newcastle United in a highly entertaining match even though neither team played that well.  The confrontation produced seven goals and a dramatic ending.

From the not learning from previous mistakes department, Sir Alex started Giggs and Scholes.  I need to check the stats but that pairing usually results in dropped points, and for most of the match that looked to be the case again.  Carrick played well but struggled to control the game in the middle and Newcastle punished on of his giveaways as Ba’s shot went through Evans’ legs and de Gea teed it up for Perch to slam home.  United then responded but didn’t really threaten Krul’s net.

However a poorly defended free kick by Newcastle resulted in a United equalizer.  Newcastle maintained their composure and scored a controversial goal as a Simpson’s shot came in which Evans turned into his own goal trying do ward off Ba.  The goal was given, then not given, then given. Just before the interval Marveaux rattled the crossbar with a free kick which would have put Sir Alex’s men in deep trouble.

The second half was worse in technical terms with sloppy passing and movement preventing the Reds from putting the Magpies under pressure.  Evra’s equalizer was a little fortunate and Krul who had great performances last season against United should have done better.  Cisse punished United’s lax marking off a throw in as Obertan cruised down the left hand channel and squared for the striker who banged it home for the visitor’s third lead.

RvP squared the match again and Chicharito sealed the points after several missed opportunities.  United were fluid going forward but wasted far too many chances against Newcastle and Swansea.  The pessimistic part of me believes that the luck and the late goals will dry up, and if the Reds don’t tighten up defensively, another trophyless season awaits, as they will be exposed against better opposition both at home and abroad.

Manchester United 2  West Bromwich Albion 0

Sir Alex made several changes to the team, brining in Kagawa behind Welbeck, with Cleverley supporting Carrick.  Young’s hard cross was turned into the net by a WBA defender and from there United took control of the match without finding the second goal.  The Reds had several good chances on the half hour mark but desperate defending preventing another goal.  WBA enjoyed a brief spell just before halftime thanks to a series of set pieces.

There was a little more balance to start the second stanza but WBA still had a lot of men behind the ball.  The introduction of Lukaku changed the match in my opinion as his strength and energy upset the United rearguard.  My guess is that Clarke saved him for the second half to go against a tiring defense.  After all the possession, RvP finally put the game to bed with a lovely finish to seal the points.

Couple of player notes:

  • Welbeck was serviceable, with a decent workrate and interplay but he is still not top class.
  • Cleverly was iffy, providing energy but several turnovers and a lack of ideas around the 18.
  • Smalling keep things steady at the back, staying to his task but not providing the offensive oomph of Rafael.

Daniele of Red Rants watched a changed United team overcome a heavy pitch and determined opponent to secure three points and go into 2013 top of the table.  Kagawa’s return gives Sir Alex more options, especially with Rooney’s injury and Daniele feels that Valencia may need a rest.  But who would replace him?  Not the best game and much less drama than the Newcastle match, but the result is what matters.

Matthew Evans shared his thoughts on WBA’s performance for ESPN FC.  Despite several injuries, the Baggies regrouped in the second half and Matthew saw a better effort from debutant Thorne and some good play from Lukaku.

Midseason thoughts

United are seven points clear but the deficit is far from convincing.  The Red Devils have plenty going forward, especially with everyone fit but the attack can be stymied and will be shut down against organized and fit sides.  With the defense leaking goals, I can see narrow defeats in the spring that could cost them the title.  City continue to lurk and may lose the title only because their manager is substandard, but without a European distraction, there is every chance that the Citizens will close the gap.  Chelsea are an outside bet as Rafa has secured the defense.  If they can find the goals, they could mount a serious charge.

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Articles and Podcasts

Anto had Italian commentator Owen Neilson on the Beyond the Pitch pod to discuss the Serie A at the Winter Break.  I have not been following the league at all this season, so I took the opportunity to catch up.  Owen and Anto acknowledged that Juventus are champions.  The Old Lady has a significant lead at the break, and the chasing pack are not strong or consistent enough to catch the Bianconeri.  As for Anto’s beloved Milan, they broke down the problems at with the Rossoneri, including the Brazilian clear out and the possible burnout of Stephan El Shaarawy.  Fiorentina and Roma are doing great things this season, while Palermo is struggling at the bottom.

Another league that has gotten away from me is the Bundesliga.  Raphael Honingstein provided a year in review of the German league for SI.com, focusing on the rise of Borussia Dortmund, who won a league and cup double and progressed from the Group of Death in the Champions League.  He also praised Marco Reus as player of the year and SC Freiburg for a fantastic year of results.  Raphael concluded with a look at the German National Team and their “traumatic” defeat at the hands of Italy at Euro 2012.

Michael Cox (aka Zonal Marking) jotted down his 10 moments from 2012 for ESPN FC.  What a year.  Chelsea winning the Champions League (reading Michael’s comments I was reminded of Robben’s missed penalty in extra time—aargh!!); Spain’s wonderful performance in the Euro 2012 Final against Italy; CR7’s crushing goal at the Nou Camp that secured the league for Real Madrid; and Zambia winning the Africa Cup of Nations. I admit that I didn’t watch a single minute of the tournament, but I knew about the story.  The death of Zambian National Team actually made it in to SI way back in the 90’s, and I can still remember reading the article and trying to imagine the pain of losing an entire generation of players.  20 years later the promise was fulfilled and what a moment for the players and the country.

On the latest episode of The Big Question podcast, Aaron discussed the future of college soccer with Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer.  Both agreed that there is no one answer for how the college game fits into the puzzle of American Soccer.  I think Travis summed it up best, saying that “There are different paths for different players”.

I follow college soccer even less than MLS and went to my first college game in years last fall to support MichiganState and the Red Cedar Rowdies.  Didn’t see much in terms of next level talent, but there were two UConn players that I could see having a chance. The elite players in America need to be Europe. That has been my stance for several years.  To be the best, you need to play with the best.  Having said all that, the college game is another road to the professional game for the next tier or two of player.  The MLS has to draw from somewhere, but financial considerations and conference realignment may have something to say about the collegiate game in the near future.

Old Futbol Buffet–Diamonds are a Reds’ Best Friend

After gorging myself last Saturday on soccer, I took the day off and got some stuff done around the house and on the blog and tried to watch an entire season of Community.  Sunday, however, I headed up to the pub for Newcastle United v Manchester United and FC Barcelona v Real Madrid.

Newcastle United 0  Manchester United 3

What a start.  The passion and drive were stunning; a complete turnaround from last week.  Sir Alex went with a younger and more energetic midfield, playing in an unbalanced diamond, and put Newcastle under pressure from the off.  You would have made a ton of money if you had taken Evans and Evra to score for Manchester United.  But the Magpies responded by getting the ball wide, stretching the MUFC diamond and taking hold of the game.  Plus the lack of possession, a higher line of confrontation and more pressure kept the Reds from extending their lead until late.

United’s first three minutes of the second half were what I expected.  Keep the ball, go cagey and grind it out.  And then everything almost went wrong.  Cisse might have been a little hard done by as his effort was cleared off the line by De Gea.  Still can’t say for sure that the entire ball was in, but the young Spaniard created the controversial moment.  There were two defenders there to handle it, and there was no reason for him to get involved.  NUFC continued to press, but to no avail, and then the proverbial bolt from the blue occurred as Cleverley with a shot-cum-cross put the game out of reach.

Despite the midfield changes, the goals came from set pieces and a moment of magic.  That’s a little worrying as few actual chances were created from the run of play, so there is still work to be done.  The key now for Fergie is to find a midfield balance that can control the entire field.

Couple of other notes. . .

  • Saw the best and worst of Rafael.  At the beginning of the match, he took a difficult goal kick out of the air, tight on the sideline, and combined down the line, which led to a stinging shot.  Then just before halftime, he gives a shit pass to RvP and is caught out.  Nothing came of it, but still.  He is getting better but is still prone to the occasional error that will be punished against better opposition.
  • Evans on the deck was worrisome, with the lack of depth and injuries mounting in defense.  With Vidic out, the pairing of Evans and Rio will have to get the Reds through.  If either of them go out, then Carrick may be called back into the backline, a move that could have damaging ripple effects throughout the team.
  • De Gea was still shaky on crosses.  Hard to see him cementing a spot if he can’t improve this aspect.  For now, I think he should stay on the line and let his defenders handle set pieces and trust that his reactions will save the day.

Ed Harrison, writing for NUFC blog, saw his beloved Newcastle come up second best in Sunday’s match.  I didn’t realize that the backline was makeshift, which, along with some poor marking, led to the opening goals.  The Magpies fought back, but the slow start and the non-awarded goal put the game beyond reach.  In a separate post, he identified the lack of depth and areas that need strengthening as Newcastle look to build on last season’s finish.

Nik and Doron reviewed the game for Streford End, examining how Fergie’s use of the diamond formation impacted the match.  This, combined with an energetic approach, led to United taking control of the game and settling into some sort of 4-5-1 in the defensive phase to close it out. High marks were given to Evra and Cleverley, while there is still some doubt over de Gea in goal.

Scott the Red from the Republik of Mancunia enjoyed a fine performance from the Reds, starting in the back.  Well not necessarily with De Gea but the back four.  Totally agree with him that Welbeck needs to finish off the chances that he creates for himself with his endeavor and that others set up for him through their interplay.  Rooney got Man of the Match.  He was good and put in a decent shift but I don’t know that he was the best player.  This might have been an instance where the team was so in tune with each other that no one player deserved it more than another.

Michael Cox of Zonal Marking broke the game down into three phases—United’s diamond establishing control; Newcastle’s reshuffle to a 4-5-1 to bring them back into the match; and Fergie’s alternation to a 4-5-1 in order to regain control.  The game was won in the opening 15 minutes and once the hour mark came with no goals from Newcastle, United saw the game out, with Cleverley’s audacious effort as icing on the cake.

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Articles and Pods

I have only watched one Juventus game thus far this season—2-2 draw away at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League.  I wrestled with where to put my time as a fan in this summer, and Juve has suffered.  I am keeping an eye on results and was glad that they crushed Roma in the previous round and came back against Siena to extend their impressive 46 game unbeaten streak in Serie A.

I follow several of the crew from Juventiknows on twitter so when they pushed a post on the tactical evolution of the Old Lady, I gave it a read.  Ratul’s synopsis is concise and informative.  Conte maintained flexibility throughout last season and his transformation from a 4-4-2 to 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 allowed a balance to be struck that brought the most out of the squad, which resulted in a Scudetto and near domestic double.  Highly recommend the post, especially as it examines the equation of tactics, technique and personality.

Antonio Labbate wondered what happened to the mystique around the #10 jersey in Italy in one of his recent posts for Football Italia.  #10 for me will always be associated with Alessandro del Piero and to a lesser extent Francesco Totti in Serie A.  As I thought about it, I had a hard time identifying legendary #10’s for Manchester United and FC Barcelona.  Off the top of my head I couldn’t name one over the last five to ten years.  (After a little thinking, Sheringham and Rivaldo.)

Phil and Doron had Tom Clare on the latest Manchester United pod for Beyond the Pitch.  Tom has written several books on United’s history and shared his thoughts on where the club has been and where it is going.  With his wealth of history and insight, it was a fascinating listen.

Robert Andrew Powell was on Off the Ball last week (10/4) to talk about his new book This Love is not for Cowards, which recounted his time in Juarez, Mexico—the murder capital of the world.  Fascinating account that described the safest place to be: a soccer stadium.

Finally, Anto and Nico had Ives Galarcep on Beyond the Pitch to look at the MLS stretch run, which sees San Jose enter the tournament as favorites but threatened by the Galaxy.  Plus is this the season Seattle makes progress?  And what to make of New York Red Bull?  Good stuff from all involved as usual.

Old Futbol Buffet–Up and Running

Back in the saddle again.  The EPL kicked off on Saturday, and Mid Michigan United got together to watch Newcastle host Spurs.  The Spuds are my second English team so I was anxious to see how they would set up shop this year.  Plus I wanted to see if the Magpies first game since a surprise fifth place finish last year.

I walked into Buffalo Wild Wings and was greeted with a host of African descent sporting pulled back dreadlocks.  No not Edgar Davids.  Mario Melchiot.  What the what?  Found him very hard to understand (of what I could hear).  And where was AVB’s London Fog jacket?  Redoing his image perhaps?  Anyway people started trickling in and I ended up keeping my kid under control and talking to Damon Rensing, Head Coach of the MSU Men’s Soccer team for a while, so I missed almost the entire first half.  From what I could tell I didn’t miss too much.

One thing that stood out was Newcastle’s corner kick routine.  It seemed as if two players were slow dancing at eighth grade Catholic dance (enough room for the Holy Spirit in between) before being joined by a third player.  Very weird.

The second half turned out to be more entertaining as Ba got things started with a lovely finish.  Chances came and went before Defore smashed home after Krul made the initial save.  There was a hint of offside but no matter.  Then it was a race to the finish as the substitutes maintained the energy and the attempts on goal.  The decider came from two Spurs attacking players doing something idiotic—VdV and Lennon had Hatem Ben Arfa on lock down just outside the area but allowed him to wriggle his way between them.  To compound that error there was a slight trip and an awkward clattering that led to a penalty which HBA dispatched to seal the three points.

A decent game highlighted by several quality efforts on both sides and a moment of madness from Pardew who shoved the assistant referee for a supposed blown call.  Not smart.  Plus he couldn’t get the walkie talkie to work up in the stands.  By the way, why don’t coaches have to go sit in the corner aka the locker room like players?  Anyway, hopefully United get off to a good start Monday afternoon and then next weekend it is Liverpool v City.

Spooky’s song sheet for the upcoming season reads: patience and positivity as AVB tries to put together pieces which may or may not be in place yet.

Zonal Marking looked at the match, pointing out the impact Ben Arfa had on the match.  He also looked at Pardew’s tactical change for the Magpies at halftime when he switched to a 4-3-3.

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To get ready for the upcoming season, I listened to several pods, covering a wide range of topics.

Phil and Anto had Sandy Jardine on Beyond the Pitch to talk about Glasgow Rangers.  To be honest I had no idea who he was, but this Scottish legend discussed the current situation for the Scottish giant.  Unfortunate circumstances got them to this point, but there is hope for the future.

The gang at Juventiknows dedicated a whole week to Alessandro del Piero, including photos, posts and a pod devoted entirely the Juve legend.  ADP generated some many great memories and it was a joy to take a look back.

Finally, in an attempt to up to speed for the upcoming EPL season, I checked out the first pods from Men in Blazers and the Manchester United Redcast.  Roger and Michael predict a weird season on the horizon while the panel at the Redcast are pessimistic that the Reds can take back the title from the Blues of City.

Found some more stuff throughout the week . . .

Ben Lyttleton looked at ten possible EPL story lines for the upcoming season—from matching the drama of last year’s final day to all of the coaching to the players moving from team to team.

James Horncastle examinted the impact Conte’s suspension might have for Juve.