Newcastle’s unbeaten start to the season was brought to an end against Blackpool on Wednesday night. The trip to the seaside town was always going to be a tough test for the Magpies and there could be few complaints about the final 2-1 scoreline. The result saw Newcastle concede a goal for the first time in 541 minutes and drop to third in the table, behind West Brom and Middlesbrough. Blackpool has proved to be a hard place to visit this season with Premier League side Wigan’s 4-1 defeat in the League Cup the most noticeable result. Ian Holloway has got his low budget side performing above expectations so far this season and they were fired up against a Newcastle side still containing some big names.
Blackpool were on top for the vast majority of the game despite the returning Andy Carroll putting Newcastle ahead against the run of play. Newcastle’s defence has been the key reason behind their success but against the Seasiders there was some sloppy defending for both goals. The sign of a good side is bouncing back after a defeat and with struggling Plymouth at home next, there is an ideal opportunity to get back on track. The loss of Alan Smith through suspension seemed to hit the midfield hard, as they were over-run against Blackpool. With former England international Nicky Butt coming into the team it should not have been a major loss but at the age of 34, Butt no longer has the legs to get around the pitch as he once did. For the past two games Chris Hughton has experimented with a 4-4-1-1 formation with midfielder Danny Guthrie operating in the hole behind the lone striker. While this has been relatively successful it has left the midfield quite narrow with Joey Barton generally operating from the left side of midfield. It has been effective when holding onto a result but not so effective when needing to chase a game.
Newcastle’s defensive options have been boosted with the loan signing of Zurab Khizanishvili from Blackburn Rovers. The Georgian international is capable of playing across the backline and gives Newcastle some much needed competition in that area. He has been out of favour under Sam Allardyce but has plenty of top-flight experience. Manager Chris Hughton said: “He knows English football very well and will be a valuable addition to the squad over the coming months.” Newcastle will be hoping to add further to their limited squad with the signing of a striker. The likes of Marlon Harewood, Daniel Cousin and Diomansy Kamara have all been mentioned as possible targets. The situation has become increasingly desperate with the news that Shola Ameobi is likely to be ruled out until Christmas with a stress fracture of the foot. It is a bitter blow for both the player and the team as Ameobi started the season in excellent form.
Meanwhile, former Director of Football Dennis Wise has spoken publicly for the first time since being ousted from Newcastle in April, when Alan Shearer was appointed manager. Wise is an unpopular figure on Tyneside and was responsible for recruiting the likes of Xisco and Nacho Gonzalez. He believes that he is not to blame for Newcastle current predicament. He told SkySports: “People like to blame me for most things anyway. There are plenty of other people to take a bit of the shift, though. It’s important to keep some dignity and not shout off. But there are a few other people to look at the situation as well. The system imposed at Newcastle just did not work and it is as simple as that. I wish them the best and hope they get up. I spoke to Mike Ashley a few weeks ago, there is no malice.”
Wise will also be giving evidence in the Kevin Keegan vs. Mike Ashley legal battle that started on Monday. A Premier League Arbitration Tribunal will rule on Keegan’s claim for constructive dismissal, with the former England manager of the belief that his position became untenable when Wise was brought in over his head as Director of Football. Owner Mike Ashley has issued a counter claim of breach of contract. If Keegan is successful he could receive the remainder of what was left on his contract when he walked out, believed to be around £8m. It would be another major blow for Ashley if he is unsuccessful in the legal battle, and after everything that has gone before it, Ashley will be contemplating the worst.
Newcastle United Club Focus
Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18
Home-grown strike partnership takes effect – August 21
Geordie resurgence gains momentum – August 25
Takeover still talk of the Toon – August 28
St James’ Park Ranger keeps Magpies firing – September 1
Ex-Magpie returns just as window shuts – September 4
Want-away striker leaves already thin squad – September 8
Former striker aims to shoot down Magpies – September 11
Newcastle return to Championship summit – September 15
Magpies upset on trip to the seaside – September 18