Monday, 3 August 2009


I am so ridiculously excited about the new football season that I can’t quite put it into words. But I will try. Last season I spent £590.65 going to see 36 games and this season I expect that figure to go up. But the fortunes of the three clubs I lend my support to - Newcastle United, Southend United and Sheffield United - could all be very different. One has player revolt, another has got no money, and a third has lost its best players. Well, in fact, you could apply most of those labels to every one of those clubs! So here we go...

The 6-1 humiliation to Leyton Orient which I wrote about last week marked a new low, and I’ve been relieved that our last two friendlies since then have created just two goals and we haven’t lost either. There is a hope that somehow the tragic death of Bobby Robson last week could actually galvanise the players and remind them of what a great club Newcastle United is. It would be fitting that they go out at The Hawthorns this Saturday and play for the shirt, forgetting all of the backroom turmoil. But keeping that going throughout the season might be a bit trickier. The loss of players such as Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Mark Viduka has created gaps on the frontline, and nobody has come into replace these forwards. The defence is still weak - which will be punished at any level - and the midfield is too easily getting found out in games, rendering the whole team helpless.

There is one thing that has to be sorted out promptly, and that is the manager. I would like to see Alan Shearer return, but most Geordies have wanted to see that since the end of last season, and nothing has happened. I do appreciate Mike Ashley is trying to get a good price and then leave the north-east for good, but he has simply taken too long. He tried to sell the club last year but failed primarily because of the recession, but now has little excuse. At £80m it’s a good-buy if you can get it back in the Premier League. But it’s a good-bye if nobody comes back in. I honestly think Newcastle are going to have a terrible season because the players don’t want to be there, no players want to go there, the fans are rightly disillusioned and the club has become a laughing stock once more. It would be a miracle if they got immediate promotion back to the Premier League, and I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Southend might have brought in three more players than Newcastle, but they are all on loan, one was at Roots Hall last season and the other two are from Colchester United up the road. The side is pretty much the same as finished last season, but there are three notable exceptions - none of which have been replaced. These are Peter Clarke and Theo Robinson, who both moved to Huddersfield Town, and Dorian Dervitte who returned to Tottenham Hotspur after a superb loan spell. A few years ago Southend were a real force in the lower leagues, gaining two successive promotions and appearances in the LDV Vans Trophy final, and the team was going places.

But now it seems the chairman is happy to sit for a few years in League One whilst the new stadium is built. I am happy to take no progress for three years in order to get a Championship-quality stadium and build on that, but the ground has been delayed so many times and nobody is quite sure when it will be finished. It was originally supposed to be ready for the start of next season, but that is never going to happen. The team we have got is good enough to keep us up, but the management have never replaced our best wingers of recent years in Mark Gower and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, and without width you will get few goals. So a bunch of average defenders, midfielders, forwards and an average goalkeeper. An average season on the way - unless the chairman decides he wants to challenge for promotion. It’s up to him really.

It was horrible for the Blades to go all the way to Wembley last season and then lose in such nonchalant fashion against hoof-ballers Burnley. It had been a great season with some notable submissions from Kyle Naughton and Greg Halford. Both have now gone, although there is still much quality in the side from the likes of Chris Morgan and Darius Henderson, and the manager has brought in some decent acquisitions which should help.

I have no doubt Sheffield United will finish the highest out of my three supported teams, and I fully expect them to be challenging for a top two spot. But this must be matched with two Steel City derby wins, as we cannot have what happened last season repeat itself! But it would be great to see both United and Wednesday finish in the top six - and what a play-off final that would be. But I think the Blades will have enough quality to make second spot this year.