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Dead man walking

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Good article on .COM in my opinion...

 

Newcastle  0  Blackburn  1

 

It's a fraction over 16 months since Graeme Souness walked into St.James' Park as Newcastle Manager in waiting, taking a lofty perch to watch his former charges from Ewood Park soundly beaten 3-0 by a John Carver-marshalled Magpies side.

 

On that day in September 2004 we called the Blackburn side led by perennial caretaker boss Tony Parkes "a dispirited rag-bag of an outfit that slouched out to line up against us."

 

Now in January 2006 the boot is firmly on the other foot, as the fans who cheered the departure of our Manager from Lancashire predicted his imminent exit from Tyneside from their Level Seven seats.

 

This time it was the home side who were bereft.

 

Bereft of confidence, lacking anything approaching good fortune, perpetually hamstrung by injuries and now, perhaps fatally, deserted by their fans.

 

The pre-match build up had been punctuated by a plea for unity from the Chairman and a desperate call to arms from the Manager.

 

Neither cut any ice with the rank and file. 

 

And this time the good fortune Souness had enjoyed in recent home games deserted him.

 

A 93rd minute penalty miss from Gareth Barry salvaged a point against Villa, then an extra time leveller from Lee Clark did the same against the smoggies.

 

And of course with the dark clouds beginning to form against Mansfield, up popped that man Shearer to take a share of Wor Jackie's record and divert attention away from an unsatisfactory display against a side who could be playing in the Conference next season.

 

Today though there was no late solace for Souness.

 

And with the usual touch of farce and folly that seemingly dogs this club at every turn, the crucial goal came from the hand of a player Souness signed for Rovers  - after having seen his nimble footwork and long-range shooting prowess.

 

Morten Gamst Pedersen netted with 15 minutes remaining via what TV replays confirmed was a hand - helping Shefki Kuqi's goalbound effort into the Leazes net.

 

Of course this is nothing new; Blackburn having won here by the only goal of the game in December 2003, thanks to Paul Gallacher's punched- in effort at the same end of the ground.

 

So, let's just set the scene. Almost 50,000 Newcastle fans in their own stadium, a player one goal away from breaking the club's all-time scoring record and fifteen minutes left to turn things around.

 

What followed was deeply depressing and deeply predictable.

 

The players were unable to lift themselves from the rut that we'd slipped into after a bright opening to the first half.

 

And worse still, nobody seemed to believe that we were capable of doing so - after all, we've never come from being behind to win in the Premiership since beating Chelsea here in April 2004, under Bobby.

 

Souness sat rooted to his seat, his cohorts around him equally motionless - aside from the usual Dean Saunders mime show.

 

And from the stands came nothing - no boos, no great walk out, but no attempt at lifting the players.

 

Had it not been for the "Taxi for Souness" and "sacked in the morning" taunts from the travelling fans it would have been eerily quiet.

 

In the end Souness and his side were condemned by the sound of silence.

 

Forget the Sky-hyped protests of charver children outside SJP after the final whistle - the real story was the air of resignation that settled across the ground during the game.

 

People simply don't believe Souness; don't believe in his tactics, his rhetoric or his purchases.

 

To nobody's great surprise the promised return of Emre failed to materialise, despite the claptrap in the Friday press conference.

 

As ever the defence looked flaky and shaky: big name acquisitions Boumsong and Babayaro found wanting both technically and in terms of commitment.

 

Quite simply, they didn't look as if they gave a f*ck what the score was.

 

And once again the £10m Spaniard barely featured - one early shot clattered against the 'keeper and thereafter a handful of forays down the left that confirmed he cannot take a man on to save his life.

 

His withdrawal though saw him burst into action, racing down the player's tunnel with a purpose that had hitherto been lacking all afternoon.

 

It's the injuries you know - we have a sick list, so all bets are off.

 

Never mind that what we still put out on the park is an extravagantly-paid, expensively assembled side who have international experience and pedigree but who are playing listless, lifeless football that is breeding apathy and indifference among supporters of this club.

 

To give Souness a penny to spend in transfers or even in sanctioning wages for frebbies (Gregory Vignal aka the French Craig Moore) would seem like a vote of confidence in the management that was conspicuously missing from the Chairman's pronouncements this week - where he failed to mention the words "Graeme" and "Souness" but included "Europe".

 

A televised embarrassment at Whaddon Road may see the axe fall on Souness, if Freddy can reign in his fury for that long.

 

It seems that the only thing keeping Souness in post is a lack of suitable candidates to succeed him and an unwillingness or inability to pay the large severance fee that was negotiated in 2004.

 

Souness should never have been here in the first place but he wasn't going to turn the job down was he? He knew he was on to a good thing and if it all went pear -shaped then he would get a bigger pay -off than Blackburn were about to offer him.

 

Once again we find ourselves in an impossible and self -imposed situation.

 

The mood of the fans seems to provide ample evidence that we have no future under Souness, but what lies ahead with him gone?

 

Quite simply, who in their right mind would come into this madhouse and attempt to work with the current administration?

 

Your guess is as good as ours, but the view from the stands today suggests the current incumbent has had a bellyful - something that is patently obvious from what his dispirited team is serving up.

 

It's debatable whether anyone else could achieve any less with what's at his disposal. Yes, talent is missing - but so apparently is heart, desire, pride, organisation and motivation.

 

Be sure of one thing: the so-called big hitters who are crocked certainly won't be rushing back to bail us out of the crap in the closing months of the season.

 

No, the only thing those missing players will be rushing to do is phone their agents and tell them to seek pastures new ASAP.

 

And in all this two more words were never mentioned: "Craig Bellamy".

 

Perhaps the symbolism of the Welshman returning to his old stamping ground to inflict collateral damage on us would have stirred the Chairman into action, or at least wound home fans up.

 

But instead he was left to reflect on what his reception on Tyneside might have been - and doubtless glorify in the success of his current employers.  

 

PS: The final insult was perhaps provided by the Saturday evening Sky game, when a Steve Watson own goal gave the mackems a 1-0 win at the Hawthorns.

 

In our present predicament, that was a good result for us, keeping the Baggies as it did from moving with one point of our lowly fourteenth placing.

 

Full match report to follow.

 

Team: Given, Ramage, Bramble, Boumsong, Babayaro, Solano, Bowyer, Clark, Luque (O'Brien 62mins), Shearer, Chopra.

Subs n/u: Harper, Elliott, N'Zogbia, Brittain.

 

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Nelsen, Khizanishvili, Gray, Reid, Tugay (Emerton 85mins), Savage, Pedersen (Mokoena 90mins), Kuqi, Dickov (Peter 53mins).

Subs n/u: Enckelman, Johnson.

 

Booked: Nelsen, Neill.

 

Goal: Pedersen 75.

 

Crowd: 51,323

 

Referee: Howard Webb (S. Yorkshire).

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