Friday, 30 January 2009

Kevin Nolan is a Geordie; Craig Bellamy isn't.

Can it be 7 years ago tonight that I was sitting in White Hart Lane, ecstatic (for a change), as Bobby Robson's Toon turned it round and beat Spurs 3-1? Already it seems like a sepia-tinted bygone age... We could have been more than one behind at the break, but Bobby’s introduction of the tempestuous £9.5 million signing Laurent Robert 'changed the game.' Bellamy got us a free kick, Robert crossed, Clarence Acuña nodded in the leveller. Then Bellamy hared down the left and laid it across the box for a newly-interested Shearer to slam home. (At this point, having sat politely among home fans for 70 minutes, I got off my backside and bloody well cheered.) And then Bellamy helped himself to a third with ten minutes left.
That was the team that brought Champions League football back to Tyneside after the previous season (2000-2001) had been as mediocre as any NUFC had managed in the so-called Premier League. 2008-2009, however, has been much, much worse, and relegation rather than Europe is the matter at hand today.
Wednesday's unsurprising defeat at Man City was rubbed home with Bellamy’s second goal in successive games against us for different clubs. He must have an issue... Bellamy was and is a canny player, but a mean little piece of work, and any lad who referred to himself in the third person before he'd won anything in the game was never going to be content at Newcastle while Alan Shearer was there too. Actually, back in 2001-02 a significant body of Toon fans were just as endeared to little no-necked Craig as they were to the increasingly immobile Shearer. But where Shearer’s commitment to the cause was endlessly tested and found to be staunch, Bellamy ended his Toon career feigning injuries so as not to play, and making risible defences of his conduct directly to Sky cameras. End of story.
Generally the City game was a dreadful night. Injuries to Owen and Barton, 6-8 weeks out for the former, 10 for the latter. It wouldn’t matter so bad if we didn’t already have Beye and Martins on the sickbed, the most vital of our many current casualties. If Shay Given is now off to City then good luck to him and no hard feelings but it’s a strange old mob he’ll be joining. At least we have Steve Harper in nets now, and he’s from Easington, y’knaa.
The flighty Charles N'Zogbia looks to be off somewhere too, or one hopes. ‘Having been insulted by Joe Kinnear,' said high-minded CNZ, 'I will never play for him again while he remains Newcastle manager.’ (Kinnear called him ‘Insomnia’ in an interview, you see.) I’d like to think JFK was being sardonic but his way with words is, well, a not-good way. (‘You can see why a lot of big names out there didn't have the a*sehole to take this job’, Kinnear remarked elsewhere this week.) Well, any road, au revoir N’Zogbia. Happily the staunch Micky Quinn has said all that needs saying of Charlie: 'He’s got the heart the size of a peanut and no respect for anybody, including the fans.'
Today I hear we’ve bagged the Scouse Bolton midfielder Kevin Nolan for £4m. Good signing, good grafter. He’s said the right thing already: ‘I can't wait to play in front of these fans every week.’ Ryan Taylor, the Wigan fullback whose name I’ve taken in vain all four times that he’s scored against us, might yet follow Nolan. It would be nice if he could make it in time for this weekend’s 141st Tyne-Wear Derby, a game that, if it goes the wrong way and other results follow suit, could plunge us into drop-zone damnation from which we’d struggle to recover, in terms of morale alone.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Bruce Springsteen: Life Itself

I had a fairly ho-hum response to the first two singles that came off the new Springsteen album, formally released tomorrow - but the third (promo clip above) is much, much more like it, indeed wondrous, I think.
I've always been agnostic when it comes to the whole fraught business of faith and disillusion that seems to attend the release of every new Springsteen long-player. For instance I thought Lucky Town and Human Touch got a bad rap back in 1992... But I couldn't see why people were so keen on Magic - and was that in 2006 or 2007? Whereas Devils and Dust (2005) was clearly criminally underrated. The Rising (2002) was a solid, solid piece of work, but I do remember the official Springsteen site's bulletin board having to play host to a terribly uppity and sneering dismissal of the record, posted up on its very first day of release, by a supposed longterm fan who declared himself sick and tired of waiting for a return to form. 'Well, sod off then' was my feeling toward said poster, but then I'm someone who doesn't much care for Born To Run...
Over on Counterpunch Harry Browne, a regular commentator in these matters, isn't too keen on the new LP, but he hasn't lost faith either. Of 'Life Itself' he's not willing to say anything much more heady than that it's 'probably as close to a truly interesting lyric as there is on the album...' Once then, again, I'll be reduced to the tricky business of having to make up my own mind...