Newcastle United continued their positive start to the new season with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The midweek victory sees the club stay third in the table, with Shola Ameobi again on target. Although the performance was not quite as impressive as the 3-0 win over Reading there were still plenty of plus points to take from the game. The Magpies enjoyed a dominant first half as their opponents seemed overawed by the occasion. Newcastle had their chances to build on their lead but found the Owls ‘keeper Lee Grant in fine form. The second half was a much tighter affair but the Newcastle players’ Premier League experience saw them see out the game. Another plus point was a more than respectable attendance of 43,904, putting to rest fears that Newcastle would struggle to attract big crowds with Ashley still at the helm. It was the biggest attendance in a Championship game for four years – suggesting that a winning team is attractive, no matter what division you are in.
Newcastle’s new strike partnership of Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll appears to be showing signs of blossoming. The pair combined for the only goal against Sheffield Wednesday, with Carroll’s flick on finding Ameobi to score with a tidy finish. Despite lacking the finesse of, say, a Shearer-Bellamy or Martins-Viduka partnership, their large and large combination has caused opposition defenders countless problems. As both strikers are local lads they will be given patience and support from the Toon Army that would probably not be afforded to other players. Ameobi has now scored four in two games, but Carroll is yet to get off the mark and he will be hoping to get his first for the season sooner rather than later – seeming slightly short on confidence inside the penalty area. Carroll’s three goals in the Premier League last season show that he has the knack of popping up with important goals – late levellers against West Ham and Stoke City were not quite enough to save the Magpies from relegation.
Newcastle has precious few other options up front, so a serious injury to Carroll or Ameobi would provide a major headache. Spanish striker Xisco was given 30 minutes last night to prove his worth but he yet again came up short. The £5.7m signing has failed to adapt to the pace of English football and looks desperately short on confidence. A return to Spain would probably suit both parties but there has, as yet, been little interest. Young striker Nile Ranger showed more in an injury-time cameo than Xisco did in his time on the pitch – the England Under-19 forward will be hoping to get a chance to shine this season. Newcastle handed a debut to on-loan right-back Danny Simpson who enjoyed a solid game in defence and on occasions the youngster even ventured forward.
With things going so well on the pitch, an end to the Mike Ashley reign would be the piece de resistance for Newcastle fans. The club’s Managing Director Derek Llambias told Sky Sports that local businessman Barry Moat has stepped up his interest in buying the Tyneside club – it is thought he is prepared to pay the full £100m asking price as well. Apparently there are two other consortiums also interested in purchasing the club from Ashley. As Newcastle supporters will be aware Llambias has made previous optimistic claims of a takeover going through, whether it is true this time remains to be seen – crossing fingers and hoping for the best appears to be the best option.
Former Tottenham and Rangers player Graham Roberts – the figurehead of a little-known supporters group, Fans 410 – has also emerged as an outside contender to buy the club. The group are hoping to launch a takeover bid of Newcastle but hand control over to the fans. Their system is based around the continental model of ownership used at clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona. Roberts was quoted as saying: “We want fans to get involved and we are looking forward to meeting each other. We want to make it a debt free club, I can’t go into real detail at the moment, it is ongoing.” With a former footballer at the helm and promises to put the fans in charge the chances are it is probably too good to be true. Like the Profitable Group – who attempted a familiar takeover previously – they are most likely to be using Newcastle to generate some free publicity.